Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Well, they often call me Speedo but my real name is Mr. Earl

Inspired by a little vid of David Foster Wallace talking about the despair-inducing use of words like "utilize" when you mean "use" and "prior to" when you mean "before," sent to me by Mr. Gleemonex today, I am about to throw down on a kind of writing that makes me figgedy-fucking crazy.

I don't know what else to call it but verbal clip-art. It's when the writer just falls back on the obvious, expected expression or offers useless little brain-prompts that invite you to "see:" or "read:" or "think:", e.g. homewrecking hussies (think: Angelina Jolie) as filler that really add nothing to the meaning. My former boss was the King of Verbal Clip-Art -- in the spoken as well as the written word -- but I don't feel like talking about that douchekayak. Better to give as an example Real Simple, a magazine I kind of love and also totally hate.*

Here's what I mean. You're writing a blurb about productivity, under the number headline 9%, and you say: [9% is] How much more productive workers who take short Internet breaks are. But in between the words "breaks" and "are," you have to insert "(say, to check Facebook or read the news)." Why? You don't trust us to supply our own idea of what a short Internet break is?

The New York Times does it -- that One-Page Magazine thing they do now is a terrible offender. I'm still annoyed by one I actually ripped out and carried around for awhile -- something about permanence, tattoos or something, which ended with "Kim Kardashian is not a fan." See what they did there? Toss in a dumb topical reference to make their dumb point instead of letting you figure it out?

It's just so fucking lazy. People giving their opinions always have to "weigh in." Your feature is about workout clothes, so you have to say "no sweat." Exfoliation? Better say "here's the rub"! Snacks? "Chew on this!"

Ucch. I don't know, I think I'm explaining this badly -- I just want people to permanently retire the cut-and-paste bullshit and come up with something original. You and me, we understand each other, right?

*It's fun to get it in the mail each month, and there's often lots of good content, but A) the problem described in this post and B) reading it makes me feel like the sweet soft mooshy hydrogenated center of a demographic target market that I try really hard with my Pixies tees and BUST subscription to pretend like I'm not in at all. 

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