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Leadership’s Future: Good Writing

by Miki Saxon

writeBosses, business coaches, academics, bloggers and many others bemoan the lack of communications skills in Gen Y, especially written communications, but they have plenty of company in preceding generations.

Not just bad writing, but opaque writing, the kind that leaves readers scratching their heads wondering what they are missing.

Of course, I shouldn’t complain, since on of my company’s most popular products is Clarity RE-writing, which involves using the fewest possible words to present even the most complex information in the most understandable way.

Who are the worst writers?

Granting that many of Gen Y don’t understand the difference between writing and texting, I find lousy writing much more offensive when it comes from those who (should) know better.

And while the more lofty their position the more offended I am, I save my greatest reaction for those old enough and senior enough to know better who work in the field—in other words, they are, or should be, professional communicators.

Charles H. Townsend, the chief executive of Condé Nast Publications, which includes Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, is such a one. He recently sent a 500 word memo to his staff, here is a sample from it.

“…a consumer-centric business model, a holistic brand management approach and the establishment of a multi-platform, integrated sales and marketing organization.”… “To optimize brand revenue growth, we will shift responsibility for single-site, digital sales and marketing to the brand level. Publishers can now fully leverage their offerings across all platforms.”

Don’t feel badly if you aren’t sure what he is trying to say, his staff wasn’t sure, either.

If you want to write clearly here is some quick and basic guidance.

  • Avoid jargon;
  • shun multi-syllabic words;
  • use short, simple sentences;
  • pass on large blocks of text, especially on the Net;
  • spell check everything; and, most importantly,
  • remember that most people scan and don’t actually read.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/2854421030/

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