I hate bullshit

My name is Josh Bernoff and I hate bullshit. So do you. But the difference between us is: I intend to do something about it.

After 40 years in academia and the corporate world, I’ve had my fill. I’ve seen it all. Articles from respectable publications full of generalizations and filler. Spurious statistics. Consultants’ reports replete with buzzwords but lacking in evidence. Endless reams of press releases about nothing. Email that rambles on and won’t get to the point. Enough.

Writing without bullshit is three things. It’s clear, it’s brief, and it’s not boring. It’s also valuable and rare. I want us all to understand how to create it and how to value it. I know how to write this way, and I know how to help you, too.

Writing filled with bullshit, on the other hand, is ubiquitous. Anyone can write — the tools are free, and the distribution channels are open to all. Anyone can send you an email, post on Facebook, blog, write for Huffington Post. Even professional writers of various kinds overwhelmingly create bullshit. On campus, their professors praised them for bullshit-filled papers. At work, they observed the bullshit their colleagues created and learned to create more of the same. We’re all hip deep in it. We know something’s wrong, but we just ignore the stink.

This is no joke for me. It’s my mission. Here’s what I am going to do:

  • I will make a serious, analytical study of the various forms of bullshit in the world and how and why it got there.
  • I will reveal how, once you remove the bullshit, writing becomes simple, powerful, and true.
  • I will work toward a theory of bullshit and great writing, which I will then lay out in a nice neat package for all: a book called Writing Without Bullshit. (This is not an idle threat — writing books is what I do.)

Along the way I’ll call out both the crap and the powerful, direct writing on this blog. I will not play favorites — I’ll skewer and praise people on all sides of the political spectrum, in the corporate world, or wherever. I promise you right now it will be both enlightening and entertaining.

Josh BernoffI need your help, too. I need you to send me bullshit. Just click on the submit bullshit link on my site. I’ll wade through it and showcase what you sent, and explain how they should have written it. You’ll see, if you get out of your own way and just write plainly, it’s not that hard. You just need to unlearn the bad habits.

I’m going to spend the next year on this. Are you with me?

13 responses to “I hate bullshit

  1. Josh, I LOVE this!! Been trying to teach my girls in homeschool how to write this way. Can I send you a few of my 11yr-old’s paragraphs for review over the next couple months? She is proficient at producing “Fluff” (aka BS) and I want to mold her habits before they become bad ones!

  2. I’m with you. Let’s banish bullshit. And horseshit, waffle, fluff, palaver, piffle, bunk, crap, claptrap, blather, guff, drivel and twaddle, too.

  3. Academia runs on acres of bullshit, packed into papers no one reads, stacked on servers no one visits…law runs on acres of bullshit, packed into briefs no one reads, stacked on servers no one visits…government runs on….

    Dude, you are fucking with the natural forces of the universe. WTF?

  4. I’ve worked in industries I thought bullshit didn’t exist but it DOES – EVERYWHERE. I think my most surprising bullshit-filled industry is local churches. I mean, the church as a whole, yes, but churches filled with friends, family, neighbors? Yeah, that was disappointing.

    I have an interesting question, what would be your definition of bullshit?

  5. Mr Bernoff,

    I wish you luck with your noble quest and will keep my eyes peeled for some suitable content.

    You may find an interesting sub topic kies in the art of deciphering corporate website landing pages and mission statements. Perhaps you could have a section titled “Guess What We Do” for submission.

  6. Can’t wait to read the book, and doing my part by promoting it on my FB and LI pages because I think it’s such a novel concept. As a step-mom with a 10 year-old and a 14-year-old, I cringe every time I hear the kids say “like” one more time. It seems to rear its ugly head in every sentence they say. I’m a firm believer that technology and kid’s overuse of cell phones is warping their vocabulary and ability to speak proper English because all they hear is bullshit from song lyrics and I’ve grown weary of a little kid trying to sound like a rapper.

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