How come no one can write English?

Who do we blame, the schools, wherein if they have anybody write at all, they have them do it in a way that eliminates all creativity?

We live in a world of the written word. But too many people can’t write in a comprehensible way. Let me restate that, too many people can’t write in a way that people want to read it! Especially business people.

I don’t believe in business plans, they’re a way for MBAs to feel good about themselves, a circle jerk that leaves out the hard work of true creation, having an idea and going balls to the wall. If everybody’s on your team from the get-go, your idea isn’t revolutionary enough. But if you can’t explain your idea, no one will ever invest.

So the first criterion of writing is…READABILITY!

I’m not talking about spelling and punctuation, rather I’m referring to words that string together in a way that cuts like butter.

Schools impose structure, business people are too busy trying to impress, and the truth is most words go unread, because they’re just not interesting enough.

And a lot of the highfalutin novels are just as bad. That’s what I hated about “The Flame Throwers,” you could tell it was rewritten a million times, to add nuggets, this is the bane of the graduate writing programs. He who says rewriting is the essence of writing should give up. If the first draft ain’t really good, stop, you can’t fix a track in the mix, either it’s a hit or it’s not. Which is why Stephen King triumphs and many people don’t read the vaunted best books of the year. First and foremost, Stephen King is READABLE! Whereas so much that is hyped by the literary establishment is not. A metaphor is nice, but instead of giving endless description, give us some plot.

So let’s start with e-mail and business presentations…


If it’s not flowing real fast, start over. If it’s in your head and you can’t get it out, take an enema and just let it flow. Writing is not hard, it’s like every other pursuit, you’ve just got to start, hit go and you’ll learn along the way.

But you’ve been writing all your life, so you’ve got a head start.

Want to impress someone? Don’t overthink it, just make it straightforward.

I just read a business proposal so incomprehensible I’m not sure what it’s about.

Just like I read screenplays with tons of stage direction but crappy dialogue. A good film is all about the dialogue, ask Woody Allen!

And every rule of writing can be thrown out the window if it’s interesting. And most teachers are not successful writers, so take everything they say with a grain of salt. Or, to put it another way, school is all about eviscerating your creativity, making you conform.

So, most of what’s online is unreadable.

My dear friend Jason Hirschhorn puts out a daily newsletter of links entitled MediaRedefined. I suggest you sign up, just go here:

Jason Hirschhorn’s MediaREDEF

But the truth is so many of the articles Jason links to have great headlines, often evidencing brilliant insight, but when I click through and start to read my eyes cloud over, because the people just can’t write. Which is why I gravitate to the links of the name publications, because they know first and foremost it’s about writing and readability. Ideas are a dime a dozen, getting them across is the hard part.

“The New Yorker” is pompous, but it has good writing. Not the only good writing, but subscribe and become inured.

And Malcolm Gladwell is the king of business writers. Not because his ideas are better, although they sometimes are, but because he writes so coherently, he demonstrates through examples, you want to turn the page, you want to know what he has to say next.

What makes you think if you never write that some business plan you execute is gonna be any good?

Ditto on e-mail. You might have something important to say, but if I can’t understand it, if it’s too complicated and boring to read, I’m not gonna.

And forget the saw that it must be short and compact. We’re all looking for long and great. We rarely find it, but when we do, we luxuriate in it.

So, once again, start by writing like you speak. And, if it’s important, use spellcheck, it’s built-in.

You can’t watch all the YouTube videos and you can’t read all the online posts.

Want yours to stick out? MAKE IT READABLE!

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