It is like a heady perfume has swamped me and I can't think because I think about her.
I don't mind.
It was not love at first sight. I'm not like that. It was love at first conversation. It was electricity, power. I knew she could power me. I knew she could allow me to live and I could allow her to live.
I don't even know what I'm fucking saying. If you understand, you understand.
In Carindale, I am thinking, they all chose these clothes, at some point, all these people chose the clothes they are wearing. Unless their mothers chose them.
When my mother chose my clothes, I wore a miscellany. It was the seventies though and mad flares were actually stylish. I was accidentally in tune with the zeitgeist. I didn't care. Girls liked me. That's all I cared about.
I'm not going to lie to you. It's all I care about now.
I am thinking, they all chose to have their hair cut that way. Except my hair, I don't even think about it much.
And my clothes, I don't think about them much. What do I even look like. A lump of shit in poorly considered jeans.
My girlfriend has a sense of style. I don't mean she's fashionable. I mean she wears stuff that's very her
. I feel embarrassed and clumsy to be her man.
But it's like she opened a door and I rushed through. I have spent years with women who wanted me to be someone else, the ones I was with and the ones I was kind of with but not really. They all wanted a version of me that didn't really exist -- a Windows 11, Grand Theft Nice Guy, a me that really is all the things they think i am.
Mad thing is, I am all the things they think I am.
Zenella is only telling me I'm handsome as a joke but you know what, I let my heart beat faster. I let my soul soar because there have been times I have only lived for her. There have been times I have wanted it all to stop stop stop and I didn't give in to that because I loved her so much.
That doesn't make me noble. It makes me fiery proud.
You know what? She didn't become what she might have been. She became what she is. And she isn't like anyone else. Hell fucking yes I am proud that my kids are just who they are. Hell fucking yes I am proud they are like no one else.
It will hurt them. When they realise they have been raised backward and fucked up so that they don't fit, maybe they will be angry like I was angry.
Then they will realise, I hope they will realise, it was a gift. I mean, you decide for yourself what it is worth but it's a gift of sorts. You are who you are. You are not categorisable. You are not wholly real yet you are as real as a person can be. You are a contradiction, you are legion, you are different from different angles.
You are fucking marvellous.
I would pay everything I have for her smile and I have. I have hurt her but I have not broken her.
She comes back with a swag full of books. I admit it, it is thrilling to have a child whose biggest love is books, who says, give me all your money so I can buy books, who cherishes books, imagination, the best of us.
We write our best. That's what we do. We write to say, we are worth it.
I believe you are worth it. Whoever is reading this, if anyone reads this, I believe you are worth it. I refuse to stop.
The people look sad in Carindale. No one ever smiles. No one laughs. It does not make us happy to shop. I ask myself if I am happy but I can't think about shopping. All I think about is Ally Ally Ally and how happy I nearly am.
Because I'm afraid. Afraid that if I let go I might drown.
No one has read this far. You gave up in the second paragraph or the third if you're a diehard. So I am left talking to only myself.
Davey, I am ready to love you again. I am ready to cherish you again but I have felt those tentative steps to fucking it up and I have to tell you, ask you, plead with you.
Don't fuck it up.
You have the opportunity to love. To pour as much love as you can into the world. So pour, motherfucker. Pour, keep pouring, don't stop, don't ever stop. Be happy at last. Your children are beautiful and they're whole. Your woman is beautiful and she loves you. You are beautiful and you cannot deny it.
Yesterday, I thought about my mum and I cried because if only. But she knew and does not need to be here to have known. She knew.
So a weird thing happened to me on Easter Sunday. I became a cliche.
I was just doing what you do, getting hammered round at a mate's house. I'd just been dumped but I wasn't really feeling sorry for myself because it hadn't taken me long to realise she wasn't worth much in the way of tears. But my mate said, ooooh shall I get Ally to come round and I was like, yeah, not bothered but go on (and I wasn't bothered but
I'd seen a photo of this Ally and believe me she was the kind of hot that fires me up and I'd heard quite a bit about how she was probably too awesome for me to handle and you know, I do believe I can handle a bit of awesome).
