Do I Make Myself Clear?

Why Writing Well Matters


Read by Greg Tremblay

By Harold Evans

Formats and Prices


This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 16, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A wise and entertaining guide to writing English the proper way by one of the greatest newspaper editors of our time.

Harry Evans has edited everything from the urgent files of battlefield reporters to the complex thought processes of Henry Kissinger. He’s even been knighted for his services to journalism. In Do I Make Myself Clear?, he brings his indispensable insight to us all in his definite guide to writing well.

The right words are oxygen to our ideas, but the digital era, with all of its TTYL, LMK, and WTF, has been cutting off that oxygen flow. The compulsion to be precise has vanished from our culture, and in writing of every kind we see a trend towards more — more speed and more information but far less clarity.

Evans provides practical examples of how editing and rewriting can make for better communication, even in the digital age. Do I Make Myself Clear? is an essential text, and one that will provide every writer an editor at his shoulder.



The year 2016 was the seventieth anniversary of George Orwell's classic polemic Politics and the English Language (1946) indicting bad English for corrupting thought and slovenly thought for corrupting language. The creator of Newspeak, as he called the fictional language of his nightmarish dystopia, Oceania, did as much as any man to rescue us, but eternal vigilance is the price of intelligent literacy. For all its benefits, the digital era Orwell never glimpsed has had unfortunate effects, not least making it easier to obliterate the English language by carpet-bombing us with the bloated extravaganzas of marketing mumbo-jumbo.

Words have consequences. The bursting of the housing bubble that led to the Great Recession revealed that millions had signed agreements they hadn't understood or had given up reading for fear of being impaled on a lien. But as the book and movie The Big Short make clear, the malefactors of the Great Recession hadn't understood what they were doing either. This book on clear writing is as concerned with how words confuse and mislead, with or without malice aforethought, as it is with literary expression: in misunderstood mortgages; in the serpentine language of Social Security; in commands too vague for life-and-death military actions; in insurance policies that don't cover what the buyers believe they cover; in instructions that don't instruct; in warranties that prove worthless; in political campaigns erected on a tower of untruths.

Fog everywhere. Fog online and in print, fog exhaled in television studios where time is anyway too short for truth. Fog in the Wall Street executive suites. Fog in the regulating agencies that couldn't see the signals flashing danger in shadow banking. Fog in the evasions in Flint, Michigan, while its citizens drank poisoned water. Fog in the ivory towers where the arbiters of academia all over the world are conned into publishing volumes of computer-generated garbage. Fog machines in Madison Avenue offices where marketers invent dictionaries of fluff so that a swimming cap is sold as a "hair management system."1 Fog in pressure groups that camouflage their real purpose with euphemism; fog from vested interests aping the language of science to muddy the truth about climate change. Fog in the Affordable Care Act and in reporting so twisted at birth it might as well have been called the Affordable Scare Act. Fog in the U.S. Supreme Court, where five judges in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) sanctified secret bribery as freedom of speech. But never come there fog too thick, never come there mud and mire too deep, never come there bureaucratic waffle so gross as to withstand the clean invigorating wind of a sound English sentence.

"I like it—it's wonderfully editable."


Tools of the Trade


A Noble Thing

Winston Churchill had problems talking to a table. His teachers at Harrow told him that the Latin word for table was mensa but if he wanted to invoke the thought of a table—address a table in the vocative case—he could not just blurt out the word. He must do as the Romans did and write or say, "O mensa." To Churchill's straightforward English way of thinking about such matters, it seemed "absolute rigmarole" to muck about with a good solid noun. He was further dismayed to learn it was not even permissible to talk about a table without changing its identity to mensae. Give these Romans an inch, and they'd take a passus.

In his captivating memoir My Early Life, Churchill admits a delinquency in the declensions of Latin grammar which had given "so much solace and profit" to the cleverest Englishmen. He decided he would stake his destiny, instead, on the force of simple, natural prose rooted in the lexicon of Anglo-Saxon. "Thus," he writes, "I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence—which is a noble thing."

The world well knows how he marshaled the sentences. On February 9, 1941, he addressed a radio appeal for war matériel to President Roosevelt and the American people. He asked America to believe in Britain's ability to stand alone against Hitler's war machine, even then poised to invade. He cited British victories against the Italian armies in the North African desert war. He closed with three sentences. The first was an emotional pledge: "We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down." But then he ended his broadcast with ten taut words: "Give us the tools and we will finish the job!"

