Thursday, May 11, 2017

Editing Note on "Bad News Letter": Firing James Comey

External Memorandum

FROM: Richard D. Erlich, Pedant in English Emeritus

TO: Hon. D. J. Trump et al., White House

SUBJECT: Note on "Bad News Letter": Firing James Comey


At least one sentence needs to be rewritten before the letter gets any publicity. "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau."

This is President Trump's sentence, yes? In any case, I suggest replacing it with «The nation and I appreciate greatly your service; still, I concur with the judgment of the leadership of the Department of Justice that you are no longer able to lead the Bureau effectively.»

        * The Russia investigation has nothing to do with firing Mr. Comey (right?), so don't bring it up.

        * It's too personal and/or informal for the context to say, "I greatly appreciate you informing me"; the key thing would be the action, not the person, so that would be "I greatly appreciate" — or "I appreciate greatly" — "your informing me" (possessive with gerund: an "ing"-form acting as a kind of noun).

        * Whether the entire DoJ agrees with the move is something that can and will be argued and can't be determined, the DoJ being pretty abstract. You have documentation on the view of its two main leaders.

        * There's nothing ungrammatical about splitting an infinitive, but you needn't do so here, and reuniting "to lead" makes for easier reading and allows the sentence to climax with the important word "effectively."

        * Saying "not able" to lead effectively could imply he is not and never was, a bit of a rebuke not only to Mr. Obama — which works for you — but to the U.S. Senate who confirmed him; "no longer" avoids that potential problem.

This letter will be examined closely, and the current wording of this sentence is non-professional and rather blatantly neither written nor seriously reviewed by professionals. Your base audience won't care, but you have them anyway; potentially significant demographics among your opponents will at least sense the casual contempt and resent it: presumably the office of the President, to say nothing of the President's personal wealth, would cover editing. (As I like to say, "Everybody needs an ediotor.")

Of course, if the point is to piss off opponents, go for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment