Wednesday, February 09, 2011

For Writers of Blogs, Books, and Other Publications

Perhaps the most useful guide to writing I have ever had was the government's Plain Language guidelines. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton issued a memo stating that people should write things better in the government because no one could understand what was being said between agencies. Inside the agencies, specialized vocabularies had developed that no one outside understood.

I've recently started to review these guidelines, and man, I was in desperate need of review. Clients have been asking me WTF I meant in my responses to them, when I thought it was a clear as day. Come to find out, I haven't been COMMUNICATING. The thing I think I do the best. Heh. Woopsie!

Anyway, if you write anything, the ideas in this manual are excellent. The things I do that you like about my writing are within the guidelines. The things that don't make sense are the places where I've gone outside the guidelines. If your goal is to convey information to people, this book helps a lot.

And it's free. Can't beat FREE.


  1. and I thought TNSTAASFL?
    (a little irony for you there),
    TNSTAAFL = There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, which I read on this blog and it left me scratching my head in confusion until I figured it out.
    Also I guess this book is the exception to the TNSTAAFL rule?

  2. Oh, Dude! I'm a corporate editor in an international law firm. The stories I could tell you about people writing incomprehensible gobbledegook instead of trying to clearly tell the client their legal options or clearly describing what they've been doing on the client's behalf. And I'm the one who cleans up their mess. I harangue these clowns about Plain English every time I give a workshop.

    It's amazing how few people really understand what writing is about. But it's a Zen thing. You really have to put a lot of effort into writing from the heart until you break through to a place where you're not trying to write with any particular "style" or to impress anyone, or to indulge yourself. You're just expressing ideas as clearly as you can.

  3. You might be interested in this excellent web site on the use of plain English:

  4. Dear Christ this should be mandatory reading before anyone is let loose on the Internet. Thanks for the link.


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