Is pompous writing better than a simplistic one?

Are you a reader? Are you a writer? Then in whichever of these two categories you fall, this might interest you.

Whether you’re the one who peruses the work or the one who produces it, there is one common detail that you primarily seek: the message behind it, how it makes you feel and to what extent is it enjoyable. So far so good. But once the idea is out there, should it also be embellished with rather pretentious words and elaborate grammatical structures or simply left as it is? If the idea in itself is that inspiring, what difference does its coating make?

A crucial one.


And the contrast I’m alluding to does not lie in our perception of the author’s knowledge, but in our perception of the creation in itself.

Words, these seemingly random associations of letters (didn’t they come to existence by our ancestors’ unexpectedly pointing towards certain objects and uttering whatever their emotions in connection to those items stirred in them?), are directly linked with our emotions, they uncontrollably get personalized for each of us. Thus even if we generally employ the same expressions on a daily basis, we all perceive them under the veils of our experience. Now these veils could be as thick as a wool blanket, but in most situations they are diaphanous enough to prevent confusion.

And I suppose that nobody highlighted this phenomenon in a more poetic manner than Milan Kundera in his “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, when he skillfully designed a dictionary of misunderstandings for two lovers in his brilliant novel. Perhaps the most haunting example is their slowly acquired image of cemeteries. While for Franz “a cemetery” merely refers to ”an ugly dump of stones and bones”, Sabrina finds it a peaceful place where one could enjoy some silence even during wartime (she having just escaped the Russian invasion of Prague).


Hence, in the light of what each of us has lived (and linked the events with the concepts required to understand them), we instantly form certain images in our minds at the mere sight of a combination of words that we know. And it’s precisely through these symbols that the writer accesses the reader’s imagination to better explain his ideas. These signs easily tickle our unconscious without our even noticing, providing us with a mood in accordance to the associations our minds make between the respective terms and past events that correlate with them. Maybe one of us associates certain words with bad memories from our childhood (or why not the opposite), and consequently the book/article/poem/et cetera rouses the corresponding disposition.

Now of course the secret is not to overdo it, for misunderstandings of some level are genuinely unavoidable. And at the same time don’t strive to detail in excess where simplicity seems to convey the message better-words are too precious to go to waste. Great things can be said in a few lines, it’s all up to how you can manage it.

And there is, not surprisingly, the case of books in which natural  and sometimes even vulgar language is actually part of the message, in which case this still applies. They don’t have to be what is widely considered ‘beautiful words’, they just have to tell the story. Think ‘The Catcher in the Rye’-if you were to write it in a pompous, elegant manner, everything would be lost.

Isn’t language an explanation of our perception of the world?


Just like in Magritte’s painting, we paint an idea into a reality visible to the readers (depending of course on the glasses each of them wears), through our writing.


9 responses to “Is pompous writing better than a simplistic one?

  1. Dear Diana,
    I agree, language for sure is an explanation of our perception of the world.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and for the likes.
    Your blog looks great. Good mix of literature, philosophy and poems. Will surely take some time to read it. Looking forward to receive new posts in future too!

  2. I guess writers are influenced to write about things they have experienced, I find it very difficult to write about a subject that I don´t know nothing about and have to research it, like Dan Brown the author, I love reading his novels,actually I´m reading his last one “inferno”, but when it get to my own writing I do draw from my personality, those that I have met, of experiences, and obviously then twist them that is why it´s called creative writing the process of writing literature(if that is what I write anyways).

    And I do like what you said about simplicity, sometimes maybe even too much, I go for that. Don´t over do it you said, very good pointers.
    Enjoyed this post very much. Actually you got a whole of bunch of post that are very interesting, now you only have to ask the person in charge of the hours of the day to make the day 34 hours instead of 24….that way I could have more time to read your posts.

    • Oh I have read Brown’s ‘Inferno’, it’s very well crafted and documented. And, since I had to share the book with my mother who does not know English, I didn’t get to read the original as I always do with English novels. That’s why, in the spirit of this blog post, I wanted to ask you how is the language employed in this book like, is it pompous or rather quotidian English? Because the language one chooses is crucial to explain the meaning in one’s work…

      • I think it´s a delicate balance of both. Of course there is the very technical language that has to be used since the main character is a professor and expert of this symbology history. A lot of the things I have no idea what they are talking about but it compensates with the overall story, and dialogue of the characters and also more quotidian( had to look that one up) English.

      • Yea, I expected as much. I am very curious since as a writer I spend most of my time searching for the ideal word in a certain context (hence this blog post). I wanted to highlight the difference between those who are pedantic and choose more elaborate terms so as to seem more knowledgeable and those who simply try to convey their message more accurately. I guess there must be a difference in the tone as well, but you have to be really focused to be able to read that correctly.

      • You are going to make a great teacher. Although you didn´t fool me when I read that strange word, I knew you where testing me in some way that´s why I put it in parenthesis…..actually you´re going to be a mean teacher now that I think about it 😉

        Anyways, great reading another post of yours.

      • Well, if by being innocently mean once in a while I can make sure that my students will improve as human beings (my aim is not to make them learn tons of data, but simply to make them better themselves), then I will be a mean teacher :)!
        Great speaking to you!

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