Fight on the beaches!

We love this anecdote from The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, compiled by Dominique Enright:

There is a story that an American general once asked Churchill to look over the draft of an address he had written. It was returned with the comment ‘Too many passives and too many zeds.’ The general asked him what he meant and was told: ‘Too many Latinate polysyllabics like “systematize”, “prioritize”, and “finalize”. And then the passives. What if I had said, instead of “we shall fight on the beaches”, “Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter”?

Sadly, all too much business writing is reminiscent of “Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter”.

So if you struggle to get the people in your organisation to talk like human beings, point them to Winston.

Inspiring leaders use short, simple, powerful words.

Not pompous corpspeak packed with off-putting nonsense about synergizing innovative technologies, incentivizing customer engagement and integrating frameworks of excellence.

For more on the Latinate quality of much bad business writing see Speak English, why don’t you?

10 Responses to “Fight on the beaches!”

  1. Ade says:

    The effort it takes to decipher ‘hostilities would be engaged ….’, just think of the lost productivity.

  2. [...] Sadly, all too much business writing is reminiscent of “Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter”. — (via Good Copy, Bad Copy » Blog Archive » Fight on the beaches!) [...]

  3. Berna Cox says:

    Unfortunately, the bad abounds. Oh for a few modern-day Winstons. :)

  4. I like this post. Good stuff. I agree with Ade that it’s all about the effort it takes for the reader to understand it. The more effort, the LESS impressed they’ll be. Everyone wants a “quick, fun read” that they “can’t put down.”

  5. Daniel S. says:

    The anecdote was a doozy. I do have to point out that Winston Churchill is one of the most quotable leaders ever. I mean that in a good way and not in a George W. Bushism kind of way.

  6. [...] talked before about Winston Churchill’s gift for language. Here’s a great example of an inspiring speech written to get the country behind their leader: [...]

  7. [...] talked before about Winston Churchill’s gift for language. Here’s a great example of an inspiring speech he gave to get Great Britain behind its [...]

  8. [...] Churchill by Sesema PR on May 14, 2012 • 9:06 am No Comments I’ve talked before about Winston Churchill’s gift for language. Here’s a great example of an inspiring speech he gave to get Great Britain behind its leader: [...]

  9. [...] talked before about Winston Churchill’s gift for language. Here’s a great example of an inspiring speech he gave to get Great Britain behind its leader. [...]

  10. [...] Churchill by Sesema PR on May 15, 2012 • 12:10 pm No Comments I’ve talked before about Winston Churchill’s gift for language. Here’s a great example of an inspiring speech he gave to get Great Britain behind its [...]

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