Do I Make Myself Clear?, by Sir Harold Evans, seems to be a book designed for the wordsmith types. It had also been on my list of books to read. What did I have to loose in reading it? (Although do note, it’s not necessarily designed for more literary styles of writing; it’s about communicating clearly when writing.)
Whoever is designing the dust jackets for Evans’ books has a good eye for design. I like boldness of the colour; it has an unusual quality. I also love the way the fountain pen graphic underlines the tag line Why writing well matters.
This book has made me aware of the amount going into writing. My approach has always sort of been plodding along, just write it, worry about the edits later. However, I’m not educated in the structure of words, sentences, etc. (This is in the sense that I’m not entirely sure what clauses are, as well as compound, complex sentences.) I remember being unwell when I was taught this at school, and not going back over structure, the definition of what words are, until undertaking my NCTJ qualification.
On reflection, I probably should know more about the trade that I’ve plumped for; up until this point, I have largely worked on instinct or logic-if it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t right. (It’s the same for spelling; it is not the greatest.)
I enjoyed reading this book, largely because it was like going through a portal, discovering a new universe of writers, even writing, I’d not been aware of. For instance, I know who George Orwell was, but I have never read any of his work. (I also didn’t study his work when in education, much to my chagrin.) There are also incredible examples of writing included in this book; I was gripped by a description of John McCain’s service in Vietnam.
Evans also takes on Bloggers like myself. (I was wary when starting this particular passage.) The discussion of language used on social media also made me laugh; illustrating a point, the sharp response was also “Who dat?”
I also liked Care for Meaning, which I had read from an extract on a newspaper website; I giggled at the annotation of ‘Vice’. The definition of ‘Disabled’ also had me cheering; “When it really is relevant and properly sourced, be specific and don’t condescend: ‘He uses a wheelchair’, not ‘He’s confined o a wheelchair’; “She has Asperger’s syndrome”, not “She suffers from Asperger’s.” What would we do without great journalists like Harry Evans?
I think Evans’ book, Essential English, may have been a better book to read; I had trouble reading this.(Enough so that I had to look up the definition of words, phrases, etc.) But it’s the use of imagery in this book that make it the book it is; I love how the bad things in writing are given names-flesh eaters, zombies.. If you want to write well, this is a book you need to read.