Writing as Moral Activity: Do I Make Myself Clear?

on June 1, 2017


Do I Make Myself Clear: Why Writing Well Matters, written by Harold Evans, is an outstanding new book on the importance of good writing that both beginning and experienced writers will find useful. Evans provides concrete tools and guidance that allow authors to edit their own writing for issues like word choice and sentence structure and then takes it a step further by helping writers find the zombies and flesh eaters lurking on their pages. It’s a clean, bright writing tool that was so much fun I read it at the beach, as my picture proves!

However, this isn’t the brilliance of Do I Make Myself Clear. Evans raises clear writing to the level of a moral imperative. Passive sentences, where events simply happen without an obvious agent of cause, are not just bad writing; they are acts of cowardice. Legal buzzwords and jargon might just be laziness, but Evans warns they can also be deliberate efforts to hide events and conditions from readers.

Clear writing seems more important now than ever before. We have entered a time when tweets–even when they consist of actual English words and not just piles of confefe–establish national policy, science is under assault, and truth is a negotiation that may change before lunch. In the financial world, it looks like consumers may be on their own to decide whether their adviser is really a fiduciary. Evans believes that clear writing can cast light into these dark shadows. I expected to like this book. I didn’t expect to find a call to social justice.


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