Anyone, even those with a below average command of a language, especially when it is not their native language, can acquire an acceptable level with pacience, work and good guides. «For better writing, read, write and edit as much as possible», I usually tell the students who ask me for advice. Michael Skapinker wrote a useful answer to the same question on May 1, 2013 in the Financial Times.
Grammar is a vital tool for any executive
A reader recently sent me this plea: “I want to write clearly, concisely and correctly. Can you help me?”
There are many guides to writing. One of the most popular, deservedly, is George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”, in which he identified a principal sin of writers then and now: “Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.”
We can all recognise what he was talking about. We see it, especially, in business memos: chunks of jargon linked together in the hope that the writer will get a thought across, if there was any thought to start with.
When another reader, a chief executive, asked me what I thought of a speech he had composed and planned to deliver to his staff, I sent him Orwell’s six rules for better writing, which appeared in the essay.
The rules are: avoid figures of speech you are used to seeing in print; use short rather than long words; cut out any words you can; favour the active over the passive; use everyday English rather than jargon, foreign or scientific words – and “break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous”… more