Popular Posts

Friday, October 12

Tough Guy. Great Teacher. Now Gone

Had read this obituary article of James Michaels in HT Mint/ NYT. JM was the editor of Forbes magazine for almost 40 years, died in the first week of this month at 86!

Writer Gretchen Morgenson talks about JM in this obituary- "JM would care only about the Forbes reader. Writers' egos, famously large, concerned him not one bit. When editing, he would hammer his views directly into reporters' copy, often in capital letters. Flaccid writing and weak thinking brought out his bark and bite."

Here are some examples, culled from an aging file known internally at Forbes as the Abuse File. I've kept them because I treasure them"

''This is badly written and badly edited. It would be an insult to foist it on the reader.''

''This is a real snoozer, lacking in specifics. Why not just send them a nice lacy valentine and forget the prose.''

''I'm sending this one back because the character is deader than a dodo.'' Can't the writer ''inject a little life without adding 10,000 words?''

''A good story turned into oatmeal by bad organization.''

''Please fix this quickest. It lacks most of the ingredients of a Forbes story. The quotes are room emptiers.''

''This is the kind of sentence that drives readers to stop reading.''

''This is a paid advertisement. Did you forget to say he walks on water?''

As you can see, the comments were blistering. But they were also instructive. Any writer who heeded them became the better for it. Here are some more:

''If I can't stay awake editing this, how can a reader stay awake reading it? What's the point? If it has a point, maybe we can make a story of it.''

''I can't make head nor tail of this. There's a story buried in all this confusion, but I can't find it. Fix it or kill it.''

''This is a remarkable job of interviewing an interesting and colorful man and getting precisely one quote.''

Writers were not the only ones to feel the Michaels lash. ''Your initials are on this so I suppose you understand it,'' he wrote to one of his editors. ''I don't.'' Atop another article, he wrote: ''Replace or run white space.''

He regularly banned words and phrases he considered overused. ''Fast track,'' ''game plan,'' ''bottom line'' and ''superstar'' were some examples. ''Upscale'' was another: ''If I see this word again I'll upthrow,'' he wrote.

Why I am reproducing this article is because I feel, as a planner one has to go through a lot of crap as well - some copy-writer generated:-) much client generated, mostly other planner/ self generated!!

It pays to avoid the wind in strategic thinking and conversations. And one has to work mightiliy hard to expel it. The sharper the words, the better the thinking!

These JM nuggets(acerbic quotes)are really a tresure trove!! They give one a lot of direction if we are willing to learn.


dev said...

very good ones...

meraj said...

very nice post, Manish...thanks!

David said...

Hi, please keep posting such work.. It was good to read his remarks .. if you get somthing on writting then please do send same to me. Thanks,Paul

Manish said...

but send where Paul... cant access your blog/ e-mail..