Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Strunk and White and Business Writing

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Few subjects in business could more benefit from rigorous study, application of common sense and a humanistic touch than communications. In a certain way, all business problems are communications problems, simply because, as humans, we have to comprehend or elucidate how and what to do for us to succeed in business, the content of which must come from other people. Surely I do not make a radical assertion, for everyone knows miscommunications undermines more leaders, organizations and even industries, in honest dealings, than almost anything else.

Within business communications, writing (besides resume writing) has often received less attention than other forms of communication: marketing, speechmaking, interpersonal dialogue, or non-verbal communication. Without judging whether that attention allocation unfairly neglects the very real difficulties in business writing, clear and effective writing undoubtedly makes a difference. Writing remains the basic way to begin any business communiqué and serves as the first step in building nearly every argument. Even heavy numbers crunching work requires translation into recommendation, and that often happens in writing

Men and women of elder generations have bemoaned to me the writing abilities in younger professionals. Those abilities have declined in succeeding decades, they argue. No doubt nearly all of us can improve our writing, making it more clear, cogent and forceful. And no doubt nearly all of us can improve by reading The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White.

The release of the 50th anniversary edition offers an excellent opportunity to examine our writing, and with a view to objective self-criticism, review this sage, slim volume in the spirit of determined effort to improve.


Written by Russell S.

November 2, 2009 at 3:07 am

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