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Maddening McWilliams

I'm currently reading The Pope's Children by David McWilliams. Published in the latter half of 2005, it's probably already a bit out of date but I'm a fairly recent import and regularly find myself playing catch-up with the chasm between Ireland the idea and Ireland the reality. Aside from this country being well off the news radar of my own, this information gap is mostly the result of virtually my entire prior knowledge of Ireland coming from The Commitments and, more worryingly, Father Ted.

Halfway in to The Pope's Children I'm finding it infuriating, highly amusing, self-important and with patches of rather clever thinking. But the thing that strikes me most about this book is how much better it could have been at the hands of a strict editor. Phrases are repeated at least every second page, and it leaves one with the feeling of a schoolteacher drumming facts into your head - rather than a lively conversation with a sharp witted friend, which is what the book at its best might have been.

In other words, a little less might have made this book a great deal more.

In an attempt to create a unifying aesthetic for the post WWI era, German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe made the phrase "less is more" famous as his motto. And although some might find his style a bit austere for the realities of the human condition, it's a statement that should be a mantra for 99% of business communications and writers of non-fiction.

De-cluttering text will bring ideas across with greater strength and clarity. If the key message or idea is clear, then it needn't be repeated over and over again. Yet stripped down language shouldn't make it any less lively - it is the careful choice of words that matters most.

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