So this woman comes round and she's loud, a bit aggro, the way some English girls get when they are in a fresh social situation, and yeah she's sexy -- okay, I'm going to say dripping sexiness because this is a woman who knows
she can have her pick of the men present -- and very comfortable from the off and hella funny and engaging.
And I'm like, yeah I would
. Because of course I would. I'm a total slut, you know that. And if she didn't have her kids with her, we'd have been sharing the spare room because one thing I'll say about that woman is she is an adult
and she doesn't pretend to have hangups about getting what she wants, and if we're honest, neither do I.
But I didn't become a cliche straight away.
The next day, or maybe the one after, it's a blur, we talked on Facebook, like you do, and I just gunned it, like I never do. But I knew it was right
with this woman. I said, I get the charade and I like it but I am seeing someone different beneath that shell, someone much more tender.
And at some point, before we'd so much as kissed, it just struck me, this is the woman I want for life.
Now I do overenthusiastic. You know that. You know I get keen on women and then get my balloon burst. That's who I am. A Romantic. A heart in search of love. Whatever. But I had promised myself I would not be doing that again. I would not get too keen over too little. I would not look at a woman and see only the good points and ignore the bad.
And I don't make promises lightly, particularly to myself.
But I had a problem.
There were so many good points. I had to face it. I had steeled myself to accept being chill, staying casual, not getting too keen, blah blah.
And I had just met a woman I could love with everything I have.
So I know what you're thinking. You're cynical, bit like me. You are, like, well you usually settle for women who in a former age would have seen a great deal of the inside of an asylum because you have low enough self esteem that if any actual proper woman who was in the slightest bit hot gave you the nod, you'd wade through broken glass to get at her. And you're right.
But Ally is not just hot. Don't get me wrong. She's the hottest woman I've ever dated. I fancy her in a my dick's on fire way. Most men do. I'm not at all exaggerating. I've seen her walk into shops, servos, pubs and men just melt and turn into putty for her. She has the most singular sexual magnetism I've ever seen in a woman. I feel like high fiving myself because she wants me.
I say feel like. I have actually high fived myself, believe it.
She is also smart. She comes up with solutions to things. Things that leave me floundering, she ploughs through. If it looks insurmountable to me, it's just a blip on the GPS for her.
She is hella funny. She has a sense of humour that matches mine, quick wit, sharp tongue. I have never laughed so long and so hard with someone as I do with her. She's nearly as funny as I am, ffs.
She is as scattered and unfocused as I am. We get each other because we are similar in a lot of ways. We both live in a world where there cannot be too much stimulus.
She shares my values in a way that's scary. We agree on every fundamental. I mean, you talk about people being on your wavelength but Ally could often just have my thoughts for me.
Ah, don't let me bang on about how kind, how generous, how sweet she is. How when you get past the shell she likes to believe is really her, you find a deeper, beautiful soul. Let's just say that what makes her the woman I want to be with, more than anything else (and I know I haven't done it justice, I'm just trying to give a flavour), is that her instinct is to the good. She wants to be a cool, hard bitch but she fails constantly
. And she fails because she is just a good, good person.
And you know I want to believe that about myself too and she believes it.
So which cliche? All of them! You could pick from quite the range.
But the one that means most to me? The man who hated himself until he met someone who loved him and he could not doubt that love was worth having. When someone as wondermazing as Ally loves you, you cannot do anything but love yourself.
And you'll never get to know the full range of wondermazing. Because she's mine. I'm not sharing. She's mine for life.
You are mine
You know why I am never letting you go? Because you are the only woman I've ever met who truly wanted to give me as much as I wanted to give her. And I know it sounds selfish but I'm selfish.
You know why I will cherish you? Because you make the little boy I hide away and keep from harm want to come out and play and I know you will not hurt him, even though a day will come when you will be able to. I don't have proof. I have faith. I have seen who you are and nothing about you frightens me.
You know why I want to unlock you, to make you flourish, to reach into you and drag out everything beautiful in you and make it mine? Because you have a secret smile that you have saved throughout these years, which you kept for a man like me, and only me, to smile at. Because you are afraid to drive off the cliff and fall into the dark, roiling storm of you and me, but you stop only to throw the brakes out of the window and grab my hand.
