Petulant Poster Outed by Convoluted Writing Style

[Instructors: This quick change-of-pace exercise would make a good introduction to a lesson on eliminating bloated language. We’ve included rewrites, but feel free to let your students come up with their own!]

Recently it was revealed that since 2007, an Assistant US Attorney had been posting vitriolic barbs and accusations attacking New Orleans institutions and individuals under a pseudonym, Mencken1951. But “Mencken 1951” was hoisted on his own petard when one of the men he was slandering recognized Mencken’s distinctive writing style as Salvadore Perricone’s.

Below are some actual quotations from the blog. How would you rewrite these sentences so they are less oratorical?

  1. Their representations would be fraught with dubiety.
  1. The reader can understand the etiology of the sentiment.
  1. Despite his bibelot-laden chest and his professed career, he escaped any condign penalty.
  1. If XX had one firing synapse, he would go speak to XX’s posse and purge himself of this sordid episode.
  1. This is just another example of elitism in New Orleans — the great sliver of loam — that some people feel, depending on their ZIP code, that they can impose their ersatz nobility on the rest of the population.

Source: Phelps, T. (2014, September 10). Falling on his words. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Suggested rewrites

  1. Their images (or illustrations) were suspicious. [It’s probably not conditional.]
  1. (a) The reader can understand what caused the feeling. (b)  You can understand what caused the feeling. [could be indirect 3rd person reference]
  1. Despite his many decorations and a celebrated career, he escaped well-deserved punishment.
  1. If XX were smart, he would talk to his followers and settle this disgusting affair.
  1. This is just another example of elitism in New Orleans—the dirty town—where some people feel entitled by their ZIP code to dominate the rest of the population.

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