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Leaders Should Cherish Language

I have bad news. Writing well is difficult and time-consuming.

I have found when every word is carefully chosen and lovingly placed there is usually no need to use a lot of them.

Now, since leaders should lead primarily by example it makes sense that leaders should speak and write well. Are you and I working to improve?

Sure, I spit out plenty of junk each workday; hastily typed e-mails and quick texts. I have learned, however, important writings take time and a personal process—a few days for the ideas to simmer; the decision and concentrated effort early after the first cup; the set-aside and sleepover; and one or more re-writes with brutal use of the ‘delete’ key.

The trying-to-be-cute-or-flowery-or-clever words, sentences, and paragraphs I have murdered did not suffer or feel pain. Readers benefited. The brilliant thoughts I cut out because they did not fit may live again in a better home. Again readers benefited.

I love learning about the English language, which I consider to be beautiful, and how to use it properly and to progressively greater effect. Readers and listeners ultimately judge and there is no accounting for varieties of taste.

Proper grammar and accepted rules of style are different matters. In addition to a dictionary and thesaurus, I use two helps that I try to read at least once a year.

I suggest:

  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
  • On Writing Well, by William Zissner.

 

These teach how to write clearer, shorter pieces. (This should not be dismaying news to my attorney friends who might actually spend more billable time producing brief, understandable writings.)

I have found, in most contexts, when every word is carefully chosen and lovingly placed there is no need to use a lot of them.

Mr. Strunk says in Rule 13: “Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

While difficult, writing well can be very rewarding.

If you have other favorite helps please share them.

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