13 thoughts on “Good reads IV

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    Yikes–A Google ad!! Are you now “monetizing” the here-to-fore intellectual purity of the Crowd? “Oh, the humanity!” or whatever that famous line was delivered at the Hindenberg disaster.

    That MacDonald’s ad is brillliant! So, totally unexpected it’s riveting.

    Yes, business writing is anti-literate, definitely should be in the hands of those capable of fashioning compelling, engaging narratives–not MBA’s in their wingtips and three-piece suits.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Weird. I must be losing it. I thought for sure there was some PR ad following your post. Sorry.

  2. Ellen Mrja says:

    Monetizing this blog would be (as Brian puts it so colorfully) a bitch-slap to all of our Rowdies. Ain’t gonna happen. Read my lips.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Yes, strange. When your post popped up as “new post” on my email thingy inbox I thought there was a google ad immediately following for some PR entity with a link to website–since disappeared. A mystery.

      1. That’s entirely possible, though that would have nothing to do with us. And depending on who’s placing those ads and how, it is possible that they change — or appear and disappear — each time an e-mail or RSS entry or whatever is displayed.

  3. john sherman says:

    Maybe you should also do a link to Orwell’s wonderful “Politics and the English Language.”

    I routinely look at business writing I receive and think how a moderately competent copy editor could make it less awful, but I doubt the businesses care enough to hire a competent copy editor.

    And they’re not alone: go to any academic library and look through the professional journals in any field; reading the articles is like swimming through a sea of wet papier mache.

    I taught college English for a very long time; at one point I was teaching an advanced writing course, and one of the things I asked from students each week was to submit from their readings a sentence that seemed to them needlessly hard to read. They inevitably pulled out sentences that were vague, prolix and unclear, and an embarrassing number of the sentences came from their text books.

    1. But think about just how much of that public-facing writing is started — or at some point touched — by marketing or PR people. Those people, by definition, *should be* something like a “competent copy editor.”

      It’s not that the skills aren’t present in these people. I just think many forget how to use them, and the linguistic muscles atrophy.

    2. Dennis Lang says:

      Cool–I’m trying to imagine Fitzgerald or Faulkner, desparate to pay the mortgage, taking a gig writing biz to biz for some corporation in the foodstuff or petrochemical industry. Would the level of communication be enhanced by their literary skill and understanding of the human spirit? Silly question I guess; and I see by the clock that cocktail hour is upon us.
      PS: The two-volume set of Orwell essays, edited by George Packer (I think) is an education.

      1. “Would the level of communication be enhanced by their literary skill and understanding of the human spirit?”

        Only if they had the balls to tell their bosses what’s what.

  4. Dennis Lang says:

    “…the balls to tell their bosses what’s what.” Don’t go away MJK. Can you elaborate a bit, take us behind the scene–an example or two? Intriguing.

    1. An all too common example (completely made up but I assure you it’s realistic):

      Company X’s news release template has been used in its current state for a couple of years, including the standard tagline that describes Company X as “the leading full-service provider of enterprise software solutions for Fortune 1000 multinationals” and the boilerplate paragraph at the end that allegedly elaborates on that tagline.

      The new guy in the department, a relatively young fella hired from a hotshot PR agency across town, has his hands in a project to help launch a new product, and he’s taking a crack at writing a news release. A decent writer, he’s slightly nauseated by the writing in previous releases. “I work here and I don’t even know what that means!”

      He takes the bull by the balls and writes a suggested replacement for the standard tagline and boilerplate and runs it by a few colleagues for feedback. He’s rather fond of the crisp, clear alternative: “Company X creates software that helps the world’s biggest and best companies manage their manufacturing and distribution processes.” It’s not Hemingway, but at least it means something.

      His peers pretty much just nod in agreement but really couldn’t care less. One guy, though, is in eager agreement that something — anything! — must be done, but he warns New Guy, “Good luck. You have run that by Boss and Legal Eagle before it’ll even stand a chance, and then Boss’s Boss needs to give it her blessing.”

      New Guy’s boss isn’t thrilled. “For starters, this doesn’t mention the value-added services we also provide.”

      “You mean the services like customizing, installing and supporting the software we sell? I think people just sort of get that. Besides, this new approach is easier to understand — and it’s something we can be proud of rather than something we have to explain and clarify.”

      “See what Legal Eagle says,” Boss sighed, “but I’m not holding my breath.”

      Legal Eagle wants to know how New Guy defines “biggest and best.” “Can we verify that claim?”

      Before the discussion goes any further, New Guy leaps out the window, news release draft in hand. “Goodbye, cruel world…”

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Absolutely beautiful MJK! I get it. Of course Hemingway’s resume would have been tossed aside as inappropriate in the first place, but that’s the way the game is played isn’t it? Thanks for the vignette.

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