Thursday, September 18, 2014

Concise writing is usually clear writing (38) – Aaron Clarey

In Chapter 1 of Bachelor Pad Economics, a guide for young men as they leave their parents’ homes and set up their own quarters, Aaron Clarey warns his readers that their elders have told them some pernicious lies:

For example, about college:

“The lies you were fed were that you could ‘follow your heart and the money would follow’ or that ‘it doesn’t matter what you major in, it’s what you do with the degree that matters.’ As long as you went to college, racked up $100,000 in debt, you were doing ‘the right thing.’ Of course, working for $8/hour as a barista to pay off your student loans for your ‘Art History’ degree has taught you otherwise.” (76 words)

For example, about girls and dating:

“There is not one young man alive today who has not suffered immeasurably because of the lies he was told about girls and dating. The ‘wisdom’ his elders gave him was ‘to be the nice guy’ or ‘be a caring, sensitive man.’ Only to find out the drug dealing thug or the philandering athlete was getting all the girls. It wasn’t until hundreds of men compiled notes [via the Internet] and realized the advice they were being given the past 40 years was completely wrong, and set out to rediscover the truth about women. Women like tall, strong, aloof, confident a**holes who ignore them and treat them like sh*t.” (105 words)


I don’t know whether you agreed or disagreed with those two opinions, but I’m sure you easily understood what the opinions are. Mr. Clarey states them clearly, using only 76 words and 105 words, respectively. In contrast, the typical Fortune 500 CEO couldn’t be that clear and concise if his life depended on it.*

Please keep in mind that this is a blog about clear writing, not about opinions. When I select text samples for this blog, it is because the writing is especially clear (or especially unclear). I quote people who I disdain, people who I admire, and everything in between.

The Takeaway: To improve the clarity of your writing, spend at least 10 minutes a day reading aloud from writers who write clearly. You will see, hear and feel the stark contrast between careful diction and the scatterbrain diction (sample here) that besets us every day. The topic you select for your reading doesn’t matter, because you’re reading for style not content. If you would like a list of recommended writers and works, please email me at joeroy(at)joeroy(dot)com. Ask for my “List of Writers to Absorb.” I will respond via email.
*Not even if he had the help of an experienced speech writer or corporate writer. Unfortunately, many writers today are as bland, boring, effete and evasive as their CEOs. And even when the writers are not, the CEOs often muck up the writers’drafts. Most CEOs want to avoid being clear, concise, direct and unequivocal. They think and write like shyster lawyers, not like leaders. Do not imitate their language.

See disclaimer.

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