President Frank Roosevelt shows how to simplify a message

 In Learning from Luminaries, Politicians

In 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt converted one of his own government department memos – a blackout order, 


“Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal buildings and non-Federal building occupied by the Federal government during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason of internal or external illumination.”


“Tell them that in buildings where they have to keep the work going on to put something across the windows.”

This conversion was relayed in the book, On Writing Well, by William K Zinsser (Harper Collins, 2006). In the book Zinsser urges writers to simplify, simplify. With simplicity in mind and as an example of “a man saying in a plain and orderly way what is on his mind”, Zinsser shares an example from Thoreau’s Walden:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”.

The ‘how to apply’ for this post: In your writing and speaking, aim to write and speak in a plain and orderly way.


This is my last post for this year. To my readers – Thank you. The posts will resume in February. Nothing but the best for an abundant 2014, michael kelly

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