It is Monday, September 19, 2022 and I am just outside of St. Louis, where I’ve been on a work trip. It’s very hot here – around 91 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also my first work trip since the beforetimes. It turns out that traveling from Pacific to Central Time is not great because the two hour time difference is just irritatingly inconvenient.
Here’s a photograph of Fox News in the lobby of my hotel early this morning:
Short again today.
This one has gone around the houses a bit, but maybe you haven’t seen it yet. Poor writing, not specialized concepts, drives processing difficulty in legal language1 is a 2022 paper that thinks contracts are hard for people to understand because they exhibit
Anyway, the point is in the title which is that contracts are just written unclearly and it’s not because “the law” is hard to understand, it’s that it (potentially!) is written intentionally to be hard to understand. Or maybe even unintentionally.
Caught my attention because: this (legal language) is a subset/sibling of Business Language, and you really, really, really, really, really need to be able to write clearly. I say this, of course, while writing and jabbing keys for this newsletter.
Oh, wait. One interesting piece:
“such processing difficulties result largely from working-memory limitations imposed by long-distance syntactic dependencies (i.e., poor writing)”
Okay, yes, on the one hand good writing doesn’t produce long-distance syntactic dependencies, and on the other hand, some great works of literature are also I’d argue easy to understand and parse even though they exhibit long-distance syntactic dependencies. But the objective of those different types of writing is probably different, too.
But anyway, anyway, the interesting thing here is well of course you could improve your writing so that it fits within your working memory limitation set (which I interpret to be along the lines of why phone numbers are in the digit patterns they’re in, e.g. in the US three-three-four) or it might be more exciting if we improved our working memory limitation set. Just imagine the kinds of business writing and literature we could have as a species if our working memory / global workspace were larger!
Okay, that’s it. It’s late and I have to get up early.
Did you have a good weekend? I can’t even remember the weekend. I hope you had a good one.
Martínez E, Mollica F, Gibson E. Poor writing, not specialized concepts, drives processing difficulty in legal language. Cognition. 2022 Jul;224:105070. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105070. Epub 2022 Mar 4. PMID: 35257980. ↩