There was a sociologist who had written a paper for us all to read—something he had written ahead of time. I started to read the damned thing and my eyes were coming out—I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. I figured it was because I hadn’t read any of the books on that list. I had this uneasy feeling of, “I’m not adequate,” until finally I said to myself, “I’m going to stop, and read one sentence slowly so I can figure out what the hell it means.”
So I stopped at random and read the next sentence very carefully. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was very close to this: “The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels.” I went back and forth over it and translated. You know what it means? “People read.”
Then I went over the next sentence. And I realized that I could translate that one, also. Then it became a kind of empty business. “Sometimes people read. Sometimes people listen to the radio.” And so on. But written in such a fancy way that I couldn’t understand it at first. And when I finally deciphered it, there was nothing to it.
Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy.
It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say “In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that” than to say “I think”.