This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Writing Mistakes: Overcomplicated Writing

There's something writers need to realize: writing in a complicated, elaborate style DOESN'T make your work any better. In fact, it may actually make it worse! If you've read any Charles Dickens--which, as a writer, I certainly hope you have--you know just how complicated writing can get. That man uses ALL of the metaphors, similes, adjectives, adverbs, and other writing devices that he can. Just look at the way he opens A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. That single paragraph sets to the tone for the entire book, and you'll find that his writing gets more complex as he goes. Now, you may be thinking, "But it's such great writing. Surely I can imitate it by writing complicated as well!" If you're Charles Dickens, you can get away with a lot. If, however, you are not--and I can assure you that you are not--overcomplicating your writing can actually make it MORE difficult to read. I've found that I'm pretty guilty of doing this in some of my writing. For example, here's a short passage from Book 2 of the Last Bucelarii series I'm in the middle of writing: The creature lived. Shattered and broken, perhaps, yet alive. Its heart beat, a weak thing struggling to pump the blood not yet spilled onto the ground around the creature's body. The mind, unthinking, acted, struggling to move. Instinct alone kept it from dying, though barely. Death's laughter mocked the dying thing, but the broken figure refused to yield. Sheer tenacity clung to life, refusing to take a final breath. A friend of mine, when he read it, told me "It's good, but I'd remove some of the extra modifiers." "But I added those modifiers to add gravitas and seriousness," I protested. "Nah," he replied, "it interrupts the flow and makes it hard to read." Darn it! What I thought I was doing right by making the writing a bit more complex, others see as overdone or wordy. A word of advice from a fellow writer and reader: keep it simple. Dickens had his time and place, but that was long ago. The average reader now wants to read something he/she can understand. Keep your writing simple--not by dumbing it down, but by avoiding overworidiness and overcomplicated writing. Simple is always easier to read.