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    Frances Gordon

    Why do we persist in the belief that incomprehensible writing makes us look smart?

    I agree that insecurity is one reason. There are many causes for this – and I believe one of them is the English we are taught at school and university.

    Even now, delegates on my writing courses tell me that at school they were not taught to write clearly or concisely. Instead, they were taught that the longer the word and the more convoluted the grammar, the better. They were taught that writing to express is far less important than writing to impress. In short, they were taught that bad writing made them look smart.

    I was also taught in this way. It took years for me to ”unlearn” the writing techniques that I learnt at school and university. Recently I happened to glance at some English learning materials printed in one of our newspapers – the advice was to always use the passive voice for formal documents.

    When will schools start giving learners the confidence to write clearly? Until then, plain language will probably remain a rarity… and many of us will not have the confidence to use it.

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