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  1. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    What does clunky writing mean?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Dec 9, 2017.

    People have used the word clunky to describe bad writing but none of them have ever explained what they mean.

    What does it mean when someone says that a sentence is clunky?
     
  2. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    I guess that's one of those words that people think sounds like a useful criticism but that is really useless for you to hear. Because, well, what is clunky writing? Well I suppose it's the opposite of fluid and flowing writing. But even then that's something that we just know when we see it. In a sense writing that has a good flow is just writing that we enjoy to read, that allows us to keep reading fluently without stopping. But that's a matter of taste as much as anything.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Zion, consider NOT opening a brand new thread for every single nuance of the problem.

    I would say that "clunky" is another way of describing writing that is ungraceful and does not flow. Your over-aggressive efforts to add grace and flow to your writing usually instead strip out that grace and flow.
     
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  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is a natural, organic flow to communication. It starts with idiolect, which is the individual, personal set of choices we each make as regards the words and structures we use and don't use. Some people say If you were to do this..., and others say Were you to do this... They mean the same thing, though there is a difference in register and formality. Idiolect combines to create regionalism, regionalism combines to create dialects, etc. I think that clunky writing, most often, stems from an attempt to break with the natural manner of syntax without really understanding the break one is making. One of my favorite authors, Samuel R. Delany, certainly has a syntax flow that is outside the norm, but he understands the goal he is after; hence, once you get your "sea legs" reading his work, it's brilliant, not clunky.

    It can also stem from simply thinking about it too much. There's a known phenomenon when soldiers are learning to march in squads and platoons where overthinking the matter ocasionally causes the soldier to swing his/her arms in sync with the leg of each respective arm, rather than counter, as is the natural mode. I think it can be like that. We all know how to swing our arms naturally when we walk. It's not something we think about, and getting it wrong actually takes some effort, but, as noted, it happens when too much thought is put into it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    What chicken said

    In essence it means a sentence written like you tend to, words out of order, misused, odd word choices, and so on

    Not Clunky = Bob bought a new car. He loved the throbbing growl of the V8 engine

    Clunky = A horseless carriage of newness bob bought, forsooth and verily the V8 did throb and he did feel in his heart, within his breast, affection of the platonic type for his transport of the automotive kind.
     
  6. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    That should be in a hall of fame somewhere.
     
  7. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Actually I think that might be the best way to put it. Which is silly in a way, because of course we think about writing. But it shouldn't read like you spent forever thinking about it. It should read like it was just off the top of your head.

    *struggles to stay serious* Quite :p But yes, it does make the point quite well. Because it reads like someone trying way too hard, instead of like someone's real voice. And that is what really makes writing read as clunky I think.

    Clunky writing is writing that makes us realize that someone else sat and thought and finally came up with this. Non-clunky writing makes us think we're hearing someone else's voice.
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yeah the struggle is real :D

    I find it very difficult to write like that, whereas the OP seems to have a 'gift' for sounding like Yoda after his fourth bottle of Whyren's reserve
     
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  9. crappycabbage

    crappycabbage Member

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    I always saw "clunky writing" as something that feels awkward and unpleasant to read. It's like the discomfort we feel when a tone-deaf person sings; it doesn't really go smoothly through the ear, and I think clunky writing can have the same effect on readers. I agree with LostThePlot that clunky can be hard to define, but for me a clunky sentence can mean it's too long with no natural breathing pauses, or that words have been shifted around in a way which stops the flow and just feels wrong. A lot writers read their work out loud to get a sense of how well their text flow to avoid the "clunky". It doesn't always come naturally; a lot of writers work very hard at getting their writing to feel smooth and easy to read. I'm one of them.
     
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  10. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    There's so much wisdom in this thread that anything I say will inevitably sound like a monkey fart, but I'll give my rusty 2 cents anyway. "Clunky" is when you fuck the diction of the sentence so hard it calls you daddy.

    No, wait, that's not what I meant to say.

    "Clunky" is the reordering of the components of a sentence such that it sounds like you wrote the words in the order you pulled them out of the hat.

    You know what, maybe I'll just go find examples.
     