We are snakes that entwine in the dark of the night, quivering with the resonance of something we cannot name. Our bodies speak a language that cannot be spoken but is clearly understood. In the dark of the night, we try to translate ourselves into human language, and the words are pale imitations of the meaning we convey, but the words are just markers on the road and the meaning lies truly in my hand gentle on your face, your hand gentle on my chest. Can you feel my heart, steady and solid, waiting for you to awaken it, to possess it, to enrich it? Can you feel the stone unseize and become molten and fierce?
We fit together so closely that we will never be dissoluble. You are mine, you are mine from the moment I saw you and you saw me, you were mine before we met. Beneath the man who will free you is a man who will possess you. Beneath the man who will possess you is a man who will bind you. Beneath the man who will bind you is a void that if you enter it you will never return. Because you belong there, it is shaped for you and only for you.
How not to write badly (4): Do not sprawl
I'm cheating a bit because this is more of a "how to write" than how not to but I think it just about fits.
I'm going to share my method to fix two problems writers often have: loose structure and writing too much. I'm aiming this at assignment writing but the same principles actually apply to writing fiction, playwriting, any form of writing that requires structure.
What do I mean by loose structure? It's easiest to say what is desirable and you can think about how you might stray from this. A great assignment is driven by ideas. It pops from idea to idea without losing its drive. You can readily follow its thesis and the writing has thrust.
The same principle applies to writing, say, a novel. You should have narrative drive. It's what makes a reader want to keep turning the page. If you waffle, you start to lose the reader.
What do I mean by writing too much? Well, for assignments we generally mean you can't stick to the word count. And for a novel, you write too much filler. Or not enough words. Writing too little is just the same problem from the other way round. Assignments with decent word counts can seem daunting. If you ask someone to write 3000 words on a particular thing, they might flinch from the job, procrastinate, see it as a mountain that's hard to climb. How to fix that?
Here's my method. I use a tree.
The first thing to do is to think about what your assignment says in the simplest of terms. You are going to explain it to a child. In fact, your goal in most formal writing is to write at a level that would be comprehensible to a bright 10-year-old. If my Zenita cannot understand what you're saying, you are writing badly. You aren't Heidegger. You are a student trying to get a good grade. Teachers don't want to wade through shit any more than the rest of us do.
So you need the star idea. I'm going to help you grasp this by using an example from an essay I might have written for my degree.
STAR: Generative semantics was a competitor to TG grammar that was discarded because it could not resolve some utterance types
So I have done a literature review on generative semantics, an approach that briefly flamed and then died away. My thesis is that it died away because it could not explain some utterances (sentences, basically) in English. This idea will drive my whole assignment.
I did this approach for a friend. It took a while to elicit what the star idea was because it's probably easier for me to summarise concepts in plain English than it is for her. That's because my brain works that way. But you can do it quite easily. Just remember you are trying to explain it to a child. Write keywords and think about how they link together. Her assignment is a literature review on hyperlexia. She tells me that it was once considered a savant skill and is now considered a learning disability because it shows a cognitive deficit.
STAR: Hyperlexia used to be considered a savant skill but is now seen as a cognitive deficit.
Now, notice straight away that both star ideas have concepts that a child can't understand. The words are meaningless. These are things we must explain.
And what if you were writing a novel? STAR: Young man meets a convict and it changes his life.
These ideas provide drive for your work. You will avoid the common mistake of "narrating" an assignment, where you begin then start to tell the reader everything you know. "And then... And then... And then..." This lacks the thrust you want your writing to have and also is very hard to structure properly (because it's unstructured).
So I have my star idea. Next I create five or six heads. Doesn't have to be any particular number but generally five or six is about right. These can and usually should take the form of questions. They are the questions a child might ask you when you express the star idea.
HEAD: What was generative semantics?
HEAD: How did it differ from TG grammar?
HEAD: Which utterance types did it fail to resolve?
HEAD: How did TG grammar prove superior?
HEAD: Was it correct to discard generative semantics?
