I think he may be wrong (or perhaps I mean misleading) about the simplicity of spoken English, however:
Thus spoken language is fundamental, while written language is an artifice. Not surprisingly, then, the earliest writing was based on the way people talk, and that meant short sentences with a direct logical throughline. Researchers have found that even educated people today speak in word packets of 7 to 10 words a pop.I'm not so sure about that "direct logic throughline" concept, I must say. As far as I can tell, the Longman Grammar corpus study found that conversational English is more grammatically complex than linguists have assumed, which may (or may not) mean that the logic of spoken English is less direct than the simple Subject-Verb-Object ordering we imagine is typical of speech. And it strikes me that transcripts of spoken English often show a certain meandering quality.
Talking With Your Fingers
But I don't know.
[update 4/27/2012: As I think about it, I realize I have no idea whether transcripts do or do not show meandering...]
RELATED: The single most fascinating article I've read on the question of novice versus professional writing is Bill Robinson's Rhetorical and Grammatical Dependency in Adverb Clauses, which appeared in a 1995 edition Syntax in the Schools.
Robinson summarizes Kellogg Hunt's study comparing K-12 students to professional writers. Surprisingly, Hunt found that professional writers did not use more subordinate clauses than novice writers:
In short, the high school seniors were using coordination and subordination at almost the same rate as professional writers of superior ability.The major difference between professionals and students was that professionals wrote much longer sentences, 40% longer to be exact. And what made the sentences of professionals longer wasn't the presence of more clauses per sentence, but the presence of longer clauses.
It seems that professionals do a great deal of "noun modification."
Which, upon reflection, I'm thinking is right. At the moment, if I had to say what I do that a student writer does not do, I would go with: noun modification and plenty of it!
EXCEPT: I'm not so sure that's true of blog writing.
How much noun modification is going on in this post, for instance?
Not too much. Assuming I know what noun modification actually is, of course, which I may not.
I probably need a 1200-page corpus study to nail this down.
update 4/27/2012: Actually, there's a lot of noun modification going on in a subject as long as this one: "The single most fascinating article I've read on the question of novice versus professional writing..."