ABCs of Freelance Writing: F is for Fustian

fustian adj., pretentious

Aren’t you glad I didn’t pick floccinaucinihilipilification for this installment? Me too.


It would have worked well for this little post on pretentious writing!

As a freelance writer, you probably already know the gist of the rule here: Unless you have a darn good reason, don’t use a word people need to look up in the dictionary when one they already know will suffice.

They way I see it, it’s a courtesy to your readers to cut out the esoteric obscure junk. Imagine your magazine article or blog post is a path. If you write well, the path is free and easy and helpful. If you don’t write well, the path becomes riddled with irritants and obstacles.

A missing comma slows the traveler down. A misspelled word causes the traveler to loser her balance.

A pretentious word? Well, that’s worse. That’s not just some unwitting hiccup in the textual landscape; that’s stringing some invisible fishing line across the path with the intention of watching the reader trip and land nose-first in the dirt.

I can see their metaphorical eyes pleading why?

And you? You just point, laugh, and talk about how you learned that word in fifth grade, duh!

Pretentious writing is off-putting. So people who want readers should shy away from it.

In his post “Seven Easy Steps to Pretentious Writing,” Michale Offut pokes a little fun at snobbish writing in general, turning a simple favorite into a laughable monstrosity of a poem.

It’s a brilliant way to drive the point home, isn’t it? I think we should all give it a go! In the comments write your own example or take a moment to turn the following sentence into something absurdly pretentious:

Jeremy went to the store to buy a loaf of bread, but the cashier said they were out.


image credit


0 thoughts on “ABCs of Freelance Writing: F is for Fustian

  1. Jennifer Dunn Escalona says:

    Ooooh! Emily you just hit on my BIGGEST pet peeve. And I had to try your exercise, so here goes:

    The gentleman in the spring time of his years who happened to go by the given name of Jeremy ambulated to the comestibles emporium ensconced at the confluence of two thruways, only to to belatedly discover that from an employee of the proprietor that the life giving sustenance which he sought was lacking within the depository’s receptacles.

    Also, I would heartpunch any writer who sent me that sentence.

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