Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why writing well matters
Abacus, $55 hb, 408 pp, 9781408709665
Harold Evans, the celebrated former editor of London’s The Sunday Times and ex-president of Random House USA, is angry. He fulminates against lazy journalism, against the impenetrability of government announcements, and against the pseudo-legal language of terms and conditions we are bullied into accepting during almost any online transaction these days, no matter how trivial.
Most of all, he wants to push back against the way the digital era is ‘making it easier to obliterate the English language by carpet-bombing us with the bloated extravaganzas of marketing mumbo-jumbo’. He is not so much a Don Quixote as a modern-day linguistic gumshoe, both a detective and an assayer, who confesses: ‘I don’t get mad. I enjoy finding the clues, the footloose modifier, the subject in search of conjugation with a friendly verb, the duplicitous pronoun.’ (But, hey, shouldn’t that first comma be a colon?)