Dying Daily #298: Intentional Obfuscation of Relevant Meanings

I’ve been listening to the audio version of William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” because, as I’ve mentioned, I do not like my writing. Apart from the practical advice, I like his clarity and his disdain for the convoluted (and dishonest) ways we often speak.

Using a lot of words to say absolutely nothing is a modern art form.

A politician or corporation regrets that an unfortunate set of circumstances led to people being hurt.  A pyramid scheme seeks to help people achieve financial independence through direct peer to peer sales. Companies restructure and reduce the workforce to maximize efficiency in the market while they leverage their brands to create synergistic flow across multiple platforms. Gurus of all sorts want to help you reach next level empowerment through innovative techniques of self-actualization.

Don’t even get me started on LinkedIn bios.

It seems to just be part of our culture now.

Words are meant to help us share ideas, to be as precise as possible, and this is a hard job. Abstractions are difficult to communicate. We don’t help things when we twist and torture the words into meaninglessness, and the people who use meaningless jargon know this. They know that by forcing us to chase them through an obstacle course of nonsense they can lose us around a corner, and trick us into thinking they have said something when they haven’t.

It’s dishonest, and they know it.

For some reason, we accept this as part of our culture, and we do it too.

We use half-truths and semantics to avoid responsibility, often even inside our own heads. We get so caught up in the jargon of what we do that we forget that we may not be saying anything at all.

I do it. Thanks to Zinsser I am trying to remove the jargon and unnecessary words from my vocabulary. This is proving to be harder than I thought it would be.

Is there a simpler way to say things?

How quickly could you say something if you spoke plainly and without jargon?

What is it that makes us want to pad our speech with words that didn’t exist even 15 years ago?

Can one strive to minimize the output of potentially unnecessary phrases and modes of speech that may, however unintentionally, obscure the communicated understanding of what you are saying?