Bryan A. Garner’s new book "HBR Guide to Better Business Writing" is full of useful advice. I especially enjoyed the section on avoiding business-speak. Here is a sampling from one of his charts:
- Replace “at your earliest convenience” with “as soon as you can.”
- Get rid of “in light of the fact that,” and choose “because.”
- Dump “we are in receipt of” in favor of “we've received.”
- Slash “thank you for your courtesy and cooperation in this matter” to “thank you.”
Bottom line: Cut the noise. Peggy Noonan makes the same point in “On Speaking Well: How to Give a Speech With Style, Substance, and Clarity.” She argues that people need to use good and simple words to express heartfelt feelings. She notes that a soldier shot in battle does not explain to his buddy that a bullet has struck him but that he has been hit.
Noonan recommends watching a scene in "The Godfather: Part II" in which Hyman Roth speaks from his heart to Michael Corleone about Roth’s murdered friend, Moe Green. Green is a Las Vegas casino owner, and Roth knows Corleone ordered him killed.
Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, author of the novel “The Godfather,” wrote the screenplay. Noonan calls the speech one of the best in the second half of the 20th Century, and she’s right. I watch it whenever I am stuck.
Garner, Noonan and Coppola/Puzo — they can help lawyers express ourselves.