Your Writing Playlist: I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) by Meatloaf

The third in our blog series in which we use popular song to help you consider the oft-posed question: “Is my writing academic enough?”

The most cursory of glances around this blog will reveal two important things about the WDC: 1.) we like 90s music and 2.) we dislike unhelpful study advice.

Advice like “make sure your writing is clear” is particularly unhelpful because, well, if we’ve written something then odds on we’re able to understand it. It can be very difficult to distance yourself from your work to the extent that you can respond to it as a reader would. This makes it tricky to spot any instances where your reader could get a bit lost and where communication between the two of you could break down.

Tricky, but not impossible. There are practical editing strategies you can apply to help identify any areas where your meaning might be getting lost. One such strategy is ensuring you don’t repeat the mistake Meatloaf makes in his stirring power ballad, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

Ever since its release in 1993, the song has been part of a running joke in pop culture as people across the globe puzzle over just what exactly it is that Meatloaf wouldn’t do for love. Wrestle a bear? Climb a mountain? Investigate what’s blocking the U-bend? If you’re simply agog to find out, you’re not alone. Apparently, “WHAT WOULDN’T YOU DO FOR LOVE MEATLOAF?!” is one of the questions most frequently put to the man himself.

Well, would it surprise you to learn that the answer was there in the song all along? It would? You don’t believe us? Let’s take a closer look at that first verse, then, shall we?

And I would do anything for love

I’d run right into hell and back

I would do anything for love

I’d never lie to you and that’s a fact

But I’ll never forget the way you feel right now

Oh no, no way

And I would do anything for love

Oh I would do anything for love

I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that

No, I won’t do that

See? The answer was hiding in plain sight all along. Meatloaf would do anything for love but he would never, under any circumstances, not even if you paid him a million dollars, “forget the way you feel right now” (eew). So why the confusion?

Well, in this case the cause of the confusion is a four-letter word: “that”. The relationship between “that” and the thing it actually refers to (“the way you feel right now”, remember?) is not clearly signalled. The fact that there are four lines of emoting in between them doesn’t help matters either. Even if you had managed to establish what “that” was, you’re likely to have forgotten by the time the word crops up.

So, if you’re wondering how on earth you can check whether your writing is clear or not, one thing you can do is ask yourself if it’s always apparent what you’re referring to. “That” is just one potential cause of confusion. You might also like to double-check any instances of “this”, “they” and “these”. That way, any “Meatloaf Moments” may be neatly avoided.


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