“How to Say Nothing in 500 Words”, Summary

Prof. P. Roberts “How to Say Nothing in 500 Words” – Summary

Professor Paul Roberts (1917-1967) taught English in college for more than twenty years and wrote various books and papers on linguistics. In 1956, he presented an essay writing guide. This particular work despite its appellation isn’t an introduction to how to come up with some meaningless but acceptable content that fits in the specific framework. The scholar based on his own teaching experience and extensive language knowledge delivers the message in a straightforward manner trying to achieve the opposite.

Starting by painting a picture of essay assignment handling that is familiar to any student he provides an example of a typical, written in the last night before the deadline paper on a common topic. It’ll be later evaluated with no more than D. It’s specified that the main reason for the failure is the approach to the task fulfillment. It concerns not only the postponement till the latest moment but also the surrender to the circumstances. The subject is important but not a key aspect to the quality writing. The winning of the audience interest is completely a writer’s job, and neither theme nor schedule can’t be used as an excuse.

During the professor’s long employment he read thousands of students’ essays. It helped him to summarize their mistakes and conclude the following steps (original section headings used) the writers should take to achieve the satisfactory result. Some of them seem evident, but the provided explanations help with their implementation more than a simple comprehension.

Avoid obvious content

The majority of initial thoughts on a common topic like college football are the ones that have been stated thousands of times and will be presented in the future bringing teachers to the brink of lunacy. That’s why the author suggests making the list of them and trying to exclude its clauses from the content creation process.

Take the less usual side

The writer’s attitude frequently defines the angle of the paper. The lack of care or the attempt to make the opinion correspond with the instructor’s or social one set the boundaries that are hard to stick to without making the writing ordinary. That’s why these factors should be eliminated to make an actual contribution to the topic discussion.

Slip out of abstraction

One of any paper goals is to persuade its readers of the validity of its standpoint. But it can’t be done with simple affirmations without evidence. The statement should be presented the way the people will see images behind words. When the content is too abstract, it doesn’t have emotional toning that’s necessary for the aim attainment.

Get rid of obvious padding

Writers shouldn’t reach the required paper size by overcomplicating assertions that can be expressed in a few words. For instance, the sentence when I was a little girl, I suffered from shyness and embarrassment in the presence of others is just I was a shy little girl. No additions required. Students should dig up more real content instead, by illustrating the subject and proving the statement.

Call a fool a fool

The modesty of young writers and the habit we all share of using euphemisms especially the polysyllable ones contributed by psychology make them weakening their content with various roundabout phrases. This way they practically rob it of its crispness and force. Anyhow presented statements are the responsibility that no one can slip out with a few excess words.

Beware of pat expressions

Wording clichés are other filler types that add only to the writing size, not its meaning. Such tags are no more forceful and extremely tacky. Preferably to minimize their number in the content or avoid them totally. It includes phrases like from where I sit, the time of his life, etc.

Colorful words

A writer’s work is a constant struggle to place the appropriate word correctly. There are no rules. There are only few useful generalizations. That’s why writers should be careful with fancy and emotional inducing words, especially in academic papers. Writing also has its trends, and rich and smoky expressions are the part of the long gone one.

Colored words

Some words have stuck together with good or bad associations they bring. That’s why their employment can cause particular emotions regardless of the context. To avoid the inadmissible ambiguity scholars and scientist should try not to use them especially as the substitution for the thought.

Colorless words

Colorless words like slang adjectives and nouns of very general meaning due to the constant overuse have lost their original force. They don’t contribute to the establishment of the connection with readers and ergo should rarely be used. It also concerns etc. that shows only the lack of words.