Crawford School of Public Policy

Better Writing

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About the course

In this course we will look at great writing, good writing and terrible writing, and will consider what makes it so. We will talk about the obstacles to good writing in the organisations for the participants work. The course will help people to recognise the traps to avoid and the habits to abandon. Participants will also look at the mechanics of writing. What makes for effective writing: writing that engages an audience, writing that communicates, that sinks in. They will have the chance to think about the possibilities of language and writing, including the possibility of enjoying it.

Course overview

This course has three stages:

  • The problems of public language. We look at the evils of management claptrap, cliché, slogans and jargon which drain the life from language and debilitate public discourse. We consider the proposition that language is the midwife of our thoughts and not just the means of expressing them. We consider examples of great writing, adequate writing and lousy writing.

  • The context of writing. We discuss the problems you face in your work. Many organisations, and many executives and politicians seem addicted to jargon, ‘messaging’ and obfuscation. How can you gently lead them towards plainer and more engaging English? Much of your writing may concern humdrum subjects. How can you breathe life into it? Often you may be confronted with questions for which there are no clear answers. The task is sometimes delicate, the problem intractable. How can you find the right words?

  • Analysis of writing. We look at documents your organisation has produced and consider ways to improve them.

Trust the experts

Don Watson

Don Watson BA, Ph.D has won the Age Book of the Year (twice) the ABIA Book of the Year (twice), the NSW Premiers Book of the Year, the Alfred Deakin Prize, a Walkley, and many other awards. His best-selling books include Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: Paul Keating PM; Death Sentence:The Decay...


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