- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

The Best Writing Advice, 73 Years On

24th February, 2021

The Best Writing Advice, 73 Years On

Why did I crack a bottle of Veuve Cliquot last week when I was compared to a long-dead civil servant?


Well, let me explain…


In 1948 Sir Ernest Gowers wrote a book that changed the way we think about business writing.


A high-ranking English civil servant, he’d become fed up with what he described as verbal ‘mistiness and grandiloquence’ as ‘plentiful as blackberries’. (How beautifully does he write?)


He campaigned for a new style of official writing – one that was both friendly and simple to grasp.


His book ‘Plain Words’ was a training bible for civil servants on the art of writing plain English. It sold 150,000 copies in under a year and had to be reprinted seven times.


And so why was I compared to Sir Ernest Gowers?


Well, in its review of my new book, Email Attraction – Get What You Want Every Time You Hit Send, the Financial Times said this:


“Arnold takes the lowly email and reworks it, making this form of communication fit for 2021. She teaches readers how to make their messages stick, to save time and get results in the same way as Plain Words in a pre-digital age.


Like Plain Words, this book is short. Arnold guides the reader in an entertaining and memorable way. Breaking down the art of emailing into snappy chapters, she asks you to completely rethink how you churn out emails.”


I’m still a little giddy from the compliment, but suspect I can’t quite compete with what remains a brilliant book from Gowers.


His ethos? ‘Be short. Be simple. Be human.’


Brilliant advice, 73 years on. Get it tattooed on your forehead. Or at the very least, write it on a post-it next to your screen.


I couldn’t put it better myself.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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