Who would have thought? The CIA actually respects good writing, even citing the classic American writing guide The Elements of Style in the Directorate of Intelligence’s Style Manual & Writers’ Guide for Intelligence Publications.
The document was posted online about a year ago by the legal nonprofit National Security Counselors.
The foreword says that: “Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The information CIA gathers and the analysis it produces mean little if we cannot convey them effectively.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. The 190-page document contains other notable nuggets, including:
- Keep the language crisp and pungent; prefer the forthright to the pompous and ornate.
- Do not stray from the subject; omit the extraneous, no matter how brilliant it may seem or even be.
- Favor the active voice and shun streams of polysyllables and prepositional phrases.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and vary the structure of both.
- Be frugal in the use of adjectives and adverbs; let nouns and verbs show their own power.
This post is largely based on the article “Writing Tips from the CIA’s Ruthless Style Manual” by Michael Silverberg on the QUARTZ site. Visit the site for more details.