Friday, July 10, 2009

Concise writing is usually clear writing (3)

Here is another excellent example of concise writing and clear writing. It is a poster satirizing the Big Three U.S. automakers: GM, Chrysler and Ford. (Warning: strong language.)

You could read thousands of pages of recent news coverage of the auto bailout. You could read a stack of books about National Socialism (Nazism). You would learn a lot of historical details but you wouldn’t understand any more about the concept of the bailout or the concept of Nazism than is captured in the 112 words of this poster.

The poster explains why people who run big corporations – in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, in the United States in 2008-2009, or in any other country or era – decide to beg politicians to take over their corporations.

It explains why politicians are pleased to oblige.

And it explains what the takeover does to citizens who voted for those politicians (and to the citizens who voted against them, and to the citizens who didn’t vote at all).

The Takeaway: Whenever you find yourself struggling to concisely summarize what appears to be a big, complicated concept, stop! Take a few minutes to clear your mind of your “mental baggage.” Discard the prejudices, denials, euphemisms, circumlocutions, projections, fears, evasions and lies that you have associated with the concept. Adopt the point of view of an intelligent but disinterested observer. You will be amazed at how simple the concept becomes. Then the intelligent, disinterested observer within you can just tell the story as it is. That is how the fellow who wrote that poster could do it in 112 words.

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