The sentence, a verb in the active voice, had the decisive urgency of a battlefield command, a shocking transition from literary elegance. No tears. No plaintive whining. No soft soap. Not a wasted syllable. Just, for God's sake, man, give us the tools and we will finish the job!

So many of Churchill's words are imperishable. He might have written "words are the only things that last forever; they are more durable than the eternal hills." For a time, like many, I thought he had, but they were written by the English essayist William Hazlitt (1778–1830). We know the observation to be true of those combinations of words we can none of us forget: Lincoln's resolve for "government of the people, by the people, for the people"; Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream," invoking the cadences of the Bible, "… from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"; John Kennedy's call to "my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"; and for many, the enduring inspiration of Shakespeare's Henry V battle speech at Agincourt, that from this day "to the ending of the world… we in it shall be remembered—we few, we happy few, we band of brothers." The words of Pope Francis in 2013 will surely pass into history—that an obsession with narrow political issues risked even the moral edifice of the church falling "like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

Such pulsations of language memorably marry thought and expression. We cannot remember all the good writing we come across, but we know it when we see it. One of the cool sentences in E. B. White's essay on the "trembling city" of New York comes with me every day I walk to my office in Times Square. "No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky."

We know the right words are oxygen, that dead English pollutes our minds every day. Those combinations of words don't last forever, but ugly words and phrases linger in the vocabulary. They are picked up and passed on like a virus by the unwary and by the pretentious who like to give the "appearance of solidity to pure wind." Orwell, of course:

Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservative to anarchist—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

The critic Clive James defines the subtlety of composition that has given enduring life to that one sentence toward the end of Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language:

The subject stated up front, the sudden acceleration from the scope-widening parenthesis into the piercing argument that follows, the way the obvious opposition between "lies" and "truthful" leads into the shockingly abrupt coupling of "murder" and "respectable," the elegant, reverse-written coda clinched with a dirt-common epithet, the whole easy-seeming poise and compact drive of it, a world view compressed to the size of a motto from a fortune cookie, demanding to be read out and sayable in a single breath—it's the Orwell style.

There is no compulsion to be concise on either the Internet or the profusion of television and radio channels; and in writing of every kind, Twitter apart, we see more words, more speed, less clarity, and less honesty, too, since with "demand media" you never know whether a review of Swan Lake will conceal a hard sell about toenail fungus. A new enterprise in print, on TV, or on the web is now a "platform" for "content" where if you can develop "core competency," there will be "measurable deliverables." My own observable "behavior-driven process" used to be to throw a shoe at the television whenever I heard weather expunged in favor of existing weather conditions. As for marketing-speak, I don't have enough shoes or energy for all the branding baloney; it induces the comatose condition Ben Bradlee defined as "MEGO."2

Waffle dressed up as a high-level digital concept gets regurgitated by business leaders who promise to dedicate themselves to "improving the efficacy of measurable learning outcomes" (a Financial Times management statement). In 2012, Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, bought control of the New Republic magazine, renowned as a citadel of literacy. Two years later his new management decided it would no longer print the magazine; it would henceforth publish only online. Straightforward enough, you'd think. The magazine was losing money. It was better to be read than dead. It had lost none of its authority in the hard times for all print publications. It need lose none when the words were backlit on a screen. What it did lose, on the announcement of a series of changes, was most of the gifted editors and writers. This is not the place to explore all the reasons for the resignations, much regretted by their readers, but one can empathize with the reluctance of writers to associate with the fakery of marketing-speak which regarded the magazine's history as a "competitive advantage" to be "leveraged." The new managers expected the digitized staff to "create magical experiences" through "cross-functional collaboration," and "align themselves from a metabolism perspective" to the needs of "a vertically integrated digital media company." It didn't, as they say, travel well. "Vertical integration?" asked Slate's Seth Stevenson in a spirit of inquiry. "Are they going to, like, mine their own pixels?" Cynthia Ozick, the novelist and critic, fretted that the magazine might be turned into a clickbait factory. She knocked out a rough lament inspired by Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib":

The Siliconian came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in wireless gold,

Crying Media Company Vertically Integrated!

