In the ‘I’ of the Storm
In December 2004, the United States National Commission on Writing reported that businesses were spending $3.1 billion a year to teach employees to write clearly. According to Philip Yaffe, "Most of it is probably being wasted".
A former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant, Mr Yaffe teaches a course in good writing and good public speaking in Brussels, Belgium. Because most of his clients speak English as a second or third language, his approach appears to be rather different from conventional coaches.
His insights are contained in a new book entitled In the 'I' of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional.
"The problem with most writing courses and books is that they concentrate on use of the language and not on the fundamentals," Mr Yaffe says.
For example, almost everyone agrees that good writing must be "clear" and "concise". But how can you know if it really is?
"The fact that a writer feels a text is clear and concise has no value. It should be clear and concise to him; after all, he wrote it. But is it clear and concise to everyone else?"
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr Yaffe reveals that there are objective tests for clarity and conciseness. "If the text fails these tests, then it needs to be revised. If it passes them, then - and only then - should you look at the details of the language to make a good piece of writing even better."
He also talks about a third pillar of good writing: density. "This is a factor that hardly anyone ever mentions; however, it is just as important as clarity and conciseness. And can also be objectively tested."
"The fundamental principles that govern good writing", Mr Yaffe contends, "are essentially the same as those that govern good speaking, but with some subtle differences. Thus, if you write better you are already well on your way to speaking better."
In the 'I' of the Storm is a very short work (84 pages) specifically designed to help busy executives, teachers, students, civil servants, researchers, etc., rapidly learn to write and speak clearly, concisely, and persuasively. Because its principles are universal - they do not depend in any way on English - the book is scheduled for translation into French and Spanish, and perhaps other languages as well.
In the 'I' of the Storm is available either in a print version or electronic version from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (www.Storypublishers.be).
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This is an exceptional guide to help you sharpen your skills in effective and powerful written communications. It's also fun to read. (ed.)
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