How this guy actually got a job by writing without bullshit

Authors don’t hear from readers that much. It’s usually “there’s a typo on page 116.” But every once in a while, we get something that reveals that our work actually matters. Here’s what Alex from Amsterdam sent me in an email: Mr. Bernoff, I want to send a letter and give my sincere thanks for the insights … Continued

Masha Gessen reveals how meaning and language are crucial

Masha Gessen has written a must-read essay in the New York Review of Books. Her thesis is that once politicians and pseudo-journalists have robbed words of their meaning, we damage our shared understanding of reality. And that’s happening right now. Gessen should know; she was a journalist in Russia in the Soviet era. As she … Continued

Ford, where euphemisms are Job 1

PR people, if you have something unpleasant to say, just say it. Hiding it behind euphemisms doesn’t fool anyone. Today’s case study: Ford’s plan to lay off 10% of its staff, which it calls a “people efficiency action.” According to a Wall Street Journal article, Ford will cut 10% of its global workforce to boost profits, with … Continued

The loopholes in Trump lawyers’ tax letter about financial ties in Russia

Lawyers may be verbose, but they’re precise; what they write is supposed to be unambiguous. When reading a document from a lawyer, the ambiguity typically comes, not from what’s written, but from what’s left out. For example, let’s take a look at the letter that President Trump’s lawyers wrote suggesting that he’s got no financial ties … Continued

A “fulsome” critique of skunked terms and connotations

The word “fulsome” is having a moment. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates, Senator Bob Corker, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all used it recently. But words have both meanings and connotations, and in this case, the connotations are undermining the speakers’ intent. What does “fulsome” mean? Here’s a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: fulsome … Continued

The Economist interview: Orwellian rambling from Donald Trump

The distinguished editors at The Economist interviewed President Trump. When I set out to analyze his statements, I felt as if I had wandered into a hall of mirrors. Donald Trump is a persuasive person who, one-on-one, has been able to make deals all over the world. He’s the master of communicating in tweets and campaign rallies. But … Continued

How our memories of Nixon are leading us astray

I was 15 years old in August of 1974, traveling in Germany with my family, when President Nixon resigned. It made a powerful impression on me. I think, because of our shared history of that time, we all feel we understand what might be coming for Trump. But we don’t. My father had gotten a summer … Continued