Professional writing ought not to be political or philosophical. In an ideal world, the writer should give his customer what he really needs.

This means that when your customer's readers are balanced, professional, educated, honest and liberal, the writer can be brief, clear, simple and direct. However, when your customer's readers are bigoted, ignorant, incompetent, self-serving, pompous, feckless, lazy or stupid, simplicity and clarity are not always the best policy.

I recently read (but I won't tell you where as the author is a friend) a press release telling the local press that the public library had increased its opening hours. My friend was paid to write that this was "enlarging the literacy opportunities of local community stakeholders".

On the one hand, I think every professional writer has a duty to encourage clear, simple familiar language that is easily understood by a maximum of the possible expected readers. On the other hand, we all have to eat, and if your customer is BIG PHARMA or the like, and his corporate chequewriters have an inflated opintion of their own intellect, and the only readers of your copy will be other BIG PHARMA corporate chequewriters, brownnosers and whatnot, there is really no obligation to write clearly, and indeed every motivation to write verbose, pithy, sexy and ultimately meaning-free text. (Nothing protects your customer from litigation better than lengthy, syntactically correct gibberish.)

At the same time, the four of you (I assume that's how many people read this besides me) will have noticed that I can be quite opinionated when it comes to wilful misuse of language. As such, as a responsible writer I propose to draw a line in the sand here:

An copy I produce that might fall into the hands of a member of the general public who might need to understand the message of the text will be clear and have a generally high meaning to word-count ratio.

If flattering your customer's (or his customers') inflated opinion of their own intellect gets your bills paid for goodness sake do it. If what you write might someday be needed by one of the poor saps that your customer (or his customers) ultimately get their money from, make sure the poor sap can get what he needs.

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