Amazon’s unwisely lets the nerds apologize for its AWS outage

Much of the Internet was down for three hours last week. Because of an outage at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud-based service that powers Internet companies, hundreds of services like Medium, Slack, Quora, Reddit, and Kickstarter stopped working or worked poorly. Amazon’s Web geeks then bungled the response, focusing on jargon rather than clarity and empathy. … Continued

You should avoid lists of words to avoid

People keep sending me word lists. “Use these words,” they say. “Don’t use these other words.” If you want to be a better writer, these lists are useless, because they don’t change how you think. Words to ban from tech? This list is way too short Robert Dean lists “20 bullsh*t buzzwords that should be banned … Continued

10 easy New Year’s resolutions for writers in 2017

Want to write better? Change a writing habit. Here are ten ways to be a better writer: pick one, then stick with it. (Tell me which one you picked in the comments.) 1. Stop sending first-draft emails. Most of what you write is email. While it creates the biggest impression in aggregate, you’re not spending … Continued

Responding to objections to “Writing Without Bullshit”

A lot of people think my writing advice is wrong. When you apply the principles in my book at work, you’re going to encounter resistance, because the way I teach writing is not conventional. Here’s a set of objections and counterarguments for when people tell you you’re doing it wrong. Business writing has worked fine for many … Continued

The “Will It Blend” experience of a book index

The joy of BlendTec’s “Will It Blend” videos is that they take expensive, painstakingly produced items — like iPhones — and reduce them to an undifferentiated mess. And that’s just what a book index does to the content in a book. Writing Without Bullshit covers a wide range of content, because everything is fodder for a writer. … Continued

Identifying and fixing toxic prose

Did you ever read a passage and then feel woozy afterwards? The problem is toxic prose. Three common writing problems, taken together, make it hard to figure out what people are trying to say. Passive voice. When you can’t tell who’s responsible for the actions in a sentence, it confuses you. Jargon. When a passage … Continued

6 reasons why an executive should care about writing without bullshit

If you’re an executive or senior manager, why trouble your people about clear writing? Does it really make a difference to how your organization runs? Dramatically. It will change the tenor of how you work. Frankly, “Writing Without Bullshit” is a departure for me. After 20 years as an analyst, I’m used to giving strategy advice to … Continued

The boldness of security experts’ Trump critique

Yesterday, 50 former national security officials who had served in Republican administrations published a letter criticizing Donald Trump. This document is bullshit-free: it’s written in the first person with active voice, direct, declarative sentences and a limited number of qualifiers. For a political document, this is remarkable. An effective document is short, features a descriptive title, and explains its … Continued