So now you answer the questions set out in the heads. Generally, a bullet list of six points is enough here.
SUB: A semantics-based approach
SUB: contrasting with syntax-based approaches
SUB: developed by whoever developed it
SUB: which abandoned the tree structure and strict rules-based approach of TG because
SUB: it aimed to more closely mirror actual cognitive processes
SUB: which was necessary because the previous approach was thought over formal
So for my essay I would have 30 subheads. I have 3000 words. 200 for the intro and conclusion, leaves 2800. Roughly 90 per subhead and a spare 100 to use as my bank.
Now I write each subhead in turn. I have 90 words and should try to write that many for each one. If I write too many, I must borrow. Because I have a bank, I can borrow from that first. If I don't, I must borrow from another subhead. You probably have a feel for which subheads can stand to be a bit light, but if your structure is tight enough, you should avoid too much borrowing. Because you have to pay back. If you had a limit of 90 words for each sub and write 100 for one and cannot cut, you must pay it back from another by only writing 80.
Now you have made your 3000-word assignment into 30 90-word assignments. A much easier task, right?
And you can readily answer another question: how many references should I include? You should include at least one for each subhead. These ideas don't belong to you. You're simply bringing them together. So provide support for each one with a citation. You don't need more than one but you should have at least one.
Can you see how this would work for a novel?
The star idea is the hook, the story in a sentence. The heads are what we call crisis points: big turning points in the action that drive the story. The subheads are action points: the things that happen, the "scenes" if you like. If you were aiming at 80,000 words and had 36 action points, that's about 2300 words for each action point, or about sevenish pages. You can probably break the action points down a bit further by analysing them a bit. Novels aren't quite like assignments after all. The point of this method is that we analyse each idea down to its atoms: the ideas that cannot be analysed further. In an assignment, that is usually the ideas that support the five or six elements of the central thesis. In a novel, we can conceive of plot as: concept > crisis points > action points > subscenes that build action points.
How not to write badly (3)
3. Write tight
Most of what I have to tell you is covered by this commandment. Be concise and avoid redundancy. As a writer, your task is to convey your meaning in as few words as possible. Less is most definitely more.
Of course you already know that you should not write "in order to" (just "to" or sometimes "so that") or "prior to" ("before") but do you get tempted into deploying "with the intention of" ("meaning to") or "having made an agreement to" ("having agreed to")?
And do you think a "collaborative partnership" is different from a "partnership"? It isn't. "Partnerships" are for collaboration in one way or another. Take care not to use combinations of words that one of the words imply. "Joint meetings" are "meetings", "team meetings" are also "meetings" unless you also have "personal meetings" but context is usually enough to clarify which type of meeting you refer to. Don't write "could potentially". "Could" implies "potentially". Don't write "ended finally".
If you write "some people consider that", you may as well have put "some think". "It is the intention of those people with different ideologies to introduce their strategies to change the world in particular ways" is the same as "People with different ideologies want things their own way". Results are always "end results" and if you just wrote a sentence with "process" or "situation" anywhere in it, you shouldn't have.
Words must do work. When you reread your writing, you should be able to justify every word in it. If you can't, rid yourself of the passengers. This isn't necessarily easy. If you knew the most succinct way to put what you wanted to say in the first place, you wouldn't have written that garbled mess. But you can help yourself by following a simple process. For each sentence, ask who did it and what they did, and express that in the simplest way you can, as though you were explaining it to a child.
You'll then find that instead of writing:
The collaborative effort of the team led to a strategy to complete the eradication of excessive meetings.
The team found ways to cut meetings.
The team cut meetings.
You can also help yourself by asking whether you have too many clauses and whether you could instead have written more sentences. The rule is to have one thought for each sentence, which can be equally well understood as one verb for each sentence. At base, a sentence includes someone or something who does something, what it does and who or what it is done to. Sometimes there's an adverb or adverbial phrase that you can't live without because it situates the action in time or place or creates an idea of modality. This idea is why I dislike "however". Writers are fond of using it to extend sentences to torturous lengths when ideally they could have expressed the same idea in separate sentences. If sentences are contrastive, they often do not need to be contrasted.
