Break free from verbose verbiage

Thesauraphiles have run off with plain English.

Of late, I have experienced a troubling trend: thesaurus abuse. It's the all-too-common practice of resorting to dictionaries of synonyms to artificially enhance one's writings.

Why do some writers feel the need to resort to such reference works to make their point? Can we not avoid the overuse of stilted language and keep our writing clear and concise?

Of course we can. All it takes is a little restraint. Resist the urge to use such pretentious alternatives. Why employ pompous phrasing when simpler options can suffice?

Some might think me peevish. However, to have recourse to such reference works is, in my view, to risk the dilution and diminution of the very meaning of your words.

How often have you read tiresome treatises teeming with turgid text that could easily be ameliorated with the use of plainer language? It is inexcusable that we should have to tolerate such egregious examples of prosaic prose. Rather than employ awkward lexical equivalents, there are other choices that can be made.

For example, if you are writing about the elephant, there is no need to stray from that single description. What have you gained by substituting "pachyderm" or "Indian elephant" or "member of the family Elephantidae"? After all, would not the floral growth known as a rose otherwise designated still be redolent of roselike odor?

Similarly, one need only think of the plethora of verbose descriptions of that sunny season called summer to make one's case. By revisiting the paeans of countless ancient poets, we can see that this is an instance where less would definitely be more. Surely it would be easier to describe that estival time in brief abstractions than to run on at length in an adjectival fashion.

In a similar vein, how often have you encountered formal documentation brimming with legalisms and juristic terminology? Such flagrant and glaring abuses of the language only serve to confuse and confound the reader. All would be better served by an accelerated return to what is colloquially and sometimes euphemistically known as plain English.

In the same manner, the halls of academe often echo and reverberate with unnecessary and superfluous vocabular substitutions. The sociologist who labels a group of two a "dyad" is willfully unaware of a host of suitable alternatives: "Duet," "duo," "twosome," "pair," and "partners" would surely serve any legitimate academic purpose.

I hope and trust that my brief essay has convinced you of the correctness of my thesis. Or at the very least, I expect you will have found my argument to be meritorious. If so, I urge you, nay exhort you, to be done with synonym-filled dictionaries.

Start anew. Come clean. Enter into a writing renaissance and discard or otherwise dispose of your thesauri. It's the minimum we can do.

David Martin is the author of "My Friend W," a collection of satirical pieces about President Bush.

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