I’ve been reading ‘Do I Make Myself Clear’- Why Writing Well Matters’ by (Sir) Harold Evans (28 June 1928 – 23 September 2020). In some ways I wish I’d read it earlier in my career as a copywriter, but I think it might have been too much to take in while relatively green. Now, it’s more of an acerbic, witty reassurance that my internal dialogue when reading or editing godawful guff isn’t just grumpiness – and that my instinct is dependable.
He also reminds me that there’s a time and a place to be right about this: always and everywhere. But not necessarily out loud.
It’s brilliantly written… obviously. It can sometimes seem formulaic or rule-driven, but it’s refreshing to have some science behind the sense. And its eloquent illustrations serve as excellent ammo when you really need to justify your art to some pompous arse who’s way above your pay grade… someone who supposedly ‘couldn’t have got where they are today by not being able to communicate’… yet clearly struggles to.
Anyway, that’s another story. Many other stories, probably.
We need people like Harold Evans. More today than ever, in this frantic era of consumerism and ‘brand’, where the basic tenets of powerful comms can be lost in the cynical sales pitch and the obsession with ‘clever’. His life was one dedicated to the art of succinct and impactful writing… to clear, rhythmic relaying of the key message… to the hacking back of fluff and superfluous context… to artful scene-setting and inclusive writing for any purpose – be it to inform, illustrate, persuade or entertain (or all of the above).
His book is superb for idle reference as much as it is for intense study. It’s authoritative but funny, like your favourite schoolteacher. Well, mine anyway.
I recommend it highly to anyone looking to improve their writing, or to reaffirm and refine what they’ve already learned (and have a chuckle while they’re at it). It’s for anyone tasked with helping clients come across as bright, articulate human beings – and is great to reference or paraphrase in heated conversations with silly people (see ‘pompous arse’ ^).
Thank you Harold; your legacy is huge. Long may it last.