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Contemporary Quotes

Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book Section, at the NIH Plain Language Award Ceremony:

If you find your own writing boring, so will somebody else.

Christine Mowat, “A Conference with Myself on Teaching Writing,” Teacher as Researcher, Faculty of Education, The University of Calgary:

Writing is not only alive and well in the business world, but writing whose style reflects flair, eloquence and a confident sense of self can springboard employees forward in their careers. Let me be clear. There is as much poor writing in business as in schools. Writing for teacher-as-examiner is replaced by writing for boss-as-examiner, often a boss who habitually plugs in the hackneyed business/legalese phrases we expect: pursuant to, enclosed please find, with respect to and the aforementioned. Business writing is often characterized by density, circuitousness, voicelessness, overuse of passive voice and non-standard English, punctuation and spelling.

Marilyn vos Savant, Parade Magazine:

What’s your greatest challenge in writing the Ask Marilyn column? That’s an easy question to answer. I struggle daily with the problem of writing in a way that will be both technically accurate and understandable. Here’s why: On any given subject, a tiny number of people are experts. The rest of us want an explanation that doesn’t require specialized education in the subject, one that we can understand when we read it.

Michael Shanks, former chairman of the National Consumer Council (Great Britain):

Gobbledygook may indicate a failure to think clearly, a contempt for one’s clients, or more probably a mixture of both. A system that can’t or won’t communicate is not a safe basis for a democracy.