Monday, June 01, 2009

Too Many Words

I'm getting pretty tired of white men whining about racism. The real problem is that Sotomayor, like so many of us, uses too many words per sentence. You know me. I'm a grammar nut and when you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Check it out. It's 32 words. MS Word grades it as readable just above a 12th grade level. Still, I can see how a listener may try to cut out a few words in the effort to get his head around the concept. The most important word cut in most of the quotes I've seen and heard is "wise."

The quote is near the end of her 4,000 word speech to a law school audience describing the effect of personal experience on judgement. If it had been addressed to the popular media, no doubt she would have phrased it differently. Try this:

A wise Latina woman might reach a better conclusion than a white man without her experience.
Fifteen words readable on a seventh grade level. Still I fear people would drop the pesky prepositional phrase at the end. One of my best friends has the annoying habit of jumping to conclusions in the middle of my sentences. I often warn him: "The point's going to come at the end of the sentence. Wait for it!"

My advice to speakers: Use only the words you want listeners to hear.

My advice to listeners: Trust that the speaker needed all the words. If you don't remember them all, don't try to draw your own conclusions.