Language is art. The author is the artist and the reader interprets the art. Diction and syntax weave a canvas for the mental images the author displays to the reader. Clarity and precision give structure to the masterpiece, while metaphors, vigorous verbs and colourful adjectives in the art allow the reader to create an individual interpretation. Ideally, political writing should model this art; if it lacks colour and creativity, it should, at least, be clear and precise. Realistically, political writing, when analyzed, shows good and bad qualities. Bad political writing confuses and bores the reader with jargon and redundancies; good political writing, on the other hand, with vivid adjectives, forceful verbs and effective sound devices like assonance, alliteration and onomatopoeia, drives the reader to emotion through the mental images it creates.
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First, bad political writing is polluted with jargon and redundancies that make the meaning unclear and the reader uninterested. After meeting in Munich with Hitler in 1938, Nevill Chamberlain gives a statement:
We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference.
Chamberlain’s statement is ambiguous; the reader is confused at the outcome of the political meeting. The writing is littered with jargon. Wordy expressions such as, “We are resolved” and “the method of consultation” are vague and imprecise. Chamberlain’s pledges to “deal with any other questions” and “to continue our efforts” are abstract and inactive. Phrased economically, his statement could be replaced with, “We will answer any questions and cooperate with Germany.” One of George Orwell’s six rules for good writing, “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out,” supports this revision.
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Furthermore, his writing is redundant, and therefore, indirect. Chamberlain’s phrase, “the method… shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions,” reeks of dignity and importance, but is repetitive and without precise meaning. As a result, the reader feels detached from his statement. Perhaps Chamberlain’s intent is to keep the meeting’s results and his position to himself. Bad political writing, saturated with jargon and redundancies, is dull and confusing.
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In contrast, the vigorous verbs, adjectives and effective sound devices, like assonance, alliteration and onomatopoeia, of powerful political writing awaken an emotional response from the recipients. In his acceptance address for the Sylvanus Thayer Award, delivered May 12, 1962, General Douglas MacArthur draws the audience into the horrid reality of war through his strong language. The listener visualizes the soldiers:
bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective.
MacArthur personalizes the war for each audience member; with verbs like “slogging” and “chilled,” the audience can imagine themselves in the midst of war, victim to the blustery weather and pawns in a political game.
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They experience the cruelty of war with “shell-shocked roads” and soldiers that are “blue-lipped” and bitter cold. MacArthur’s diction is intentional; each vibrant adjective is deliberately chosen and placed. His language is powerful. Furthermore, phrases like “dripping dusk” and “drizzling dawn,” examples of alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia, make the battlefield come alive to the listeners. Their emotions unit with MacArthur’s words as he exposes them to the inhumane nature of war. The powerful, well-chosen words of a seasoned army general recreate the harsh reality of a wartime world that is unknown to most people. The effective sound devices and vibrant verbs of good political writing capture the hearts and minds of the recipients.
In conclusion, strong and inventive political writing, with properly chosen verbs and adjectives and effective sound devices, lures the listener’s or reader’s emotions to the author’s words; on the contrary, the lifeless jargon of bad political writing is perplexing and dull, creating a chasm between the author’s meaning and the reader’s comprehension. George Orwell, in his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” thinks of “language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.” Language should open, not lock, the door to communication. The use of language is an art; the artist can paint muddled and blotted pictures or a clear and beautiful masterpiece.