What I encounter when I write is the perennial series of obstacles that serve make writing a challenge, and so, through the course of my internet wanderings one day, I discovered the mention of a code of English known as Standard Written English (SWE). The acronym and label of this code sounded as though it had been around for sometime, and was something that had obviously slipped from under the radar of my writing studies. When I thought of the concept of SWE, I thought of the unusual duality of complex writing and simple basic English. In fact, my mind was tickled by the thought of SWE because of a number of comments I’d received about my writing. To describe the experience concerning the odd sensation I felt one day, one that took into consideration yet another facet lurking within nature of writing, I have the story to relay for everyone.

In one of my classes, we were broken up into groups a few days before the due date of a paper for the purposes of peer-to-peer essay critique. What I noticed when reading was the way in which a 19yr old writes: the wording is non-complex and sounds as though I am, like, “talking to a teen ya know…” This realization provided a great service for me, for when I received my second paper back, I was suggested of the option to rewrite the paper. Since the material was complex, I inverted my thought process, and presented this complex material in the non-complex wording style of a 19yr old: I pretended I was a 19yr old student and wrote the paper. Oddly enough, the remark came back to say the paper was much easier to read.

So I’ve been admitting to myself that the years I’ve spent reading in-depth, complex classics written by the originators of the English language has seeped into my writing style. Powerful words are often placed without build-up in this style, while language is often compounding with length and thought patterns that require double reading. I gather that SWE avoids this approach, making reading a much easier task, where the notion of aesthetic beauty is not as much a concern as the convention of getting the story told. By understanding the process of reading in conjunction with the comments I’ve received, I hope to retain what I personally love about writing, but to combine this with a measure of SWE. This is the process of being a writer that readers want to read.

One doesn’t even have to study the nature of SWE that much to understand that the process is one of fundamentals, whose examples are much like the ones we read in elementary school:

Simple: Joe ran to the store.
Descriptive: The ugly boy named Joe ran to the liquor store.
Complex: By sheer force of harbinger derivatives, the self-nullifying Joseph ran with unbridled desperation to where a socially corrupting, but locally treasured liquor store lie awaiting his much anticipated arrival.

As anyone can see, by the time the complex sentence is written, a whole new type of reading is involved, with even the prospect of the need for a dictionary. In fact, the complex sentence had to be revised once or twice for this very presentation. What is learned is that the complex style has to be reasoned with the descriptive, and that the simple is simply too basic. Hence my encounter with SWE will have an impact on the writing style that is sure to emerge.

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5 Responses to Writing

  1. woowooteacup says:

    I’ve never heard of the term SWE before in terms of writing to be understood. I’m going to have to look that up. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Hope your holidays are relaxing and enjoyable!

  2. LK says:

    The wiki page describes SWE as a slight variation of what I’ve described, but this link pointed me toward coming to an understanding of common, basic SWE:


    Same to you Mary!

  3. noranoir says:

    Is this also known as dumbing down? When I send out emails at work, often half or less of my readers understand the directions. I have learned to write in short sentences, and even separate each sentence into it’s own line or bullet point it just to ensure it’s comprehension.

    I favor poetry, of course, for it’s viscous, rich body and when coupled with it’s usual short bursts of stanzas, it makes for decent comprehensible consumption. But if one is to essay to write a novel, say, then I can see the need to keep understanding and attention at a maximum. But it has always been my assumption that stories are thick with punched up words and description because it fills more pages. So I wonder if the SWE approach cuts it by a third.

  4. jnanarama says:

    It would probably serve well to randomly sample some best-sellers for dumbed-down readability. I would guess that the most purchased books are the ones that the greatest number of Americans can read and enjoy. And Americans ain’t that literate, my friend.

    Every artist who wants to take his craft into the marketplace has to make these decisions between soul and profit. If you want to keep writing in a way that pleases you, you can do that. But being a writer in a public sense requires that you play the game by the rules, including marketing. As Kurtis Blow eloquently stated, that’s the breaks.

  5. LK says:

    I agree, jnanarama, it is the breaks for me; I have to work at losing complexity and it just plain dack darned stinks.

    Nora, your poetry is exquisite stuff, indeed, like Filet Mignon of words…I just have to let a few post go by, let the pages go down in tier value, so when I visit your site, I’m not met with the shock of your picture choices! hahahaha… (I’m just not cut out for “that kind” of carnage…)

    Happy Merry Stuff and Holiday you guys!

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