Why writers are hypocrites

I was watching The Big Short a few days ago when a thought struck me.

If you haven’t seen it, the film is set just before the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007, and one of its major themes is the tendency of the banking industry to overcomplicate simple concepts. The filmmakers’ take on it was that bankers were using complex language to hide some of their less wholesome practices, but I think there’s something else at work too.

I think business worships complexity.

The people who do the most complicated jobs are the most revered. So if your job is comparatively straightforward, the natural reaction is to make it sound complicated. (This is why there are ‘sandwich technicians’ at Subway.) It seems to me that there’s an underlying rule here: if you can explain it, it’s not complicated enough.

This is a stupid and dangerous rule

But it’s also the rule that means people like me have a job. So the worst bit is that a lot of people like me, by which I mean writers, seem to abide by the rule themselves.

Writers aren’t ‘writers’ anymore. They’re ‘content strategists’ or ‘content creators’. Likewise writing isn’t ‘writing’, it’s ‘authoring’. And words aren’t ‘words’, they’re ‘content’ or ‘copy’.

The hypocrisy makes my blood boil. As writers it’s our job to make sense of the complexity, not add to it.

So can we stop it now, please?


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on Aug 15, 2016

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