Monday, December 4, 2017

Robin Wright on words
and sentences

Ilan Stavans’s podcast In Contrast offers an excellent interview with the journalist and foreign correspondent Robin Wright. Wright offers, in passing, some provocative observations about the teaching of writing in the United States:

There is the illusion that the longer the sentence, and the more multisyllabic words are used, the longer the paragraph, the better the writing, when in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. I always say “Tight is right”: write short, write pithy, write to the point, write things people understand in one bite, rather than compound ideas in a single sentence. . . .

Unfortunately, in universities, people write quite dull prose.
Wright is right, of course. One idea, one sentence is a good maxim, as long as one acknowledges that ideas come in all sizes and may be made of many parts. (See, for instance, Proust.) If you look at any of Wright’s recent pieces for The New Yorker, I think you’ll agree that her sentences, whatever their length, are models of clarity.

A related post
Sentences, short and long

[Transcription mine.]

comments: 0