As all before them they willfully extirpated:

The Back of the Book and the Front and the Middle,

Until all that was left was digital piddle,

And Thought and Word lay dead and cold.

Lo and behold, in a nanosecond, Mr. Hughes announced in January 2016 he would "pursue conversations" with those interested in buying the magazine. He was as good as his word. Everybody was happy when, as Mr. Hughes put it, the literary philanthropist Winthrop McCormick "donned the mantle."

Mischief has flowed from Marshall McLuhan's overused, enigmatic paradox "The medium is the message." He did not mean the message was irrelevant,3 but that we should be more aware of how changes in the medium affect our social interactions. Wasn't he just right? The digital era might have offered a vision of a universe of honest exchanges in search of mutual understanding. It didn't happen. Twitter's guillotine falling at 140 characters put a premium on conciseness, and a tweet fits neatly on the screen of a cell phone. But the malodorous tweets in 2016 by would-be leaders of the free world Trump and Cruz just aped the mob of Internet trolls in search of someone to kick.4 Donald Trump, master of the medium, made an art form of the put-down, attaching scurrilous adjectives to characters in his psychodrama—Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary, etc. Social media sites, but especially the Facebook juggernaut, revealed how truth had become a fugitive. As of December, according to the fact checker Politifact, Trump had scored 114 falsehoods. It made not a whit of difference to his followers (no doubt Clinton's followers were less disturbed by her score of 29). Fake news, entirely fabricated to generate clicks and income for the fabricators, was tweeted and fed into Facebook without correction. Judgment fled to brutish beasts and men lost their reason. I'd argue that the maelstrom of mendacity makes it all the more imperative that truth be clearly expressed. The great nineteenth-century Guardian editor, C. P. Scott, might have written his famous command just for today—that the unclouded face of truth must not suffer wrong.

In his thoughtful book on rhetoric Enough Said,5 Mark Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times, suggests that anger with conventional political leadership in the U.S. and Britain can be traced to a change in public language that has produced a mutual breakdown of trust, "leaving ordinary citizens suspicious, bitter and increasingly unwilling to believe anybody." My contention in Do I Make Myself Clear? is that the oppressive opaqueness of the way much of English is written is one cause for a retreat from reason to assertion. The people who attended Donald Trump's rallies said they loved the way "he told it like it is," which was about the last thing he did, but his simple, repetitive assertions were brilliantly effective with his audiences, who were seduced by their insistent certainty.

We have to stop illegal immigration. We have to do it. [Cheers and applause] We have to do it. Have to do it. [Audience: USA! USA! USA!] And when I hear some of the people that I am running against, including the Democrats. We have to build a wall, folks. We have to build a wall. And a wall works. All you have to do is go to Israel and say is your wall working? Walls work.

David Samuels,6 a New York Times reporter recognized for his long-form narrative journalism, despairs about the possibility of open, rational public debate in a brutally partisan climate where a narrative can vanish under "a digital mash-up of slurs and invective, supported by stray phrases that have been mechanically tweezered from different texts."

I recognize that anyone who ventures thoughts on improving other people's English, as I do in Do I Make Myself Clear?, renders himself a hostage, a target for a flameout on Twitter. Who dares say good writing, even great writing, can be learned? I give the "best answer" cigar to Mark Forsyth, author of The Elements of Eloquence, whose title I will adorn with the alliterative adjective entertaining. He proves how Shakespeare learned to write. Yessir; Shakespeare had a lousy start then refined and mastered every trick in the rhetorical trade. If this attitude seems without reverence for God-given genius, beware: Mr. Forsyth advocates a hit, a palpable hit, on the noses of dissenters until they promise not to talk nonsense anymore.

Still, it may be impossible for any of us to avoid slovenly English. There is so much of it about. Words filtered through algorithms are not washed clean of impurities. Rust eats once-fresh metaphors. I've been reading about crumbling infrastructure for twenty years. Hasn't it crumbled away yet? Could it not make out with another adjective for a decade or two, deepen our depression by linking with the catalog of deadly d words, disintegrating, dilapidated, decaying, or just rot and collapse? Better, is it beyond the wit of the writers to get out from under the Latin infra and remind us that the abstraction covers a multitude of sins—corroded water pipes, leaking dams, archaic airports, decrepit overhead power cables?

