The Simple Life, in Words

OK, I’ve been outed by a major news publication.  (The Washington Newspaper, no less).

With my family and friends around me, I’m finally able to speak openly about an issue that many of you have known about, or perhaps guessed, for some time:

I’m a frustrated writer, at war with bad English.

This pathology manifests itself in several ways — firstly, in the pathetic scrivenings of this on-line journal known pejoratively, if at all, as a “blog.”  Secondly, it is evidenced in the ways I stalk the corridors of the State Capitol, consumed with a passion for rewriting laws that are obfuscatory, obscurantist or simply obtuse.

Together, with feeling:  subject, verb, direct object.  Use plain language in writing laws.  Keep it simple.  Do not address hypotheticals.  Only list those exceptions which are relevant.  Do not repeat youself.  (I’ll say it again — Do not repeat yourself).

The most compelling laws ever written took only a few words:  Thou Shalt Not Kill.  Honor Thy Father and Mother.  Do Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor.

Good laws are simple and to the point.  If they take longer than a couple sentences, it’s probably because there’s “too much ‘splainin’” going on.  That’s why a recently-passed Class I misdemeanor, e.g. “revenge porn,” must take several paragraphs, while “first-degree homicide” is defined in a single sentence.  The first one is an embarrassing situation grasping for a definition.  The second one has been a crime since Hammurabi.

I acknowledge that my obsession with clean and simple writing is annoying.  It is also, most likely, a futile gesture.  For every overly cumbersome bill I can edit, there are another ten which are being written as I speak.

But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night — and someone must provide an “Extreme Makeover” to the linguistic morass in our State Code.  And why should I let four years of Honors English at Fairfax High School go to waste?

I thank you again, my friends and family, for standing beside me.  I will continue forward in this quest, confident in my identity as a proud, literate man.

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