Empty Sentences

Old typewriterYears ago, I was hired by a tech firm that was in the business of teaching personnel recruiters how to filch (yep, steal though that was NEVER the word they used) tech workers from other companies. (In my defense, I didn’t realize that when I was hired.)

It was the tech boom years, and folks who could understand code were thin on the ground, hence the professional theft training.

Well, I was supposed to develop a “class” about international personnel recruiting and my first step was plunging into research mode.

Now, I can write marketing fluff with the best of them so I have a pretty good nose for this stuff. But I have to say that I doffed my metaphoric cap in awe at the total vapidity I found on websites (mostly startups) that were peddling…well…I was never quite sure.

At times, I could be found clutching my forehead and mumbling things like: “What in the hell does that mean?”

I see this sort of eerily empty language again and again and again on the web—corporate-speak, edu-speak, political-speak. When you examine it closely, it always falls apart, amounting to nothing more than the rattle of empty drums that someone wants you to believe are full.

That’s one of the reasons why I am concerned about the current trend to “write more,” “write faster,” and this “write a novel in a month” event that now endows November with more importance than being the carrier of Thanksgiving Day.

Yes, it is true that the single most important rule of writing is writing regularly. Most books die for lack of attention. That’s why you hear so many authors stress the importance of a daily word regimen. If you don’t keep working on a project, you lose enthusiasm and the thread of your story.

But based on the work that gets produced in this throw-it-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks method, much of it is not worth reading.

So along comes this article in the book section of my beloved Guardian of London (my favorite online newspaper) and I find that my disquiet over our empty language puts me in the august company of George Orwell and Thomas Merton.

Enjoy!