What is abstract writing

Abstract writing is so general that readers constantly have to guess what it means. If I stopped there, that sentence would be abstract—you'd have to guess what I mean. So let's consider an example. Here's an abstract sentence:

As a property manager, 1 sometimes find strange things.

It's hard to picture exactly what the writer means. Things can be "strange" in different ways. We're left, to some extent, to guess exactly what the writer means by that word.

As a result, the sentence isn't memorable. By memorable, I don't mean deathless prose such as "Give me liberty or give me death!" I simply mean something we can remember by the time we finish the page. Abstract sentences don't pass the "memorable" test.

So abstract writing is writing that is ambiguous and hard for us to picture.

The opposite of "abstract" is "concrete." So let's move beyond the abstract sentence I just showed you by adding a concrete illustration;

As a property manager, I sometimes find strange things. At one property, I found two people living in an electrical room (the room housing electrical meters). They worked at the property and lived in the closet... mostly trying to avoid a long commute.

The illustration helps us visualize what the writer means by "strange." As a result, the passage has moved from abstract to concrete. It isn't deathless prose, but we'll probably remember it well after we turn the page. The concreteness helps it become more memorable.

Abstract writing, then, is so vague that it asks us to stop reading and guess what it means. Normally we don't do that. Instead, we just keep reading, hoping for something better in the next sentence or the next paragraph. If there isn't anything better, we might just go to lunch.

Even if we make educated guesses to figure out the abstract writing, we can't be sure we've gotten the author's intended meaning. That's why professional writers take the guesswork out by supplying the missing information.

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