KEEP IT SHORT

"The use of short words is an art." writes Nat Bodian in the winter issue of Publishing Research Quarterly, published at Rutgers. "It takes a bit of time to think them up," he tells us, "but once you learn how to make your thoughts known in short words and to write with them, you will find that they work well and, as a whole, they tend to make good sense."

Why? "Short words are sharp, clear and to the point," notes Nat. "They spark the thoughts of those who read them, and they urge them to read on. They let you say what you want, and they leave no doubt as to what you mean. So try to find ways to write in short words when you speak of or deal with books."

His pick of best names for books? "Gone with the Wind," "The Joy of Sex," Live and Let Die," "A House Is Not A Home," "The Prince of Tides," "The Way Things Ought To Be," "The Cat in the Hat ."

Do you go for that as I do? Let us pledge, then, to swap long words for short ones. At first, you may find it hard to join this cause, but it is not as hard as you may think to pick nouns that shine, to choose verbs that stun and to use fresh tropes that sing. The need is real and the good it will do will make your spouse proud and your work sell. No,the trend toward a taut style should not be scoffed at as just a blip; you can bet your life it will last for years. Think of it: crisp talk warms hearts, and prose packed with punch is sure to make you stand out in a crowd. Give it a shot.

From: On Language by William Safire

The New York Times Magazine, page 32 October 15, 2000