Archive for January, 2011

Why you should hire good writers

In his no-nonsense book about how to succeed in business, Jason Fried devotes an entire chapter to why businesses should hire great writers. The founder and CEO of the successful Web application company 37signals clearly values the skills good writers bring to a job – and it’s not just about their way with words:

“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.

Writing is making a comeback, all over our society. Look at how much people email and text message now rather than talk on the phone. Look at how much communication happens via instant messaging and blogging. Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.”  Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework: Change The Way You Work Forever



January 21, 2011 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

In defence of language pedants

I have a little bone to pick with Stephen Fry. I couldn’t agree more with his impassioned plea that people take more pleasure in language. But Fry’s argument that the language pedants who complain about poor grammar and usage are linguistic killjoys is as skew-whiff as the kinetic typography that illustrates his rant.

According to Fry, people who complain about grocer’s apostrophes or misused words are ‘semi-educated losers’ with a ‘silly’ approach to language. He pours withering scorn on those who claim to stand up for clarity, accusing them of ‘eye-popping insincerity and shameless disingenuousness’. Ouch.

After all, according to Fry, there’s nothing unclear about ‘5 items or less’, and only a dolt fails to deduce the intended meaning of ‘disinterested’ from the context, age and education of the speaker.

Well, call me a dolt. Unless I’m reading for pleasure, I don’t actually want to have to deduce the meaning of communication more than necessary. In Steve Krug’s immortal words, don’t make me think if you want your message to be understood. Noticing a mistake and ‘deducing’ the real meaning may only take nanoseconds, but it momentarily impedes the message processing and is a distraction I can do without in my information-overloaded everyday life.

If ‘5 items or less’ no longer confuses anyone, the language pedants are fighting a lost cause and can safely be ignored. Natural selection in language evolution will weed out the distinction between less and fewer in due course. But I’m with the pedants who go into bat for clarity because it’s a vital part of enjoying language. You may not be on our side, Stephen, but we are on yours.

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language


January 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm 2 comments

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