Media’s gravest internal threat is turgid prose

Arundhati Roy‘s 31-page essay Walking with the comrades in Outlook* has attracted several well-argued and well-deserved critiques (Kafila, Mint, Outlook). But this one by a former newspaper and magazine sub-editor*, in Radical Notes, takes the cake and the bakery for what it does to the English language.

Sample paragraph one:

“There is no doubt the Indian Maoist movement – which has erupted in the sense of pure socio-occupational and physical geography in the agrarian-tribal location – has rendered the externalised imposition of a given Marxological/communistological historiography to define (in discourse) and articulate (in the materiality of lived practice) its struggle uniquely determinate to the specificity of its historico-geographic location redundant. But to assert that it has done so by claiming something that is purely autonomous tribal aspiration and struggle would be equally fallacious. For, tribal identities as they exist and pose themselves in and through struggles – both in areas of Maoist influence as also in sangh parivar-infested tribal areas of especially Orissa and Madhya Pradesh – are formed by being inscribed within the determinate, if not discursive, mode of capital. Those identities and their movements are thus either articulated by the specific configuration of dualised and hierarchised capitalist power, or are responses to the respective historico-geographic specifications of such a general configuration of power.”

Read the full articleOn the Kafila debate

*Disclosures apply

Also read: George Orwell’s six rules for better writing

Sir V.S. Naipaul’s seven rules for writers

William Safire: 18 steps to better writing

Strunk & White: Elements of style

William Zinsser: clarity, brevity, simplicity, humanity


  1. Mahesh Vijapurkar

    Excuse me, please tell me in plain, simple English what was sought to be said.

  2. Naran

    I second Mahesh Vijapurkar. What is it that
    the writer wanted to say? Is he trying to impress others with his ‘mastery’ of English?

  3. usha

    Actually this is not about ‘mastery’ but about ‘un’mastery of English where the English language has probably been learnt while taking Sociology classes at the University. Consequently this might be the only kind of English the author is conversant with.

  4. deponti

    Here’s my post about language snobbery, in which I refer to the excerpt above:

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