When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing

April 16, 2013

It was Enrique Jardiel Poncela who said that “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing”. I would have guessed at someone like Mark Twain, or maybe G. K. Chesterton, but there you go.

A couple of months ago, I sent an eight-page submission to the House of Commons BIS Committee’s inquiry into the Goverment’s Open Access policy. That was a ratbag to write, and the fear is that such a dry document will be a ratbag to read as well. I work very hard to prevent it being boring — to craft it so that the sentences flow, and so a coherent story emerges from the sequence of individual arguments. It’s tough work.

Here are two pages of my first complete draft, with the markup that I added as I read it through. You can see how much I had to change to get it into a satisfactory state.

commons-submission--first-draft

Let’s just hope the BIS committee actually reads it.

This very morning, the BIS Committee (Business, Innovation and Skills) is conducting its inquiry, based in part on submissions such as mine — and you can watch it, live, from 9:30am. The list of witnesses looks less unbalanced than in the recent Lords inquiry: on the side of the angels, Cameron Neylon and Martin Eve will appear — as will Stevan Harnad, which could be a positive or a negative. They will of course be countered as always by representatives of the publishing industry, including ALPSP and Elsevier, who will no doubt be once more pushing to extend embargoes and preserve their own continuing government subsidies.

Let’s see what happens.

I’ll finish by quoting the last paragraph of the Executive Summary from my submission:

The government must make decisions on the basis of what benefits the UK as a whole, not what benefits any single industry. The government should allow both Gold and Green OA; should require the CC BY licence, whichever route is taken; should tolerate no embargo on Green OA; and should not fully fund exploitatively high APCs.

 

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One Response to “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing”

  1. Matt Wedel Says:

    It was Enrique Jardiel Poncela who said that “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing”. I would have guessed at someone like Mark Twain, or maybe G. K. Chesterton, but there you go.

    There is a quote attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” But no one can confirm that he said it (see this). Richard Brinsley Sheridan expressed the opposite idea a couple of centuries ago:

    You write with ease, to show your breeding,
    But easy writing’s curst hard reading

    The Pedantry Express is now departing for points west. Ticketed passengers only!


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