Long, rambling facebook posts and emails filled with superfluous, unintelligibly, broad content that purports to get an incredibly important idea across are an insanely difficult chore to read. That’s why Josh Bernoff wrote, “Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean.” Bernoff wants people to be precise and get to the point.
“The problem is pretty simple. We grew up, those of us who were old enough, where what you read was edited. Somebody actually took some time to create it, but it is so easy to create content now, and people have so little training that they imagine that this blather that they are writing down has something to do with reality. In fact, most of it is just buzz words. They have forgotten to say what they actually mean,” said Bernoff on Boston Public Radio Tuesday.
Passive voice, jargon, weasel words, and meaningless prose, are all the enemies of direct and meaningful writing, says Bernoff. In July, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sent a letter to her employees after Verizon bought the company. For Bernoff, this letter is the epitome of BS writing, containing so many superlatives and qualifiers that the meaning of the words are lost. Toward the end of the letter Mayer writes:
“The strategic process has created a lot of uncertainty, but our incredibly loyal and dedicated employee base has stepped up to every challenge along the way. Through the first half of the year, we met our operational goals and overachieved on plan. But, further, there are things that you cannot measure, like the passion of the people behind the products. The teams here have not only built incredible products and technologies, but have built Yahoo into one of the most iconic, and universally well-liked companies in the world. One that continues to impact the lives of more than a billion people. I’m incredibly proud of everything that we’ve achieved, and I’m incredibly proud of our team. For me personally, I’m planning to stay. I love Yahoo, and I believe in all of you. It’s important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter.”
“This is a company that has been a disaster,” said Bernoff. “Anybody who has really been working on great stuff has left by now. Who is she talking to that’s doing such an incredible job that she ended up having to do a fire sale to Verizon.”
Bernoff's most important writing rule is simple, “write shorter.”
“If you can get to the point more quickly, you’ll stand out,” he said.