Teach writing as if lives depend on it

When students leave the classrooms in which we said we were teaching writing, the people for whom they will work expect them to be able to write clearly and concisely for readers who must act on the information in the message.

A brief passage I read this week in a 1980 bestselling novel shows why that’s important.

 “write as if lives depend on your conciseness and clarity”printed on image of nuclear explosion

In The Fifth Horseman, former investigative reporters Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre imagine a situation in which New York City will be destroyed by a nuclear bomb in 36 hours unless America complies with terrorists’ demands.

Here’s part of what the authors imagine happens after the President tells his National Security Council about the threat:

“[National Security Assistant Jack Eastman] picked up a four-volume blue plan labeled “Federal Response to Peacetime Nuclear Emergencies.” Millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money, thousands of man-hours of effort had gone into preparing that plan. After one quick perusal, Eastman tossed it aside in disgust. New York would have been reduced to a charred graveyard before he or anyone else had been able to make sense of its bureaucratic jargon.”

Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
in The Fifth Horseman ©1980

When you’re teaching writing, teach as if your students have to write so clearly and concisely that people could follow their directions in a national emergency.

It’s just possible that some day people might need to.

©2018 Linda G. Aragoni

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