I would like my writing to be sophisticated, but find it difficult. I think this is since I have trouble understanding sophisticated passages. So no matter how well I know grammar, I can never arrange words in ways clever enough to call them sophisticated. Since the problem is actually my reading comprehension -- and I find many passages of the King James Bible difficult to understand, though not because some words of its words are archaic -- I need to improve my reading comprehension skills.

Let me just clarify that I don't mean to write in convoluted ways, but simply in ways sophisticated enough to delight myself and the reader.

I do not know if this is possible, but since this corresponds to writing ability, and since the following is therefore an acceptable question, at least according to my hope, I ask you this: How can I measurably improve my ability to comprehend difficult passages, in order to improve my ability to write them as well? Thank you.

  • "I can never arrange words in ways clever enough to call them sophisticated." Stop trying to. Say what you mean, then revise and repeat. Practice and time. Jul 4 at 22:44
  • And when I say you should practise, I don't mean on your Stack Exchange posts. They don't need to sound clever and sophisticated, and they don't need 30+ edits while you fiddle with the words. Jul 4 at 22:45

Practice is important. So too is reading the works of others as a writer, observing the moves used by authors one admires. Like a musician listens and emulates players they like, so too a writer can expand their repertoire of phrasing by observing and emulating. Writing is composed of words, so building vocabulary aids in the precision of expression. Writing is also editing, and it is in the editing process that the ideas are honed.

Sometimes, sophisticated ideas and thoughts require simplicity and clarity of voice to effectively impart intended meaning. Personally, I find the more complex the idea, often the more I have to work at being clear lest I confuse the audience. For example, building nuance often entails stacking conditional clauses. In building such a case, grammar matters. One must be mindful where modifiers are placed or unintended meanings can be rendered from the prose.

Though a treatise on basic writing, I found Shaughnessy's (1979) monograph extremely productive in my own craft. The example on page 132 in particular helped me rethink my own approach. I use it in teaching university level writing.

Shaughnessy, Mina P. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1979. https://archive.org/details/errorsexpectatio0000shau


Practice. Lots and lots of practice.

You may in particular want to take writers whose style you admire and write pastiches. Trying to do it is the best way to analyze how they do it.

Pick a number of writers. That way you don't just ape one but learn a variety of skills.

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