Better writing

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive 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 which the participants work. The course should help them 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 date: 
9.30am–4.30pm 29 August 2018
#132, Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, ANU

$1,350 GST incl; Group discounts applicable.

Course overview

This course will proceed in three stages:

  1. 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.

  2. The Context of Writing. We discuss the problems they face in their work. Many organizations, and many executives and politicians are as if addicted to jargon, ‘messaging’ and obfuscation. How can writers gently lead them towards plainer and more engaging English? Much of their writing concerns humdrum subjects. How can they breathe life into it? Often they’re confronted with questions for which there are no clear answers. The task is sometimes delicate, the problem intractable. How are they to find the right words?

  3. Analysis of Writing. We look at some of their work. In a two day course this might be a short piece written specifically for the program; if it’s only one day course, we will look at documents their organization has produced and consider ways to improve them.

Course convenor

Dr 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 of Public Language, Watson’s Dictionary of Weasel Words; American Journeys and The Bush. He was Paul Keating’s speechwriter and adviser, and speechwriter for the Victorian Premier, John Cain. He has written films, political satire for television and the stage, countless articles for newspapers and periodicals here and abroad, and many speeches for Australian business leaders. Four of his books concern writing and language and the corrosive effects of ‘management speak’ and political spin, and he gives regular talks, workshops and master classes on these subjects to public and private sector organizations (Westpac, Ernst and Young, the Victorian Auditor General, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Murray Darling Commission, among many others.)

Updated:  24 March 2017/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team