When Penguin, the publishers, commissioned me to write ARTHUR’S WAR, my agent persuaded them to put my name on the front cover. That’s pretty unusual for a ghost-writer like me: normally I sign a contract not to associate myself with the books I have written. Anyway, editors at Penguin were pretty generous and the book, which is the almost-unbelievable survival story of war hero, Arthur Bancroft, has been selling extremely well. Some literary critics have been kind enough to say the book is well-written, which is great, especially as, when I’m not writing, I spend much of my time running workshops: teaching executives in business, industry and government the basics of business writing skills.
There is a huge need for training in writing skills. So much of the writing produced by organizations is really bad: bland, meaningless and overly complicated. As someone who earns a living by writing, I try to impress on the participants in my workshops how important it is to write simply: to use simple words and expressions. Simple, plain, understandable English comes across as honest and friendly while expressions like ‘synergistic outcomes ‘and ‘enhancement opportunities’ are jargon. They suggest a lack of real clarity and of honest intent.
But it’s an uphill battle – just look how much bad writing passes for the English language in emails, reports and press releases from government and major organizations. Almost nothing we read from organizations is either vivid or exciting. Okay, maybe that’s asking a bit much. But organizations should at least be communicating in grammatical English that’s well-punctuated and easy to understand. Let’s hope they improve in 2011.
In the meantime best wishes for a Happy New Year.