Editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang's advice to politicians is also useful for those in the education sector (Ministers, please speak plainly to the people; June 3).
In school, students are often compelled by teachers to use flowery language in their writing.
Guidebooks on writing encourage this, too. For example, this is suggested as a way to describe shock: "Gritting my teeth and creasing my eyebrows... the dam of tears within me exploded and flushed down my red and puffy eyes."
While it is good for students to pick up new words and phrases to improve their vocabulary, they need to be able to use them appropriately. Students tend to thoughtlessly regurgitate fanciful words in their essays, thinking that doing so will help them score points.
Words should be used because they are functional, and not merely because they are impressive. Overusing flowery language will also make the piece of writing appear pompous.
Students should be taught that writing has to be simple and functional in order to convey ideas clearly. This should be reflected in grading rubrics.
A good example to follow is newspapers, which use plain language so that most people understand the news - be they schoolchildren, executives or the "uncles" at the coffee shops.
Complex words should be used only if they are necessary to express ideas succinctly, not to impress or confuse the reader.
Sean Lim Wei Xin