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Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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From the Publisher
The Top 10 Ways That Clear Writing Can Boost Your Career
By Josh Bernoff, author of Writing Without Bullshit.
You may not think you're a business writer, but you are. You write emails. Perhaps you write web pages or reports or news releases. And whatever you write, you're probably doing it wrong. What you learned in school is the exact opposite of what you need to succeed in a world where everyone reads on a screen.
People today spend about 36 seconds on the average news article. A typical businessperson spends 46 hours per week reading and writing. They're busy, and their lives are cluttered. You need to write in a way that punches through the noise. You need to write without bullshit.
Here are my top ten tips for writing that succeeds at work:
1. Move beyond fear. When you're afraid, you write like you're afraid. Stop hedging and say what you mean. You'll get credit for directness.
2. Write shorter. Delete the warmup sentences. Organize carefully. Delete repetitive content. If you keep your emails under 250 words, people will be more likely to read them.
3. Front-load your writing. Make your titles and subject lines descriptive. Tell the story in the first two sentences. You haven't got long to capture people's attention.
4. Purge passive voice. Passive sentences frustrate people. Don't tell us "the new system is estimated to cost $150,000." Tell us who's responsible: "The IT department estimates that the new system will cost $150,000."
5. Replace jargon. Big words are more likely to confuse readers than impress them. Don’t tell us that you've "become part of the vendor ecosystem” when you really mean "our product is now compatible with other companies' software."
6. Eliminate weasel words. Weasel words are vague, meaningless intensifiers. When you tell us you're "incredibly excited about the new hire's massive performance improvement and deep knowledge of the subject," we sense that you’re bullshitting us. Replace the intensifiers and qualifiers with facts and statistics.
7. Reveal structure. Paragraphs suck for online readers, especially when stacked on one another like cinder blocks. Use headings, bullets, lists, tables, graphics, and links to make writing easier to scan and parse.
8. Structure your process. If you're writing something long, spend the first half of your time on research and planning. Then, when it's time to write, you'll have everything at your fingertips.
9. Write a fat outline. Regular outlines are worthless for planning. Pretend you're writing a "treatment" for Hollywood: Include details, quotes, and ideas in your outline. Fat outlines force you to plan more thoroughly, and they're great for communicating your plan to others.
10. Manage reviews with discipline. Reviewers will ruin your best writing if you let them. Give each reviewer a specific task, like verifying technical details or the correctness of language. Set deadlines so the reviews come back together. Then, don't just do what they say; use your creativity to solve the problems they've found without losing the soul of what you wrote.
Whether you're writing web copy or research reports, make an impact. Don't write to fit in. Write to stand out. Write without bullshit.
From the Back Cover
Every day at work, you write. Are you writing to stand out, or writing to fit in?
Writing Without Bullshit is the first comprehensive guide to writing for today’s world: a noisy environment where everyone reads on a screen. The average news story now gets only thirty-six seconds of attention. Unless you change how you write, your emails, reports, and web copy don’t stand a chance.
In this practical and witty little book, you’ll learn to front-load your writing with pithy titles, subject lines, and opening sentences. You’ll acquire the courage and skill to purge weak and meaningless jargon, wimpy passive voice, and cowardly weasel words. And you’ll get used to writing directly to the reader to make every word count.
At the center of it all is the Iron Imperative: treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own. Embrace that, and your customers, your boss, and your colleagues will recognize the power and boldness of your thinking.
Transcend the fear that makes your writing weak. Plan and execute writing projects with confidence. Manage edits and reviews flawlessly. And master every modern format, from emails and social media posts to reports and press releases.Writing Without Bullshit is The Elements of Style for the Internet era; an essential tonic for the career of every serious businessperson.
About the Author
Josh Bernoff has been a professional business writer for more than 30 years, including two decades as a renowned technology analyst. He is the coauthor of three books on business strategy, including the bestseller Groundswell.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's title perfectly captures how it's written and delivers on why it's important to write with clarity.
Our lives are so filled with digital distractions that, as writers, we need to make sure that our message gets across in simple to understand prose.
Josh's book perfectly spells out this problem and gives solutions on how to make your writing clear and readable.
If you write anything, then I would recommend picking up this book. It's an easy read and will help you be a better writer.
Everyone involved in writing for a business should read this book.
OK, too short, huh?
Here's a little more detail with maybe a bit of bulls*** included. I'm a professional writer. I've worked in public for Microsoft, Fast Company, and Rackspace. Even someone like me needs to be reminded of ways to improve my writing and that's exactly what Josh's book does.
He gives lots of examples (Stephen Elop isn't going to like this book) of bad business writing and shows why it's bad, and how to improve it.
The one chapter on fear struck home for me. When I've done my best writing it is when I put my fear of consequences aside and just told you how it is.
It is the kind of book you should come back to once every year or so to remind you of how to improve your writing.
I've been using many of the techniques Josh prescribes for years, without knowing why they work. My editors over the years have helped me get rid of most of the worst things, but Josh lays out even more.
Truth is you were taught badly. You probably were rewarded for adding some bulls*** into your papers at University. This holds back so many.
The first thing he did was started daily blog called Without Bulls***, where he has written, not just about the bulls*** in business writing but about the crap we see in the news coming out of the mouths of politicians, luminaries, marketing people and other official spokespeople.
It is the sort of stuff that Robert Scoble and I called Corpspeak back in Naked Conversations. It is filled with jargon, euphemism on language created by committees, the sort of language that makes so much of what we read long and boring, with the nub of the matter lot in the excesses and imprecision of official press releases, websites, presentations and elevator pitches.
I shared Bernoff’s passion for writing without bulls***. It is why I asked him to be editor for the new book I’m writing with Scoble.
So, I was thrilled when Josh sent me his new book. Writing Without Bulls*** is precisely what the the title say it is. It is a guidebook for business writers who probably once knew how to do this, but over time, the clarity has been dulled by committees who are masters of masking perfectly good thoughts and syntax with, well, bulls***.
The book is short, snappy, clear and often downright funny. For someone who has logged double-digit years in the world of Corpspeak, he writes with attitude, humor a consistent ring of truth and how to ake it useful and productive just by filtering Corpspeak bulls***.
It is short, clear, fun-to-read and you will either walk away a better business writer or there simply is no hope for you—and that is no bulls***.