RE: Concision?

Subject: RE: Concision?
From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi <odile -at- mindspring -dot- com>
To: "Pinkham, Jim" <Jim -dot- Pinkham -at- voith -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 15:51:18 -0700

True enough. We've all seen writing that overreaches. Sometimes the
writer hasn't fully mastered the material, sometimes the writer
hasn't fully mastered (yet) the trick of writing, sometimes whoever
did the writing isn't actually a writer. And in our world, of
course, time is often a factor.

For me, though, the tip-off is the lack of control over the level of
diction. Rather than holding steady and true, it wavers. There's
seldom just one word out of place: sentences aren't measured,
passages don't flow, the language careens between slang, jargon,
informality, formality, pomposity. Well and sometimes, particularly
on the Internet, the language is just plain pompous. That's when you
want to head in with a machete.

But if the writing is clean and crisp and clear, if it's good, one or
two unusual words don't throw me. They must fit though. They must
be the right words, in the right context, for that particular
thought. If they best convey what is to be conveyed, they ought not
to be tossed out in obedience to some misapplied, or misapprehended,

I'm speaking in general, and about writing in general. I know that
we must be more cautious in technical writing about introducing
unfamiliar words, unless we intend to introduce and explain a
particular concept. What's familiar has all to do with audience of
course. "Concision" is a word well familiar to me, and so I was
puzzled by the response. I'm pretty sure you'd not argue to replace,
in a like piece of writing, "precision" with "preciseness."

As for steering clear of the expensive words, as I said, for my own
part I notice this particularly when the writing isn't even, when it
doesn't maintain a steady level of diction. What jars on my ears is
the piece of technical writing that reaches out to me in the familiar
second person, that employs an informal style, a seemingly casual
tone, and then suddenly comes a "thus" or a "therefore." Not unusual
words, in and of themselves, but terribly out of place.

And when this is the case, it's seldom one oddball word that
constitutes the entirety of the problem. Entire phrases of odd
construction (frequently overly convoluted, abstruse, pompous) call
attention to themselves, needing very much to be shaken out and
brought back down to earth.

Well, anyway, I ramble. Just thinking aloud.


I've not read any Southey, but that's a nice quote.

At 11:44 AM -0500 10/29/08, Pinkham, Jim wrote:
>Points well-taken, Odile, and I agree, even to your thoughts on
>Southey's quote. Don't puzzle overmuch: I'm not saying "concision" never
>has merit. It just jarred my ear a bit. Sometimes we get lost in the
>50-cent words when the cheaper ones will do as well or better. But not
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi [mailto:odile -at- mindspring -dot- com]
>Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 11:22 AM
>To: Pinkham, Jim
>Cc: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi; Cardimon, Craig; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
>Subject: RE: Concision?
>Ah, but context, context is all. There is a time to be terse, pithy,
>bare. And a time to be concise, to convey eloquently with concision.
>The writer's ear must always be sensitive to context. The words have a
>sound and a feel, as well as a sense. They have a rhythm.
>I was more puzzled, than anything else, to see a perfectly good word
>slashed for no good reason. In your quote below, you will notice
>Anglo-Saxon words mixed with Latinate terms to good effect.
>At 11:01 AM -0500 10/29/08, Pinkham, Jim wrote:
>>I'm sure they do. I'm chuckling now a bit that you're taking this so
>>seriously. No offense.
>>Sorry, but when I read concision, the next word that came to mind was
>>"circumcision," and there, perhaps, I'd go for the Latin formation and
>>avoid some blunter Anglo-Saxon alternative, if such there be.
>>But, generally, I agree with Orwell: Use words that convey images. Keep
>>it simple and direct. Use the good, crisp, clear Anglo-Saxon words.
>>Don't seek concision. Be concise. Better yet, be brief. Terse. Pithy.
> >
>>"If thou wouldst be pungent, be brief. For it is with words as with
>>sunbeams: the more they are condensed, the more they burn." -- Robert
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi [mailto:odile -at- mindspring -dot- com]
>>Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 10:45 AM
>>To: Pinkham, Jim
>>Cc: Cardimon, Craig; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
>>Subject: RE: Concision?
>>But why? It is not archaic. Its meaning in the sense of a cutting up
>>or off is archaic. Its meaning as the quality or state of being
>>concise is not. And in AH, the order of those two entries is
>>reversed: concision as the quality or state of being concise is listed
>>The second book I cited, _Style: Toward Clarity and Grace_, is put out
>>by the University of Chicago Press as part of their guide to writing,
>>editing, and publishing series. These guys know a little something
>>about word choice.
>>At 9:57 AM -0500 10/29/08, Pinkham, Jim wrote:
>>>I think the New Oxford Guide editors should go back to Orwell's
>>>"Politics and the English Language" and dispense with words such as
>>>"concision" altogether. But I have no wish to start a dictionary or
>>>style skirmish. This was, as I said, just a good-natured tweak.
>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi [mailto:odile -at- mindspring -dot- com]
>>>Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 9:46 AM
>>>To: Pinkham, Jim
>>>Cc: Cardimon, Craig; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
>>>Subject: Re: Concision?
>>>No, I think he meant "concision," a more precise (and concise) word
>>>than "conciseness."
>>>See, for instance, _The New Oxford Guide to Writing_ or _Style:
>>>Toward Clarity and Grace, the latter of which devotes an entire
>>>to concision.
>>>At 8:40 AM -0500 10/29/08, Pinkham, Jim wrote:
>>>>"Concision," huh? I thought you meant "conciseness," and I had to go
>>>>look the two up.
>>>>Merriam-Webster dates "concision" back to the 14th century, but its
>>>>first listed rendering is archaic, "a cutting up or off," and then
>>>>second rendering, of indeterminate origin, gets at conciseness.
>>>>"Conciseness," on the other hand, dates to around 1590 and has the
>>>>definition I suspect you meant: "marked by brevity of expression or
>>>>So accurate, brief, clear -- that's what we value. Hmm...and someone
>>>>just suggested law?? :)
>>>>OK, enough tweaking...back to work.
>>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>>From: techwr-l-bounces+jim -dot- pinkham=voith -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
>>>>[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+jim -dot- pinkham=voith -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On
>>>>Behalf Of Cardimon, Craig
>>>>Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 8:15 AM
>>>>To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
>>>>Subject: RE: Career transition away from tech writing
>>>>> I'm thinking about leaving the field of technical writing and
>>>>> I'm
>> >very
>>>>> interested in learning about the jobs other technical writers
>>>>> transitioned to. Project management, training, and user
>>>>> experience
>>>>> to be the more common transitions, but are there other areas you
>>>>> have ventured into?
>>>>> Thank you.
>>>>I would bet this comes up more often than one might think. How about
>>>>field that values concision, clarity, and precision. To these I add
>>>>attention to detail and the ability to organize one's thoughts.


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RE: Career transition away from tech writing: From: Cardimon, Craig
Concision?: From: Pinkham, Jim
Re: Concision?: From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi
RE: Concision?: From: Pinkham, Jim
RE: Concision?: From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi
RE: Concision?: From: Pinkham, Jim
RE: Concision?: From: Odile Sullivan-Tarazi
RE: Concision?: From: Pinkham, Jim

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