Verbose arguments, pedantic, overcomplicated

Over on rpg.net, user “Azraele” comments on my article about rulesets and their role in changing player behaviour thus:

I want to mention, without judgement, that the language used is extremely convoluted to no productive end; your thesis and definitions aren’t careful enough to warrant the use of such hyper technical language. Switching to plain language doesn’t rob your observations of important detail; it unearths them from mounds of obfuscation.

On reflection, I disagree that this has no productive end. When I write like that, there for several reasons:

  • I’m trying to spell out my argument very precisely, so that it can be rigorously analysed (and indeed so that in the process I may catch my own errors and ambiguities). If my definitions are indeed “not careful enough”, then the process will reveal that (as it did for that blog post once others read it carefully).
    • If my argument is precise, doesn’t mean that it is right, or even structurally sound; it just means that it’s going to be obvious when its wrong or unsound.
  • I’m generating terms and definitions for my own future use (and that of others). Complication now may let me say something very simply later, if only to myself.

  • … and, ultimately, my goal is to understand. Communication to others is secondary — I’m happy for others to benefit, but my main goal is to benefit myself.
    • There is a tension here — if I communicate well, I can get better feedback, and thus reach better understanding. There is no simple solution here.
  • It’s irrelevant that my argument seems obvious when stated simply. Lots of things are seem obvious when briefly stated but turn out to be bollocks when you analyse them in detail.
  • Often, I’m writing as I’m thinking, so my writing is exploratory. I put some time into editing for a reader’s benefit… but I’m only willing to do so much there.

I’m not saying here that that blog post couldn’t have been clearer. I’m not even saying that it was perfect given all the goals above. I’m just saying that I am writing like that for a reason.

 

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