Be wary of "while" and "when". The first introduces scene setting that is often unnecessary or confusing (and often you would in any case be better off tacking on the contrasting element with "but"); the second adds whole landscapes of bullshit that you didn't need to indulge in. "And" is also your enemy. You can easily fall into the trap of creating quasi-run-on sentences by stringing together clauses with "and" that would be better as separate sentences.
Writing tight runs deeper than being concise and avoiding redundancy, of course. You should also avoid padding if you can. If you are writing an essay or assignment, you should include only what is to the point. Your work should move from point to point in a remorseless march of meaning. Avoid digressions that aim only to show how much you know. Your knowledge is implied in your mastery of what you choose to include. Don't neglect planning for this type of writing. One method I think is useful is to set out what you intend to say in five or six plain English sentences. Use these as heads. Then for each head, write five or six more plain sentences that lead through the argument you plan to make. These are your subheads. This disciplines your writing and helps put you into the mindset of expressing yourself plainly.
Words to avoid
hence -- hence means "from here" and you should almost never have cause to use it. If you mean "because of this", write "therefore". Sometimes what you want is no more than "so". By the way, "thus" means "in this way" and a careful writer does not use it as a synonym for "therefore". For instance: "He used the screwdriver to lever out the nail. Thus he avoided damaging the plaster" is fine; "He used the screwdriver to lever out the nail. Therefore he has a spare nail" is fine. Using "thus" in the second sentence is horrible.
actor when you mean actress -- I'm all for nonsexist and nonracist language where possible but you can take it too far. I don't particularly mind "actor" for women who act. However, you should be aware that sometimes you need to use the word "actress". Many films have two leads, a man and a woman, and it's unnatural to describe the female lead as the "lead actor". You could say "one of the leads" but whenever you use periphrasis to avoid the natural expression, you are probably going wrong.
dangling participles -- Do you see what is wrong with this sentence: "Being so young, cancer was far from my mind." Yes, we are saying the cancer is young. I think we all know this is an error in English, although it's a common idiom in speech. But it's hard to be quite so clear in more complex sentences. The best way to avoid mismatching participles and subjects is to recast the sentence if you're not sure ("Cancer was far from my mind because I was so young"). Not that avoiding this mistake is an impossible task. When you read back your work simply note on a separate piece of paper each time you have a participle and then note the corresponding subject. Does the participle refer to the subject? No? You messed up.
How not to write badly (2)
2. Write sentences the right way round
I remember editing a book on Asian history in which the author insisted on writing sentences something like this:
As the Manchus had banned the queue, many men felt a loss of face
which I would of course correct, and he'd be very upset, mostly because I replaced "as" with "because". He insisted that one had learned at school that one should not begin a sentence with "because". Was he right?
Yes, he was. But not because "because" is on some list of words that you're forbidden to start sentences with but because you should not put the causal clause first.
Because I do not like foreign places, I staycation in Cornwall.
you ought to write:
I staycation in Cornwall because I do not like foreign places.
In the first sentence, the adverbial phrase has been fronted and generally you should avoid this, particularly in formal writing and even more so if your sentence is long.
Some are fond of fronting "while" clauses:
While they did not like the outcomes, the participants were enthusiastic about joining the programme.
Which is better as:
The participants were enthusiast about joining the programme but did not like the outcomes.
I apologise for the examples I have given being rather marginal but I'm struggling to come up with anything better. You know what's bad when you see it though. Something like:
Because the individuals with diabetes have restricted diets, they cannot eat the chocolate biscuits.
is bad and:
The people with diabetes cannot eat the chocolate biscuits because they have restricted diets.
is better or:
While the implementation of the programme had its difficulties, it was considered successful
The programme was a success although there were difficulties.
(Side issue: you should be very strict in avoiding impersonal passive constructions such as "it was considered". Write them out completely if you can or replace them with either something that explicitly states who did the considering or a more active version. "It is necessary to introduce new protocols on the distribution of memoranda" is better as "New protocols on distributing memoranda need to be introduced" or even better "New protocols on distributing memoranda are needed", since if there are new protocols, they will have been introduced. "It is thought that broader distribution is necessary to be fostered"? Who thinks it? If you absolutely cannot say, just write "Some think distribution needs to be broader". Note that in the past two example sentences, we got rid of extraneous concepts. In the latter, we don't need to say anything is being "fostered" because if distribution is broadened, someone is broadening it, and this is all "foster" means -- that someone is doing something. We'll say more about that when we discuss writing tight.)
