Maxim Monday: Speak Plainly

Maxim Monday: Speak Plainly May 26, 2014

[Attempting a gentle return to blogging, I begin with my series, Maxim Mondays, wherein I ponder one of the Delphic Maxims, in an effort to get through the entirety of them.]

I whole-heartedly embrace this Maxim, and I encourage you to do so as well! Let us eschew passive-aggressive vagaries. Let our yeses be yeses, and our no’s mean no. Let us mean what we say and say what we mean. Our words have power, for good or for ill. If we mean something less than kind, then just be plain about it. Don’t beat around the bush. Speak plainly.

However, let us also not forget to take into account this threefold  guide on whether or not to speak: Ask yourself, Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If yes, then speak plainly. If not, then maybe reconsider speaking at all. I am teaching these questions to my children, whether they are speaking to others, about others, or even in their own self-talk. I try to remember this myself.

Another way to apply this Maxim is to write or speak in a way that communicates clearly, without undue complication. As a recovering academic, I have read too many essays written by people who seem to be attempting to use the most complicated words they know in the longest sentences they can come up with to express ideas that only five other people might understand. If they wrote/spoke plainly more people might be able to understand and appreciate their ideas – and their essays might only be half as long!

Fiction is also guilty over complicating things. Many authors seem to be trying too hard, ending up with purple prose or convoluted structure, obscuring what might be great ideas. It’s hard to find a balance between beautiful writing and plain speaking! I certainly make no claims that my writing is excellent, but I do aim for clear communication.

In all of our communication, be it speaking or writing, may we be forthright.

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