28 February 2014

Verbiage Dervish

One of the greatest responsibilities speakers and writers have is to keep it short.  Words and the attention of the audience are sacred things.
This doesn't mean a lecture, speech, book, article, blog post, interview answer has to be short.  One of the greatest lectures I ever sat through was two hours long, with maybe five or six picture slides in the days before PowerPoint, and it left the entire audience wanting more.  The speaker respected his subject and his audience while also being confident enough in his material and himself that he didn't find it necessary to use fifty words to make a particular point when ten or twenty would do the trick.
The author/speaker is there to convey a story or information, not to attempt to impress.
I thought of this today as I heard a story this morning about John Kerry, Russia and the Ukraine on NPR's Morning Edition.
Regarding Russia's stance viz the Ukraine, Kerry had this to say:

"We will look to Russia for the choices that it makes in the next days for their confirmation of these statements.  Statements are statements, words are words; we have all learned that it's actions and the follow-on choices that make the greatest difference."

I am going to concentrate on the highlighted sentence.  The story played the tape of Mr. Kerry's remarks and the transcript is true to his words; there are no scrivener's errors.  The second clause is an affront to the English language and syntactically appalling.  But the major offense is that Kerry takes twenty-three words to say:

"Actions speak louder than words."

Five words.  Nice.  Pithy.  Apropos.  It conveys the exact same message without assaulting one's ears.

He could have stretched it a bit, gone biblical and said "You will know them by their fruits."  Seven words, but this would still get the message through in 1/3d the words and perhaps even challenged the listener (but in a good way).

Twenty-three words to take a simple message and make it almost incomprehensible.

Kerry isn't the only politician afflicted with maddening logorrhea, nor is this limited to liberals or Democrats.  It is entirely too symptomatic of people who either don't know what they are saying or attempting to appear more thoughtful that they really are or perhaps are capable of being.