“’I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.’

This page is about writing. About good writing and the time it takes to do a really professional job.

Did you ever wonder how long it took to come up with brilliant slogans like Zanussi’s ‘The Appliance of Science,’ Audi’s ‘Vorsprung durk technik?

The answer is, a long time. A very long time. In some agencies, especially in the eighties, there could be up to six teams of writers and designers, all working on the same product for months on end.

No wonder copywriters, especially direct marketing copywriters, get a little frustrated when asked to do a job fast and for very little money because ‘it’s only a slogan.’ or ‘It’s only a few words.’

This is not to say that any professional writer can’t come up with something quickly. We often do, but only because we are not given the time to do it properly and have no choice. But I can guarantee that the job won’t be the best we’re capable of. How could it be?

Jargon and bureaucratic language also sends writers up the wall. And not just writers. Jargon has its place as a form of shorthand between boffins and other people working in highly specialised fields. It has no other reason for existence.

Please feel free to send me examples of jargon, bad grammar, and bureaucratic language – anything that has you tearing your hair out. If I get enough I’ll put them on this site. I hope to collect some examples of my own, and re-write them in plain English.

In the meantime, here are some books I’d recommend to anyone interested in English usage: -

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. A heart-warming book for people who care about language and punctuation. The fact that it became a bestseller gave us all hope. The woman deserves a medal. Lots of medals.

English Today by Ronald Ridout. I learned English grammar from this wonderful book when I was at school.

Complete Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers. When I studied law at Newcastle University, this book was on the compulsory reading list. I hope it’s still there.

Troublesome Words by Bill Bryson. Keep it with you at all times.

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