Somewhere along the way, probably in high school, college students learn that “good” writing means long sentences and big words. But in my experience, most students don’t have the linguistic dexterity to pull this off. It just becomes an overwrought jumble of words and punctuation.
Not that I can do much better myself, but I do try to take the advice of William Zinsser in On Writing Well to cut everything I write IN HALF.
I was reminded of the strength of spare prose in a review of Run by Ann Patchett in the September 30th issue of the New York Times Book Review. Reviewer Leah Hager Cohen writes, “Among the many things to admire about Ann Patchett is the lack of frivolity in her prose. She prefers nouns and verbs to crowded flights of lyrical adjectives and adverbs, and she doesn’t dally excessively over a pretty phrase. Patchett is more hammer and nails than glue and lace; small wonder, then, that her books tend to be such solid, weight-bearing constructions.”