Passages of obscurity, ugliness, and verbosity pop up as in the game Whac-A-Mole in news reports, business letters, academic journals, contracts, websites, school essays, job descriptions and the applications they attract; in magazines, publicity releases, Facebook posts, broadcasting, and even supposedly well-edited books. Bureaucrats have no monopoly on the opaque. Writers generally set out with good intentions, but something happens along the way. We don't really know what we want to say until we try to write it, and in the gap between the thought and its expression we realize the bold idea has to be qualified or elaborated. We write more sentences. Then more. We are soon in the territory defined by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) but associated with others, too: I would have written something shorter, but I didn't have time. Soon enough we find ourselves trapped in a bad neighborhood. We whistle up reinforcements, more words. Thoughts collide midsentence. Abstractions suffocate narrative. Nouns dressed up as verbs sap vigor. Clichés avoid detection. Stale images creep in. Modifiers get detached from the words they are supposed to modify: "Walking into Trafalgar Square, Admiral Nelson's column is surrounded by pigeons reaching 169 feet into a pure blue sky."7

Writing is like thinking. It's hard. Try translating into clear prose the effervescent ebb and flow of candidate Donald Trump on climate change:

And actually, we've had times where the weather wasn't working out, so they changed it to extreme weather, and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill. But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we're doing to solve a problem that I don't think in any major fashion exists. I mean, Obama thinks it's the number one problem of the world today. And I think it's very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there's weather. I believe there's change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.8

It's good to feel bad about something you've just written. It tells you there's a fat chance nobody else will feel good about it, so you'd better work out what's wrong and fix it. Kurt Vonnegut's seventh rule of writing9 applies: "Pity the readers. Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don't really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school—twelve long years." Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus spelled out the obligation for the imperfect artist to meet the imperfect readers more than halfway. It means "rewriting, and rewriting, all of it or in bits and pieces, getting rid of redundant words, making complex sentences simpler, clarifying what you really wanted to say."10

A fair question—I am glad you asked—is what do I bring to the picnic? The short answer is that I have spent my life editing thousands of writers, from the urgent files of reporters on the front lines to the complex thought processes of Henry Kissinger in his memoirs and history of China. Forty years ago I wrote a manual for journalists that was adopted by the industry's Society of Editors11 and another adopted by the Asian press.12 I discovered early on how skilled are some people in politics and business in using words not for communicating ideas but concealing them. At the Sunday Times when we were investigating the cover-up of the great espionage scandal of the Soviet agent Kim Philby, who became head of British intelligence, we were educated in nuance by a former Foreign Office adviser who was a specialist in Anglican liturgy. "Oh, dear," he said, "why does no one read our statements with the care with which we drafted them?" Prime Minister Edward Heath had said in 1973 that the British government was "now aware" that Philby had "worked for the Soviet authorities before 1946." In other words, they had known for some unspecified time that he was a Russian agent after 1946 and had then just discovered that Philby had been working for the Soviet Union before that—that is, all along. This made all the more pressing the question of what he was doing in British intelligence from 1940 onward. The finished articles read like John le Carré (who was incidentally of some assistance), but this book is all about nonfiction. I want to pass on what I've learned from trying to get a headlock on the world's most sinuous or deceptive writing; learned, too, from travels with a dictionary in the cascade of good books about writing well (see the bibliography).

If you are more into explaining your inner self to the waiting world than in conveying information, stop here and brood on to greatness. My approach is to start from the muddy field where the casualties lie, see what editing can do to make them whole, and generalize from there. I may note why nonfiction passages lose narrative tension, but I don't aspire to teach great writers; they can look after themselves. Nor do I wish to take the chalk from the grammarians' itchy fingers. When we get lost in unraveling how menaced we are by a software licensing agreement setting out what is forbidden by our "concurrent use," it's the Silicon Valley syntax, stupid. We should respect grammatical rules that make for clarity, but never be scared to reject rules that seem not to. In self-defense, I can call spirits from the vasty deep. A little more than a century ago, William Brewster insisted that the mere avoidance of grammatical barbarisms will not result in clear writing:

One might escape illiteracy but not necessarily confusion. To know what a sentence is saying is important, more important than anything else about it. That is rarely interfered with, directly, by the presence of barbarisms, and not grievously, for the most part, by improprieties and solecisms, as they actually occur in writing; these things cause sorrow chiefly to the erudite or the parvenu of style, whom they offend rather than confuse; the populace cares very little about them.

