The GSA Emily Murphy transition letter is a study in conflicted language

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Weeks after the networks declared the presidential election for Joe Biden, the administrator of the US General Services Administration made the decision to release congressionally appropriated resources and cash to fund the Biden transition team. This required her to take two contradictory positions at once: that Biden won, and that Trump had not yet lost. … Continued

Edit yourself. It’s cheaper and it makes you smarter.

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You wrote something. It’s not the best it can be. You could hire an editor. Or you could fix it yourself. Sure, if you can’t really figure out what you’re saying, you might need outside help. But before you do, try these tricks: Make sentences shorter. Find sentences of more than 20 words. Break them … Continued

A few very dumb COVID-19 corporate messages

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Every corporation you’ve ever done business with is now filling your inbox with “reassuring” messages. Most of them are companies you’ll never work with again, so they’re just an annoying background buzz. But some of them are actively dopey. Things are bad enough — this is no time for more self-inflicted brand damage. And now, … Continued

Airline pilots who hate the shutdown must be more direct

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The head of the Air Line Pilots Association sent a letter to President Trump warning of the government shutdown’s impact on safety. It’s sobering, especially when you strip out the passive, military-jargon-laden language and clarify what they’re really saying. The ALPA is a union that represents 61,000 pilots including those flying for Delta and American. … Continued

An editor’s notebook: when repeated words are the author’s “binky”

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Which words does your author come back to again and again? As an editor, your eye and ear must detect these repetitions, but that’s not sufficient. You need to understand why the author comes back to them and suggest fixes that improve meaning, rather than just creating variety. In a business book I recently edited, the … Continued

An editor’s notebook: Analyzing and untangling sentences

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One of the editor’s primary jobs is to make sentences say what they mean. When the prose gets in the way of the ideas, fix the prose. A focus on the subjects and verbs in sentences can help make prose clearer and reduce the cognitive load on the reader. These examples come from a book … Continued

What exactly is a “strong denial?”

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I was puzzled when Donald Trump indicated that he doubted that the Saudi government had been involved in the disappearance, and likely murder, of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi. But he said he was sure, because of the Saudis’ “strong denial.” Here’s a quote: “All I can do is report what he told me. He told … Continued