Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Those Pesky $20 Words

It's a beautiful mid-summer's day here in Eastern Pennsylvania where I live, so I'm spending a few hours basking in the sun by a crystal clear blue pool in a nearby state park. To pass the time, I thought I'd catch up some reading. I'm not one to waste valuable reading time with the likes of Danielle Steele. Instead, I have become engrossed in a travel saga about fellow writer's Jason Elliot's journeys through Iran--a place I know nothing about.

He writes beautifully about the culture, with its mosques and bazaars. Unfortunately, all this beauty comes at a price. It seems Elliot, like so many writers, assumes all readers have his extensive vocabulary. So here I sit in a beach chair in my swimsuit with not a dictionary in sight. While I get the gist of what he's saying, I'm missing some of the nuances because Elliot insists on using what I call $20 words--complex words that replace the more familiar ones for show.

I'm a great believer in using familiar, conversational language so that many people can enjoy what I write. Writers shouldn't try to impress their readers. If their writing is good enough, it will do that just fine.

So this explains why I found Elliot's book, Mirrors of the Unseen, a book about his travels in Iran, on display in my neighborhood Dollar Store. I guess his $20 words helped to catapult it off the remainder tables in the regular bookstores.

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