1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Style Tip: "Beware of Platitudinous Ponderosity"

By February 20, 2013

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Today's style tip appeared anonymously in dozens of late-19th-century and early-20th-century periodicals, ranging from Cornhill Magazine and the Practical Druggist to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Monthly Journal. Decide for yourself whether the advice is still appropriate.

In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities, and amicable, philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity.

Let your conversational communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compacted comprehensiveness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency.

Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement and asinine affectation.

Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rhodomontade or thrasonical bombast.

Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, psittaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity, and vaniloquent vapidity.

Shun double entendres, prurient jocosity, and pestiferous profanity, obscurant or apparent.

In other words, talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely. Keep from "slang"; don't put on airs; say what you mean; mean what you say; and don't use big words!

For more stylistic advice, see the following essays from our collection of Readings on Rhetoric and Prose Style:


February 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm
(1) HillRunner says:

Every writer should work for a tough newspaper editor who will teach prioritizing ideas, economy of words and–we can always hope–fairness and objectivity.

February 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm
(2) Chickaddd says:

I avoid using such brobdingnagian words in my sentences.

February 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm
(3) David says:

I like “eschew obsfuscation.”

February 26, 2013 at 4:03 pm
(4) Gail Kushner says:

All writers should use Twitter. It forces us to be concise in 140 characters. It is surprising to see what can be deleted from a 180 character idea.

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