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  11. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Well I'm an artist; if I wasn't struggling I wouldn't be so sexy ;)
     
  12. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    That is a powerful image :D
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    If we were going to declunk the sentence in question (incidentally @Wreybies this thread would be more sensible merged with the one about apologetics)

    "God, who according to His wisdom has created the world to show His love and glory, has put in the heavens and in the earth the signs and proofs that He is, who also has placed in the conscience of man the witness of His law, according to which He will judge the world on the day which He has ordained."

    First we break it down in to the points you are ( I think) trying to convey

    God created the world
    He did so to show his love and glory
    He put in the earth and sky proof that this was the case
    He created a law
    He will judge the world by this law on a day of his choosing
    He has given this law to men,and made their consciences remind them of it

    Then we build those points back up in simple declarative sentences without trying to sound biblical or use words that are not in common useage

    "God created the world to show his love and glory. He left proof that this was so, in the sky and in the earth. He also created a law by which He would judge the world on the day of judgement, and made mankind witness to this law."

    Sorted.
     
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  14. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Serious question; is it really a problem if religious writing is a bit clunky? I didn't see the apologetic thread so I don't know the full context but for that kind of thing I think the audience will almost be expecting a bit more bombast. In a sense, being so direct and prosaic almost robs it of it's meaning and sincerity. You can make it sound more like a modern person talking, absolutely, and if that's what it's supposed to be then fine, no problems. But if it's supposed to be something closer to a sermon then, well, why not sound more like a real sermon? If you listen to how a lot of evangelicals talk about faith they use a much more bombastic style; it's supposed to be divinely inspired you know? So you don't want to sound like Steve from Stockport, you're proclaiming. And the readers are those who know scripture and are used to seeing holy men talking in that kind of style.

    I can't say that the King James Bible is well written but the question is; does it matter if that's what your audience expects?
     
  15. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Correct:

    The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

    Clunky:

    The wind was blowing in the middle of the night, through the tree branches, which swayed back and forth as the wind passed through their thick, green fronds.
     
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    for me it doesnt matter in bible or when someone is preaching, but if The OP is writing a serious non fiction work about comparative religion and the case for Christianity it shouldn't be written as though its a hellfire and brimstone service

    The other thing is that trying to sound like the KJB is almost certain to fail as you are unlikely to compare favorably with it, so imo unless you are literally writing a biblical fan fic you are better writing in modern English
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    OP level of clunky

    The wind, which composed was of air moving , was blowing in the middle of the night, that is mid way , approximately between dusk and dawn, through tree branches which from side to side moved, as the wind them passed through their leaves , twig and branches which were witnessed as green in color as leaves often are"
     
  18. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    That's a fair point, and I can't say I disagree with you. If it is to be something that is almost academic then you need clarity over style, and under most circumstances there isn't a reason to emulate the good book. I was just reminded of the book I wrote set in a reclusive Christian sect which has a decent amount of their teenage prophet preaching and teaching and being a religious leader as best he can and that is one time when I think it's appropriate to adopt that more biblical style. But that is some short chunks of dialogue when he's in the pulpit and where he's specifically trying to sound like the voice of god; it's just for that purpose and the rest of the book is normal English. Much as I loved writing him preaching (some times I wish I was religious, I write a mean sermon ;)) I couldn't have kept that up.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The problem is that we're not talking about a little bombast or pomposity; we're talking about torturing the writing to the extent that you have to read it two or three or four or seven times, and even then you're only sixty percent sure that you've understood what the writer was trying to say. The bit on the apologetic thread was better than usual, in that you probably only have to read two or three times to get ninety percent of what's being said, but an improvement still isn't a solution.
     
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    To honest be I think the point made has been. If not understandeth yet, point never be will
     
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  21. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Fair enough, I shall let this thread die (on the cross).
     
  22. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yes. Religious texts of all flavours have been used for centuries to persecute and oppress. People who claim to abide by the rules laid out in these texts often argue that their book of choice teaches love and tolerance, but if you unravel the needlessly complex and often contradictory writing, you'll find that most of them are nothing of the sort. And it's precisely because of this that religion still gets away with it: if people actually understood what their 'holy' books said, then they'd throw them away.
     
  23. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    That might be a bit contentious for a thread about clunky writing to be honest ;) But, well, I have opinions on this subject also for a more amenable venue :p
     
  24. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Well, you did ask :p
     
  25. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    *tosses hair like a L'Oreal advert* I don't know what you're talking about good sir.
     

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