My point is not an appeal for more creative writing in the let’s-use-lots-of-adverbs sense. It’s an appeal for clarity of expression. More fundamentally, it is an appeal for having an idea to express in the first place. If you have an actual idea and express it in a useful way, then maybe you've created something that is not spam (even if it happens to be a mass mailing), because it yields some value to your audience.
My point is about being creative only to the extent that if you haven’t created an interesting thought to convey by the time you’ve written something, then you don’t deserve—and you’re not going to get—my attention. (Except you might get me to criticize your writing in my blog.)
What Lanham calls “the Official Style” is a tool for solving two specific problems: There’s (1) “I have no clear thought to express, yet I'm required to write something today.” And (2) “I have a thought I'd like to express, but I'm afraid that if I just come out and say it, I'll get in trouble.” Problem #1 happens, for example, to school children who are required to write when they really don’t have anything in mind to be passionate about. Problem #2 happens to millions who live out the Emperor’s New Clothes every day of their lives. They don’t “get” what their mission is or why it’s important, so when they’re required to write, they encrypt their material to hide from their audience that they don’t get it. The result includes spam, mission statements, and 98% of the PowerPoint presentations you’ll ever see in your life.
I’m always more successful when I orient my thoughts in the direction of gratitude, so a better Part 1 post from me would have been structured as:
- Wow, look at this horrible, horrible sentence. I am so lucky I don't have to live and work in an environment where this kind of expression (and by implication, this kind of thinking) is deemed acceptable.
- I highly recommend Lanham's Revising Prose. It is brilliant. It helps you fix this kind of writing, and—more importantly—the kind of thinking that leads to it.
- I’m grateful for the work of people like Lanham, Fried, Heinemeier-Hansson, and many others, who help us understand and appreciate clear thinking and courageous writing.