Do I Make Myself Clear

new yorker

Harold Evans Defends the English Language

"Though ever serious about language, Evans’s humor separates his manual from those by other writers."- Charles Shafaieh

Full Review

In the tradition of George Orwell, who said that political language is designed to make lies sound truthful, Harry Evans reminds us how important it is to write clearly. Then he shows how. Those of us who have been edited by Harry marvel at his dexterity in unclogging dense prose, and in this book he reveals his secrets.

- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

The great French writer Émile Zola said that his prose style was "forged on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines," but the anvil of journalism is no use without the hammer of a great editor. Few if any wordsmiths hit harder than Sir Harold Evans. From the foggy corridors of Fleet Street to the lofty heights of Manhattan publishing, he has dedicated his life to hammering sloppy verbiage into plain English. Witty, wonderfully well written, but above all wise, Do I Make Myself Clear? should be required reading for all who scribble, type, or otherwise "word process."

- Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford.

Clarity and wit have something in common, and it’s Harry Evans. He clears a path through the thorny underbrush that stands between us and meaning, and he does it with cutting humor and graceful charm. He certainly does make himself clear, and us, too.

- Alan Alda

Harold (Harry) Evans is a a writer and thinker of deep and celebrated accomplishment and marked independence, and his new  book on how our government hides behind a word it's never even heard of- prolixity -  is acutely on target.

- Peggy Noonan

Read this book before you write another word As original as it is entertaining, Harold Evans’ guided tour of every nuance of  our language amounts to a masterly reappraisal of English usage for our times by a consummate editor turned writer.

- Anthony Holden

Harry Evans is one of the great – indeed legendary editors of our time. Over the course of his career, he has edited newspapers, books and magazines, which surely qualifies as a publishing trifecta. All his talents – and irresistible charm – are on display in Do I Make Myself Clear? It’s much more than a guide to English usage – it’s a companion: informative, delightful and indispensable. Do not hit INT or SEND without it!

- Christopher Buckley

From the greatest editor of the 20th century comes a timely reminder that precision of language is the writer’s weapon. Harry Evans’ methodical research and wry eye provide an entertaining lesson of intent, measured and exacting. At a time when public debate is shrill and filled by the overly assertive, he gives us a treat of a book that, through the use of practical  examples, allows us to bathe in language of clarity.  Evans is at his strongest when he subjects short passages to forensic filleting. The examination of a car rental warranty is a classic. Franklin Roosevelt passes the clarity test marvelously as Evans explores how the president grappled  with the shock of the attack on Pearl Harbor and his ability, in real  time, to rise to the occasion on the day of infamy. Evans contrasts that with 68 years later when the White House tried to explain how a passenger got on a transatlantic plane with a bomb in his underpants. Evans finds the multi-agency committee  writers cooking up nothing more than a foggy soup of bureaucratic dissembling that helped nobody.

- David Walmsley, Editor in chief , Globe and Mail, Toronto

The breadth and depth of Do I Make Myself Clear? are splendid. A history and a primer, a travelogue and a manifesto’ serious and funny’ scenes from El Salvador and Gaza; lists of clichés and pleonasms; car crashes and massacres’ health care and secret intelligence’ great literature and commercial documents. The profound importance of well-written words in the digital era. Why write well? See here. How to write well? Nailed.

- Roger Hampson, director Open Data Institute, Chief executive officer Redbridge London, author of the Redbridge Conversations writer on plain language,  International Journal of Social Economics




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