Muddled writing has the following characteristics:
- It relies on abstractions rather than vivid, concrete terms;
- It is riddled with unnecessary jargon;
- It confuses the reader and makes him stop reading.
George Orwell illustrated the problem of muddled writing when he rewrote a Bible passage into the jargon of a modern-day professional. The Bible version says:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Orwell's "translation" goes like this:
Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
Tomorrow: Why is muddled writing commonplace?