‘Lengthy Memoranda and Gobbledygook Language’

Maury Maverick, chairman and general manager of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, in a company-wide memo back in 1944:

Be short and use Plain English.

Memoranda should be as short as clearness will allow. The Naval officer who wired “Sighted Sub — Sank Same” told the whole story.

Put the real subject matter — the point — and even the conclusion, in the opening paragraph and the whole story on one page. Period! If a lengthy explanation, statistical matter, or such is necessary, use attachments.

Stay off gobbledygook language. It only fouls people up. For the Lord’s sake, be short and say what you’re talking about. Let’s stop “pointing-up” programs, “finalizing” contracts that “stem from” district, regional or Washington “levels”. There are no “levels” — local government is as high as Washington Government. No more patterns, effectuating, dynamics. Anyone using the words “activation” or “implementation” will be shot.

80-year-old advice that holds up today. Also: this is the first known use of gobbledygook, a fabulous word with no true synonym. (Thanks to DF reader David Wooten for the link.)

(Also: Who had a cooler name? Maury Maverick or the Smaller War Plants Corporation?)

Monday, 18 March 2024