I really like to pretend that I’m a smart, successful, tweed-wearing British intellectual when I write my papers. This mentality has rarely been successful in reality, and generally that well-dressed, intellectual British professor-man is tossed out with run on sentences and redundant statements.

My first attempt at my draft was very much rooted in this British-professor-man style, and it was horrendous. I was unbelievably frustrated at the clunkiness of my words and the lack of clarity in my message. I also spilled Chai latte all over my laptop while writing it, so that didn’t help.

So, when I revisited my draft, I rewrote the whole thing from scratch in an entirely different tone. I attempted to emulate the thoughtful, consistent voices I had read in various New Yorker articles. I stopped trying to connect my ideas to grandiose metaphors and other figurative language. I didn’t use any words that would give the reader pause. My aim was clarity.

I felt so much better about my second attempt at the draft. The whole thing was much more readable thanks to simpler diction, a steady rhythm of simple, compound, and complex compound sentences (my favorite). Hopefully some of that translates to my readers!

Emily Cotten

Emily Cotten is a sophomore Vocal Performance major at the University of Michigan. She hails from North Carolina and enjoys reading, writing, and blasting opera hits in her car while driving down the highway.

2 thoughts to “Stylin’”

  1. Emily, sometimes writing in clear, concise terms is more difficult that writing with a grandiose tone and extended metaphors! This is something I have struggle with, too. I find myself constantly using complex sentences that are just not necessary. I, too, focused on using concrete diction and a more basic approach to language when repurposing my piece. As the saying goes, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” I find this quote applicable almost every time I revisit and revise an old piece of writing. With revision comes simplicity and clarity of arguments and thoughts on an overriding scale.

  2. Totally understand the intellectual British thing, I get that way myself. Writing is a process so the fact that your first draft was not to your standards seems totally normal to me. I tried to do something similar in creating and establishing my tone in the same way as the author in my model source. Im glad you finally felt some point of clarity in your draft process.

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