Category Archives: Language

The Quote Investigator

While verifying quotation authenticity, I found a useful — and delightful — website, quoteinvestigator.com, which tries to chase down the origins of quotations.

W._C._Fields_1935 300w
W.C, Fields in 1935

The most recent entry quotes an aging W.C. Fields, when discovered reading a Bible, explaining,

I’m looking for loopholes.

.

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3 Writing Evaluation Tools

I ran text samples through three on-line writing analysis tools that are recommended by Doris & Bertie’s Good Copy, Bad Copy blog. The WritersDiet Test returns the most useful results, together with customized suggestions to improve your writing. The other two tests report details such as sentence length and readability.

The tests confirmed my opinion: many corporate and academic documents are horrible! The tests judged my writing to be surprisingly good and at the reading level of a US high school senior. Still, there’s always room for improvement. I’d like to make my writing easier to read. I’ll begin submitting my prose to these tests. We’ll see if it improves.

I think that Doris and Bertie’s summary of these tests is spot-on. They’re on-line so there’s nothing to install. I thank Doris & Bertie for the links. The three tests are:

  1. The WritersDiet Test
  2. Gunning Fog Index
  3. Drivel Defence for Text

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net Redux

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Tower of Babel
painting: Hill

I recently viewed a few defense contractors’ websites and discovered that much of their text is incomprehensible. Why? It’s loaded with jargon (domain, methodologies,[1] “our skills map into the Government space”), acronyms, abbreviations, and redundancies (“more efficient and cost-effective operations”) and so on and so fifth.[2]

Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net was Homer Simpson’s dot com company from The Simpsons episode Das Bus. He obviously had no idea what he was doing, so tried to dazzle onlookers with his jargon. When browsing some supposedly high-tech vendors’ websites, I’d swear that Homer Simpson wrote their copy.

There are a few trendy words and phrases that I avoid: empowerment, paradigm, “maps into”, incent, utilize, “architect” as a verb, “spend” as a noun, and “is comprised of”. When I run across them in published text, they suggest that the author is either

  1. a poor writer
  2. unsure of his meaning
  3. pretentious
  4. trying to hide something
  5. ignorant of the subject, OR
  6. all of the above.

Confused website text confirms my suspicion that many enterprises are at their heart, confused.

A good friend of mine who works in the defense electronics industry tells me that this peculiar dialect is standard practice. He attaches a glossary to every report that he writes.

What are your least-loved Newspeak terms?


    1. In recent years . . . “methodology” has been increasingly used as a pretentious substitute for “method” in scientific and technical contexts . . . the American Heritage Dictionary (1992 edition), quoted by Peter Klein in Method versus Methodology. Hung Nguyen replied, There are two types of people who use the word ‘methodology’ instead of ‘method’: those who are ignorant and those who would like to use it just for its sound – a kind of big word.
    2. From Inflationary Language, written and performed by the incomparable Victor Borge
Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695