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What Snooki Can Teach You About Writing

May 16, 2011

A wise beauty editor once said, the secret to wearing make-up is not to look like you’re wearing it at all.

Exhibit A – Blake Lively. Subtle mascara, touch of highlighter and perfect foundation. Whether you like Gossip Girl is beside the point (and what about that gritty performance in The Town?)

And for Exhibit B, we have everyone’s favourite reality star, Snooki.

The bouffant, the smoky eye, the tanorexia… is there a real person in there somewhere?

But beyond trying to baffle my dad with Jersey Shore references, what’s my point? Well, when you have too much hair and make up going on, it’s distracting. It takes attention away from the real you, and all I see are those crazy fake eyelashes.

Writing is the same. Bad writing  – or bad presentations, powerpoints and videos for that matter – distract from the message.

When I say ‘bad’, I mean the usual suspects I’ve called out in recent posts – writing that is wordy, self-serving, full of jargon or peppered with bad grammar and spelling.

No matter how good your story is, I won’t listen when it’s crowded out by the verbal equivalent of cheap hair extensions and the wrong shade of foundation.

A journalist friend of mine sees these examples daily. The best one she keeps for her own amusement (and mine). For example, she received a media release that begins:

“To say that Mr Jones, Company XYZs new CEO, knows a thing or two about the company’s founder, its history and products would be one of the greatest compliments yet understatements you could make”.

I won’t reproduce it in full, but let me assure you, the subsequent passages didn’t disappoint. OK, let me just add, “I was taught how to install most floors the right way with no short cuts”.

So, I hope he never needs to install those other floors, which he didn’t learn to install correctly, at my house.

Another media release combines incoherent expression with a novel approach to quotation marks:

As the recruitment market picks up and now with less recruiters in the market sector means there is more money to be made by successful recruitment consultants, it began.

Company ABC realised several years ago that a shift in the way recruiters operated was emerging, so it ventured down the franchising path “says Jones”.

Seriously, this stuff is out there in the public domain.

Now I’m not suggesting any of my dear readers would make such egregious errors –  just as I don’t see too many girls schlepping around Sydney with Jerseylicious make-up (Exhibit C).

.

However, this is a cautionary tale. Just as we’ve all made the wrong eyeshadow choice at times, we’ve all committed some sins against good writing. So, next time you write, think about these basics:

  • Is your spelling, grammar and punctuation correct?
  • Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and coherent.
  • Cut out anything that looks like jargon.
  • Ask someone to proof read it.

And of course, always blend your foundation well beyond your jawline.

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4 Comments
  1. Esther permalink

    It’s a beautiful day in Santorini and I’m in my hotel room in fits of giggles at “says Jones”. I’m going outside now, but that was priceless!

  2. There may also be grounds for “keeping your roots well touched up”, lawyers and other specialised professions especially. It’s easy to fall for prima facie, mutatis mutandis etc just out of habit.
    May I add “using cliches out of laziness”? Although I did recently find myself using “bodice-ripper” for impact (or so I rationalised it) – and I avoided using “Mils and Boon” as the first call cliche.

  3. Cliches are ok when used sparingly, in my opinion.

    And lawyers only use Latin so it makes them seem good value at $400 an hour.

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