A Word On Language

We have three goals here at YSDA.

Be honest. We never write anything we don’t believe, at least at the moment in which it is being written. We never take a provocative position just to generate readership.

Be clear. We’re not much on subtlety around here. We don’t like obfuscation. We don’t like to imply things. We like to say them flat out. Clarity of writing reflects clarity of thought. It’s hard to vet an idea or a line of reasoning when it’s obscured. That’s why a lot of people want to obscure their lines of reasoning.

Be entertaining. Nobody should be expected to slog through paragraph after dense paragraph, suffering for the wisdom the writer is imparting only to the most devoted and devout. Reading should be fun.

Beyond the three main rules, we have some views on specific language.

We do not write “they” or “them” when referring to one person. If the subject insists on gender neutrality then we avoid pronouns to refer to them. It’s not that hard and, while it does result in some awkward sentences, they’re not as awkward as the alternative. (We acknowledge that we’re violating our own rule right now since referring to “we” implies that there is more than one person at work here at YSDA. This is aspirational. It might be true some day. Leave us alone.)

We like the way this guy wrote.

We never use “Latinx” or similar language. It sounds like a facial tissue and it’s dismissed by both right and left, if for different reasons. But Latinx is just one example of a slew of words and phrases, designed to make everyone else feel dumb and guilty, pumped out by hard-left academics and activists on pretty much a weekly basis. See our second rule above. These words are intended to be confounding so that the user can feel superior. We hate this stuff.

We capitalize Black, but we don’t know why. After George Floyd was murdered, the Associated Press changed its stylebook to capitalize Black. It makes no sense since we do not capitalize white or brown. Nonetheless, it now feels somehow disrespectful not to capitalize Black, so we do.

We make every attempt to avoid trendy language. So, we never “weaponize” our language or “unpack” an issue or try to write something in “real time” or rely, not on facts and reason, but simply on our “lived experience.” There is lots of language out there that is designed to make the speaker sound smarter than he is, to take an obvious observation or a simple thought and dress it up so that you can charge for it. Literally. A lot of this stuff is employed by academics, consultants and non-profits so that they can make a living from appearing to possess special expertise or knowledge when, in fact, they’re just stating the obvious.

Overall, we like the old Kansas City Star style guide. It’s how Ernest Hemingway learned to write. We like Ernest Hemingway. He wrote. He was good at writing. He was honest. He was clear. We do not always find him all that entertaining. In that regard, maybe we can improve on Ernest Hemingway.

And just a reminder: Our policy on comments is that they will only be posted from writers using their full names. Be honest. Be clear.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

4 thoughts on “A Word On Language

  1. When he was a reporter there, the Kansas City Star always spelled Ernest’s byline with one m, Hemingway. Otherwise, spot on.


    1. Well, now isn’t that embarrassing? A guy writes about language and then misspells the name of one of the world’s most famous writers. Let this be a lesson to me to check my spelling even when I “know” I’m right. Fixed now. Thanks.


  2. Si, most Latinos I know (My wife is Latina, specifically Mexicana) think use of the word “Latinx” is silly. How long until someone takes it to the extreme and refers to her as Mexicanx? And how to pronounce it? Mekikanekee? Sheesh.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: