When I put books on hold at the library, I rarely know how “big” the book is (either by external dimensions or the amount of pages). Yes, yes, I know you can actually see the page amount in most library catalog sites. It’s usually there with the printing year and publishing house. But I don’t pay attention to that. It makes things interesting.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed. More than once I have put a book on hold on a whim, only to find myself lugging what felt like a set of encyclopedia britannicas home on my next trip to the library.
Other times I am pleasantly surprised. Such was when I picked up Plain Language, Please: How to Write for Results. Now, of course, sometimes I want a nice, satisfyingly-hefty book to tote home. But it was encouraging that the author, Janet C. Arrowood, was able to condense her points to a mere 79 pages. It was promising that she could practice what she preached.
It’s also nice to find a quick-reference book that is not only a speedy read, but also slim enough to squeeze onto a packed reference shelf with the dictionaries and seven copies of The Elements of Style.
Arrowood indeed practices what she preaches in this book. In clear, concise language she explains how to write in a way that will engage the reader and make sure you’re communicating what you actually want to communicate, not just what you think you’re communicating. Not only does she present examples below each segment discussing a specific topic on grammar or punctuation, she also gives a few memetic tools so the reader can actually remember and apply these principles in their own writing.
I know I learned a lot. I also know I have a lot more to learn. But when you’re learning from a book as well written and presented as Plain Language, Please, the technical aspects of language seem less like a series of rules to learn by rote, and more like a puzzle to rearrange and solve.