Fifty years later, Robert Graves and Alan Hodge took up the right end of the stick that the only relevant standard by which to judge any straightforward piece of prose is the ease with which it conveys its full intended sense, rather than its correctness by the laws of formal English grammar inherited from Alexandrian Greek. And around the same time, Orwell was rebuking the rebukers. Defending the English language, he wrote, "has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called 'a good prose style.'"

Do I Make Myself Clear? is for everyman. I've read and respected the admonitions for good English in scores of books on English usage and debated their utility. What I got into my bones, early on, was the conviction that a concise sentence was more likely to be clear. At sixteen, as a junior reporter on a weekly newspaper, I longed to speed up the translation of the proceedings of councils, inquests, and courts I'd taken down verbatim in Pitman's phonetic shorthand.

At Durham University, writing essays on politics, economics, and ethics, I became infected with literary pretensions, squeezed out of me when I was hired by an electric evening newspaper, the Manchester Evening News. We edited words written on a typewriter, sent the marked folios to the Linotype operators to convert into column-width slugs, lines of hot lead, antimony, and tin. We prayed that the number of metal lines would fit into the space the page planner had allotted for their assembly in an iron frame (a chase). Every report we edited had to fit a prescribed space. ("We don't have rubber type.") No meandering in cyberspace. Omit a salient fact in editing to length, send the printer an excess of type, and you were looking for a job. The turnover of staff was scary.

I graduated from those disciplines to marshaling arguments, as best I could, for the newspaper's formal editorials, as testing an exercise in making oneself understood in a short space as my spare-time efforts to pass on my understanding of Keynes to coal miners for workers' education classes. Both demanded as much clarity as I could manage.

Every day on the editorial page I had sixty minutes to write the Evening News pronouncement on whatever the editor, Big Tom Henry, decided was the issue of the moment. Housing! Suez Canal! The Test Ban Treaty! The National Health Service! I'd spend half the hour writing an arresting first paragraph. Too often for my self-respect, it didn't appear. It had been lopped off by Big Tom. I got the message: Get to the point. No throat clearing.

A temporary teaching assignment in Southeast Asia tested everything I'd learned about disentangling English. India's prime minister Pandit Nehru wanted someone to get the Indian newspapers out of the florid Victorian mode of writing bequeathed by British imperialism. Big Tom nominated me. I spent months with editors in the subcontinent, and the Philippines, and Japan, and Korea. Paul Miller, the head of the Associated Press and Gannett Newspapers, heard about the work, said he'd always admired the conciseness imposed on the wartime British press by the shortage of newsprint, and that Evans fellow should come to the U.S. for a few months to indoctrinate editors who'd hadn't realized they could tell more in less.

All these experiences were apprenticeships for accepting responsibility for the opinion and news columns of regional and then national newspapers. For fourteen years as editor of the Sunday Times (circulation 1.5 million), I pounded the typewriter to make sure the brilliant but complex work of the investigative team known as Insight—on thalidomide, the DC-10 disaster, the exposé of the espionage of Kim Philby13—could be understood by the man on the Clapham bus as clearly as it was by the lawyers who would be at our throats before the ink was dry.

I knew risks were embedded in every word from another learning experience at the Sunday Times. On vacation in Austria, I tried to ski. I couldn't do it. I blamed the complicated instructions about what to do with my knees and when, and having a care also for what I was doing with shoulders, arms, elbows, and hips while paralyzed by fear. The reputable book I bought left me giddier:

The skier comes out of a traverse or a preceding turn, places increasing weight on the downhill ski, and tries to prepare for a stepping-off movement from the downhill ski by pressing his downhill knee forwards and uphill. Taking off with the help of a vigorous pole plant, he then steps his weight on the other ski and starts the next change of direction. As he turns, the ski which is now weighted is edged on the other side and he steps up the ski from which he has taken off. The turn is controlled by the twisting movement of the legs, and a strong edging maneuver as well as the forwards and sideways movement of the upper part of the body.


