Sounds Good on Paper – How to Bring Business Writing to Life
A&C Black / Bloomsbury June 2010.
“Sounds Good on Paper” is essential reading for anyone who writes as part of their job. It’s a practical guide to every figure of speech you never knew you knew, including the chiasmus (“You can take the boy out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the boy”), tmesis, (“abso-blooming-lutley”) and kenning (“pencil pusher”). For business writers these figures and dozens like them are pure gold. They make our words more powerful, persuasive and poetic. They add flavour to the insipid stodge of standard issue language. They help us get our message across in a way that’s immediate and memorable. Plus they’re great fun, which is more the point, really.
“Now let’s get one thing clear – taking an interest in language is perfectly compatible with hard-nosed commercial concerns like efficiency and results. If a piece of business prose is terminally turgid then the chances are it’ll be ignored, in which case it can’t possibly achieve its purpose. Whatever time and resources went into creating it will be wasted, a situation that sooner or later costs real money.
If using a figure of speech turns a piece of writing into something that your audience reads and enjoys then there’s every chance it’ll perform as intended and become an asset rather than a liability. In this modest way figures of speech can make a real contribution to a business’s bottom line.”