The model for an English sentence is Subject Verb Object. Subordinate, adverbial or conjoined clauses should generally come at the end of the sentence. You can almost never be wrong if you stick to this model (almost but not always: "I usually don't eat chocolate" is idiomatic; "I don't eat chocolate usually" is a bit awkward, and of course, there are times when adverb fronting is acceptable -- "Usually, I don't eat chocolate" -- but not so much in formal writing).
You can readily abide by this rule by simply doing the following. When you have written a sentence, take a look at it. Is the first word or group of words the person or thing that carried out the action of the sentence? No? Then you probably need to think again. There are of course many counterexamples but you should be able to justify them readily. (There's an example in this paragraph: clauses that indicate temporal succession can be fronted, so I write "When you have written a sentence" first -- I could write "Take a look at a sentence when you have written it" and that would be fine. See also "If... then..." "If you like it, you can take it" is fine and you can also write "You can take it if you like it".)
Words to avoid
however -- If you have a really long sentence, hooked together with a "however", you have likely committed the sin of writing a sentence that's too long and could just as well have been two sentences. Even on a smaller scale, something like "They had always wanted to go to Paris but they never found the time" is much to be preferred over "They had always wanted to go to Paris; however, they never found the time". "But" is much underused but it's a lovely, versatile word. Use it for most contrasted clauses and you'll be happy with the outcome.
individual -- Anyone who wants to write well must of course study Fowler. And this was a word he particularly deprecated. In his day, it was used largely as a facetious version of person but now it is a somewhat elegant variation for that word. Politically correct writers love it because it stresses the individuality of members of groups of people. But it is rarely correct to do this. A friend of mine loves to write about "individuals with autism" (it is the commonly used terminology). But they are simply "people with autism". Nothing about that phrase suggests they are not individuals. It does not, as some seem to think, imply that the people in question are identical or have the same issues, just the same as, for instance, "dogs" does not suggest every dog is a Labrador. You should only use "individual" when you specifically wish to distinguish an actual individual from a group and you will rarely enough wish to do that that you can simply exclude the word from your vocabulary. Oh, and forget using it as an adjective, lest you fall into such horrors as "an individual portion" (portions are by definition individual). You may use the adverb "individually" when you write something like "I spoke to them individually" (not as a group) but often you'd prefer some other construction anyway: "they worked on their own" is better than "they worked individually" for instance.
impact on -- It's easy to see how we drifted into this abomination. "Have an impact on" was already horrific but that was just not egregious enough for some. Or perhaps some, tired of being told that "impact" is not a verb, decided to create a new phrasal verb instead. Why even go there though? There's a perfectly decent English word that means what you want to say: "affect".
action -- Don't "action these proposals". Either "Do what I propose" or "Act on these proposals". Don't "Put these proposals into action" either. This is using nouns where you should use verbs. Remember that?
implement -- Nearly always when you write "implement", you meant to write "do" or "make", sometimes "create". I'll have more to say on using Anglo-Saxon words in preference to Romance words later. This is a good example of something many people don't seem to be able to avoid when writing formally: using what they take to be the more "erudite" word over the more commonly used one. They "attempt" instead of "try"; they "establish" instead of "make"; they "consider" instead of "think"; they use "implements" instead of "tools". To avoid "implement" you'll often have to recast your sentence but it'll be worth it.
How not to write badly (1)
Writing well is a skill that can only be acquired by working hard at it. You cannot overnight become a good writer. But you can quite easily avoid being a bad writer by following simple rules. I'm going to write a few posts in which I set out some of those rules. I won't be schematic: I'm just going to post whatever occurs to me as I go along. Mostly they can be summed up as: write short sentences, write simply, write tight, use common words, aim to replicate the flow of speech.
