Two Awful Paragraphs that Illustrate How Not to Write

I was perusing news sites for reactions to the Arpaio pardon when I came upon this passage, which left my brain aching:

For the most part, Donald Trump is a pretty easy guy to figure out. Once you understand what really motivates him, it is usually fairly simple to put all the pieces of his puzzle together.


However, the one part of calculating the equation behind his decision making which can be problematic is trying to determine the time period during which he expects to see a benefit for any particular action. Assessing whether he is seeking instant gratification, or only semi-instant gain (given his minuscule attention span, those are generally the only two options), can result in a vastly different view of what is really going on in his world.

What’s wrong with that? Well, it’s wordy, clunky, banal, and obtuse. Other than that, it’s a fine piece of writing.

Here’s a rewrite. See if you like it better:

Donald Trump is not complicated. But when it comes to figuring out what he’s up to, we have to ask whether he’s looking for a short-term payoff or an even shorter-term payoff. (Since he has the attention span of a goldfish, long-term thinking is not his thing.) If we want to know why Trump does something, we need to know what he aims to gain from it — and when.

It’s not perfect, but it’s one paragraph instead of two; it uses fewer words; and it’s simpler. Why use the worn-out cliche “put all the pieces of the puzzle together” when you can just say figure it out? Why say you’re “calculating the equation behind his decision making” (GAG me) when you can say understand what he’s doing? Why say “the time period during which he expects to see a benefit for any particular action” (GAG me again) when you can say when he’s expecting a payoff?

I see dense writing like this more and more in the media’s coverage of Trump. Maybe Trump’s incoherent clacking is starting to rub off on commentators.