Writing clearly might require a bus ride to Iowa.

Written by Cole Schafer


Writing that implores flowery five-syllable words cumbersome enough to stump a Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion is rarely for the reader, but for the scribbler.

My greatest advantage as a writer is that I was born in Southern Indiana where language is treated like a pair of leather work gloves or a Ball-peen hammer –– treated like a functional tool that gets the job done.

Kurt Vonnegut, the father of Slaughterhouse 5, was a bit harsher in his sentiments writing…

“I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.”

But, there is beauty in that monkey wrench.

I’ve always gravitated towards writers like Hemingway, Bukowski and Vonnegut for their ability to do something ornamental with the unornamental.

This, in my opinion, is what makes for damn good writing –– writing that creates magic with language everyone can understand.

Unfortunately, this is the weakness in most of the advertising (and I might even include books) written in the United States today.

It is done in places like New York, Los Angeles and Miami by city slickers who’ve never had so much as a conversation with a blue-collar worker in a convenience store.

Get on the bus. Go to Iowa.

This creates blindspots; blindspots David Ogilvy was wildly aware of when he gave the following advice to copywriters who were doing more “dancing” on the page than actual “writing…

“Get on the bus. Go to Iowa. Stay on a farm for a week and talk to the farmer. Come back to New York by train and talk to your fellow passengers in the day-coach. If you still want to use the word, go ahead.”

In closing, practice writing something beautiful in words everyone can understand, in words that don’t require a dictionary.

If you find yourself questioning the readability of what you’ve written, take a bus ride to Iowa.

Remember that beautiful writing is as useful as an umbrella in a sandstorm if nobody can understand it.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.