75 years ago, George Orwell published an essay1 about the damaging effect of lazy writing. That essay is probably even more relevant today, as writers reach for one stock phrase after another, like a pre-packaged, instant-delivery, fast food fix. Convenience outweighs time and effort. As Orwell said: “You can shirk [creative thought] by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in.”. …read more
Would an argument that is not without merit be winning and persuasive? Not quite. What about a practice that’s not unheard of? It’s probably unusual. But precisely how unusual is more difficult to pin down.
Let me introduce you to the litotes, the ‘acceptable’ double negative that divides opinion in legal writing. …read more
A Dutch businessman I know is fond of opening Anglo-Dutch meetings with the maxim: “While the English are too polite to be honest, the Dutch are too honest to be polite.”. Meant as an icebreaker, it invariably raises a polite chuckle. A cheerful smile and a wink tend to take the sting out of the words – but his caution is well worth heeding. …read more