How to teach the boss good writing

Follow these steps to convince the boss that simple and clear writing is best.

Follow these steps to convince your boss that simple and clear writing is best

Years ago, while teaching my first writing seminar, I heard the first of what would become a million stories on bosses who destroy copy.

An editor tearfully told her fellow seminar attendees how a vice president had replaced the word “layoff” in her publication with the phrase, “surplus employee management.”

“What am I to do?” she asked. “I know it’s bad writing, but he’s my boss.”

Within seconds, the seminar took on the feel of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as one writer after another lamented the horrible revisions made to their copy by vice presidents, CEOs—and yes, even directors of employee communications.

That scene—and dozens of others like it—made me realize how horribly difficult it is to produce good publications when the person reviewing your copy has misguided notions of what makes good writing and editing.

Editors have only two choices, really. Live with it, or teach the boss the difference between bloated, arrogant prose and simple and clear communication.

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