This week The Guardian managed to get hold of the writing style guide that’s issued to its employees by the CIA. Not all of them are out doing the Jack Bauer stuff, you know. Some just tap keyboards for a living.
Perhaps not surprisingly it seems that ‘The Company’ (as the spooks refer to it) seems to tolerate, if not downright encourage, the sort of corporate jargon that its counterparts in the business world glory in. We may live in the age of communication, but it doesn’t mean we’re actually any good at communicating.
So it was refreshing the other day to hear the business editor of one of the UK’s top broadsheets suggesting that anyone serious about really communicating in a report, email, memo, etc, etc should bin the jargon and start writing like Raymond Chandler.
For those not familiar with the name, Chandler was ostensibly a writer of detective stories in the 1930s to 1950s. But that is a bit like saying that Shakespeare was just some Brummie who knocked out a few plays. Not convinced? Well try this on for size, from one of his best books, ‘The Long Goodbye’:
“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”
OK, perhaps you couldn’t put exactly that bit in a corporate report. But if you don’t think that sort of general approach is good writing then I’ll leave you to the joys of 140 characters. And if you do, then perhaps this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.