The American physicist Richard P Feynman (1918-1988) is perhaps the greatest communicator in the history of science.
Thanks Edward for putting us on to this old-school newspaper editors’ mantra for writers. All sing along now…
One of my first jobs was as a cashier in a building society. At the counter, I came face-to-face with all sides of human nature — friendly, impatient, worried, aggrieved, confused or plain rude.
I’ve just turned 41. I played football on my Birthday, ruptured my Achilles tendon and now I’m here with my leg in plaster. So I thought I’d mention one benefit of getting older.
Failure. While writing a tender application, I read the instructing letter – it stated “Failure to submit in the correct format will mean rejection”. Well I panicked!
Too many financial institutions are failing to turn the mistakes of others into lessons of sound governance. So what’s missing from the myriad rules designed to safeguard this industry? Only clarity and wisdom.
I’ve been taking pills. They’ve done wonders for my backache. And the name of this rejuvenating cure is ‘Rheumatac Retard 75’.
‘If you’re explaining you’re losing.’ That phrase recently came out to bite President Obama, after he gave a 17-minute answer to a short question about healthcare and taxes.
The more I work with web developers and designers, the more I see of the dark arts of coding. And do you know what? Writing code is just the same as writing words.
Decision makers love to say ‘I only ever read the executive summary’. And the way you start your proposal tends to seal its fate. It’s your Dragon’s Den moment: 45 seconds to convince a tough audience. Better make it good.
Remember science at school? That’s where I learned to dice rats, mix volatile substances, handle electric shocks and melt biros with a Bunsen burner. It’s also where most of us were conditioned to save the main point until last.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you write a report in which you carefully deal with items A to Z, then your boss or client asks why you didn’t mention item G. ‘It’s there, you idiot’ you say (to yourself) ‘all covered on page 17, third paragraph, with a diagram too.’ Why did your reader miss item G? For the same reason that most of us can miss a gorilla.
You may not want to resemble Jamie Oliver in any way, but his writing has qualities of energy, confidence and ownership that any organisation can harness by changing a few writing habits.
Text message culture is widely accused of dumbing us down, but telegrams never made us stupid. What matters is not the medium but the writer’s intent.