Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Books. The Right Way to Write: How to Write Effective Letters, Reports, Memos and E-mail
The Right Way to Write: How to Write Effective Letters, Reports, Memos and E-mail
Rupert MorrisPiatkus Books1999ISBN: 0749918780£9.99
Keywords: Written communications, Training techniques, Electronic mail
CEM Joad opens his classic How to Write, Think and Speak Correctly with the following words: "The man who said that language was given to us to conceal our thoughts was a diplomat and a cynic. Admittedly, diplomatists, politicians and propagandists find it expedient to put what they have to say in language which can be interpreted in different ways; and there are occasions when most of us ordinary folk are glad to take advantage of the opportunity language gives us to disguise our true feelings or intentions. But if this were the sole object of language, or if we were to use it with this object habitually, the confusion of Babel would be worse confounded, and ordinary human relations would be reduced to complete chaos, until a more reliable form of oral and written communication was devised."
What, one wonders, would Joad have made of much of the business-speak and computer-speak that pervades modern oral and written communication? Such neologisms as the singularly ugly and, to the mass of the population, incomprehensible "wysiwyg" would have the great man turning is his grave.
Yet despite the outpourings from Silicon Valley, Seattle and the Harvard Business School, language remains the best instrument for intelligible communication we have. The advice contained in The Right Way to Write: How to Write Effective Letters, Reports, Memos and E-mail will help to keep it that way.
The author, a business consultant and journalist, attacks those who write or speak with the aim of sounding important or putting up a defence rather than communicating. "You are not a machine, so stop behaving like one", Morris urges. He offers advice which is common sense but too often ignored: "Consider what you want to say, and how you might say it, keeping your purpose and your reader constantly in mind". And there really is little more to effective communication than that.
A former editor once told me that every word I wrote for him should be capable of being understood by a schoolboy of eight and a grandmother of 88. It proved to be an invaluable piece of advice, which is reinforced on virtually every page of this short but handy book.
Quoting the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, who once ended a letter to a friend, "I am sorry this is such a long letter. I did not have time to write a short one", Morris concludes: "If we can polish a piece of writing so that the reader is given the essential message in as powerful and effective a form as possible, we can really take pride in a job well done".
Model letters, reports, e-mail messages, faxes and memos are provided, which apply the methods explained in the book.