Thursday, July 07, 2005

From Businessweek via Jilly, public-sector managers realize the value of clear writing" :

"You have to be able to write, convert an idea and turn it into words," said Bob Kerrey, the former U.S. senator and governor from Nebraska, who is chairman of the commission.

In public office, "I read things that were absolutely incomprehensible," Kerrey said. He shudders to think how Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, published 229 years ago Monday, would have read in standard, government-worker bureaucrat-speak.

"It would be 10 times as long, one-tenth as comprehensive, and would have lacked all inspiration," Kerrey said."

This is at least as big a problem among technical professionals, and I think there's a critical learning that leaks out of the non-fiction world to affect us all. Writing gets circular when its purpose is to prevent people from doing the wrong thing, as opposed to enabling them to do the correct thing. Many technical and business writers are so concerned about make sure no one misses the learning that they approach it from all possible angles, inevitably confusing themselves and their audience. If only more writers took a true teaching approach: Make the learning simple and available, and help the audience find it on their own.

Frankly, this is where my own poems fail most often. I'm so concerned about the clever bit that I overpackage it. And I'm a fiend for clever endings. The poems of mine that have been received the most positive feedback are generally the ones I've thought "weren't quite done". This explains in part why it's usually been the "filler" poems (the one or two I use in a submission package to complement the one I really think the editors will like) that gets selected for publication.

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