Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Writing Well Matters

Never has the world had so many forms of communication, yet produced so little understanding - Neil Postman

Being able to write well is, in many ways, a gift. There is an art form to written communication, and fluency of thought is so important at a time when it seems so much can be easily misunerstood. At the same time, writing well is a craft that can be learned and refined and developed continually. Often there are simple tricks of the trade. I was recently intrigued to learn that Amazon chief Jeff Bezos maintains a regular practice that his execs provide clear well-developed paragraphs of explanation for ideas and proposals in meetings. He's not a fan of bullet points and quick Power Point-oriented explanations. To that end, reading about writing is a good practice, and I am always interested in new resources for writing. That's why I am planning to read a new offering from Sir Harold Evans called Do I Make Myself Clear: Why Writing Well Matters. In this review from the New York Times, Jim Holt describes "The Value and Virture of Good Writing."

One might observe that Evans’s own guide to writing well is nearly four times the length of its classic counterpart on this side of the Atlantic, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.” But that would be a cheap irony. Besides, the precepts Evans offers are both edifying and entertaining. In his “Ten Shortcuts to Making Yourself Clear,” for instance, No. 7 is “Don’t Be a Bore.” This may sound like an empty injunction, but Evans elaborates it into a discussion of different sentence structures available to a writer — “loose,” “periodic,” “balanced” — explaining how their varied deployment can avert monotony and even, in the hands of expert prose writers (he cites Roger Angell, Richard Cohen, David Foster Wallace and Barbara Demick), achieve a sort of music.

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