Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Writing and the Military

An ode to clear writing, in Proceedings Magazine.

I'll leave it to you to read the article, including the great translation at the very beginning and the Orwell quote, and instead zero in on this:

[B]ad writing handicaps DOD and the services in their communication with important external audiences like Congress, other federal agencies, and the general public. Jargon is especially problematic. Overly formal, technical language alienates the audience whose support the Defense Department seeks.

This is why, no matter how lawyerly I become (I hope), my instinct to continuously rephrase things in simple, straightforward language, will pay off. Why? Because who wants a lawyer who can't explain stuff to them unless they're already a lawyer themselves?

Yes, you should speak precisely, but there is a difference between jargon and precise language.