Over the next several months I will supplement the Scribe’s Tip with a “Redux” edition—in which some of the tips from the past three years are reposted for the benefit of new readers.
Today’s “Redux” tip comes from the 2003 movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Now, you are probably wondering what a movie based on Spanish and Portuguese sailing legends and folklore could offer writers. Simplicity. Consider the following exchange between Captain Barbossa and Elizabeth Swann:
Elizabeth: Captain Barbossa , I am here to negotiate the cessation of hostilities against Port Royal.
Barbossa: There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?
Elizabeth: I want you to leave and never come back.
Barbossa: I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means “no.”
The lesson here? Avoid overly fussy words—always use the simplest word that means the same thing. Over time, you will discover that more confident you are as a writer, the simpler your writing becomes. This is a good thing. As Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski once observed, “Simple arguments are winning arguments; convoluted arguments are sleeping pills on paper.” So simplicity is your friend, and less truly is more.