  • "Sir Harold Evans' memoir-cum-craft manual in which he rollicks - with all the joy and adventurousness of a rock 'n' roll tell-all...Of the truly silly number of hours I've spent with my nose in the binding of books on the craft of writing, those I spent with Do I Make Myself Clear? were the only I spent smiling, in search of someone I could read aloud to."—NPR
  • "Mr. Evans's skills are on display on nearly every page of "Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters." Writing a book about writing well can be hazardous for the author-reviewing one is risky, too-but in this case at least the author and his readers have nothing to fear."—Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal
  • "Have you heard of Harold Evans? Sir Harold Evans? Of course you have. He is one of the greatest and most garlanded editors alive....As a master editor and distinguished author, Evans is well qualified to instruct us on how to write well. But can he delight us in the process? After reading this book, I can affirm the answer is yes."—Jim Holt, New York Times Book Review
  • "A writing manual so smart and incisive that it could surely benefit anyone-journalist, student, business executive, legislator-who has ever tried to craft an English sentence and fallen short."—Malcolm Jones, Daily Beast
  • "Going well beyond the typical style guide's proscriptions against the passive voice, cliché, and so on, this polemic on writing takes the view that "the oppressive opaqueness" of much contemporary prose "is a moral issue."—New Yorker
  • "Evans's book offers plenty of practical advice for those seeking to improve their writing skills, with a 10-point checklist to encourage a clear approach."—Financial Times
  • "In the tradition of George Orwell, who said that political language is designed to make lies sound truthful, Harry Evans reminds us how important it is to write clearly. Then he shows how. Those of us who have been edited by Harry marvel at his dexterity in unclogging dense prose, and in this book he reveals his secrets."—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
  • "A timely reminder that precision of language is the writer's greatest weapon. Harry Evans' methodical research and wry eye provide an entertaining lesson in intent, measured and exacting. At a time when public debate is shrill and filled by the overly assertive, Evans gives us a treat of a book that, through the use of practical examples, allows us to bathe in a language of clarity. Do I Make Myself Clear? shows that writing remains the gift of the ultimate explorer. Make more time for the journey."—David Walmsley, Editor-in-Chief, The Globe and Mail
  • Harry Evans is one of the great -- indeed legendary -- editors of our time. Over the course of his career, he has edited newspapers, books and magazines, which surely qualifies as a publishing trifecta. All his talents -- and irresistible charm -- are on display in Do I Make Myself Clear? It's much more than a guide to English usage -- it's a companion: informative, delightful and indispensable. Do not hit INT or SEND without it!—Christopher Buckley author of Thank You For Smoking
  • "Read this book before you write another word. As original as it is entertaining, Harold Evans' guided tour of every nuance of our language amounts to a masterly reappraisal of English usage for our times by a consummate editor turned writer."—Anthony Holden editor of Poems that Make Grown Men Cry

  • "Harold (Harry) Evans is a writer and thinker of deep and celebrated accomplishment and marked independence, and his new book on how our government hides behind a word it's never even heard of- prolixity - is acutely on target."—Peggy Noonan author of The Time of Our Lives
  • "The great French writer Émile Zola said that his prose style was "forged on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines," but the anvil of journalism is no use without the hammer of a great editor. Few if any wordsmiths hit harder than Sir Harold Evans. From the foggy corridors of Fleet Street to the lofty heights of Manhattan publishing, he has dedicated his life to hammering sloppy verbiage into plain English. Witty, wonderfully well written, but above all wise, Do I Make Myself Clear? should be required reading for all who scribble, type, or otherwise 'word process.' "—Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford
  • "Clarity and wit have something in common, and it's Harry Evans. He clears a path through the thorny underbrush that stands between us and meaning, and he does it with cutting humor and graceful charm. He certainly does make himself clear, and us, too."—Alan Alda, Actor and Writer

On Sale
May 16, 2017
Hachette Audio

Harold Evans

About the Author

Harold Evans (1928-2020) was a British-born journalist and writer who was editor of the Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981. A graduate of Durham University, he wrote a number of bestselling histories. He followed the late Alistair Cooke in commentaries on America for the BBC. An American citizen after 1993, he held positions as editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly Press, founding editor of the prize-winning Condé Nast Traveler; editorial director of the Atlantic and US News and the New York Daily News; and president and publisher of Random House.

He held the British Press Awards' Gold Award for Lifetime Achievement of Journalists. In 2001 British journalists voted him the all-time greatest British newspaper editor, and in 2004 he was knighted. 

Learn more about this author