Of course, most rules are there to be broken and there are times and places for not doing what I suggest. But you need to know what the rules are to know when you can safely break them.
At the end of each post, I'll give a few words and phrases to avoid and give better choices.
1. Use verbs not nouns
Possibly the quickest way to improve writing is to understand that nouns are your enemy. Everyone knows you shouldn't use adjectives much but most people are unaware that it's nouns that clutter your sentences.
Look at the following:
They made a joint effort in the establishment of a team.
Yuk. In this sentence your meaning swims away from you in a morass of nouns. There are four. You needed to write: "They came together to build a team." Just two nouns (we are counting pronouns as nouns).
"Made a joint effort" feels more formal to the novice writer than "came together" (or simply "joined") but the aim of formal writing is not to feel
formal. You don't seem cleverer when you are harder to understand. You convey your knowledge by leaving the reader in no doubt about what you're saying.
Verbs such as "do", "make", "grow", "build", "take" are your friends. They are short words that convey solid meaning. You don't need to "implement" things. You can just "do" them. You don't need to "formulate" things. You can "make" them. And so on. Notice that I substituted "build" for "establish" in this sentence. Where possible, this is what you should do. Use the commoner, simpler word.
We began the implementation of a strategy to diversify our products.
We began diversifying our products.
The lessons we abstracted from the process of the interviewing of the study participants facilitated our understanding of the differentials in their processing of social situations.
OMG: What we learned from interviewing study participants helped us understand how they saw social situations differently.
"The --- of" is your enemy. Eradicate it. At worst use the verbal noun instead. "The interviewing of" is just "interviewing".
They were engaged in the building of understandings of personal dynamics.
They built an understanding of how people worked together.
I often sub real estate pieces and the journos love to say a house "is
located in close proximity to a park". They mean to say "is right next
to a park". Note another error in the journos' rendering, which you
should avoid. "Is located", "is situated", these say no more than "is".
People like these quasi-passive constructions but they are clumsy (and
they break the rule to "write tight", which I'll refer to later).
Similarly, "we found ourselves unable to" is an egregious rendering of
"we couldn't". If you find yourself tempted by complex verb phrases,
resist the temptation and stick to the simple verb.
Words to avoid
enhance -- it's probably a losing battle to fight against the encroachment of "enhance" on "increase", "improve", "better" but I still think it's worth fighting. "Enhance" means "improve or increase the quality of". You enhance flavour in food with salt. You enhance pain by rubbing salt in a wound. If you mean "increase", write "increase". If you mean "improve", write "improve".
"I enhanced my understanding of French by learning vocabulary"? Nope. You just "grew" it.
foster -- you can nearly always replace "foster" with "grow" or "encourage", sometimes spread. It's become a vogue word in quasi-academic writing but you look like an idiot if you use it.
on a regular basis -- if you find yourself writing the word "basis" with any kind of adjective, you've made a mistake. "On a regular basis" means "regularly". "On a daily basis" means "daily". The same goes for "fashion", which you should nearly always restrict to clothes, and "manner", which you probably could live without ever writing at all. For some reason people think using adverbial phrases is more elegant than using adverbs but they're wrong. You can nearly always use the corresponding word ending in "-ly". "In a different fashion" is "differently". "In a hopeful manner" is "hopefully". Yes, I do know that "he did it timely" feels awkward to you and you want to write "in a timely fashion". But don't. You'll get used to it.
as when you mean because -- "as" means "at the same time as" (and if you find yourself writing "at the same time as", you probably want "as"!). It's often used to mean "because" but avoid that usage if you can. It can create ambiguity that is easily avoided. "He handed them sweets as he liked them" says "he handed them sweets while liking them", when what you meant was that his liking them was the cause of handing them sweets. "He left as he was hungry" does not say hunger made him leave. It just says he was hungry as he was leaving. Learn to love "because" for causes. Also, while we're on the subject, learn to love "because of" too. "Due to" has a fairly restricted meaning. I won't get into it here because all you need to know is that if you just wrote "due to" you probably meant "because of". You might have meant "owing to" but I think that distinction has pretty much died and isn't worth fighting over.