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By Johannes Helmold

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Pretentious writing can be the worst writing to read. It makes readers say, “Just tell me what you mean!”

As an example of pretentious writing, I am taking some text from Rajan P. Parrikar, a musicologist that can’t seem to write one clear sentence.

Here’s a tidbit of when he’s writing about a musical mode known as Raga Shankara:

“This leitmotif is a powerful stimulus to many an intoxicated soul, a spoor to the creative impulse as it searches for the ideal sounded in the famous apothegm: Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Truth Divinity Beauty).”

Who really uses the word “leitmotif” or “apothegm?” Why be so over-the-top poetic when you are trying to address people who want to learn about music? Why express an idea as complicated as possible when a simple version would do? These are the questions I ask when reading almost any sentence from Mr. Parrikar.

Let me rewrite this sentence in a more coherent way:

“This musical idea that repeats itself gives others a sense of intoxication and aids in creativity. By singing it, singers often feel truth, divinity, and beauty being expressed through their voice.”

And even that is not so clear. In learning music, there is no need to talk about such poetic things if is not necessary. It seems at least 75% of Mr. Parrikar’s writing is beating around the bush, using atmospheric writing instead of being direct. I bet he also did not think much about his audience: students who simply want to learn more about music.

The takeaway from this blog post: if you can write something simply and coherently, do that. If there is no need to muddle matters, then don’t do it—or else you will sound like Mr. Parrikar.

Here is a link to Mr. Parrikar’s website for more delicious pretentiousness (though I applaud his efforts to promote Indian classical music):

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