February 08, 2014

Write like you speak

Cartoon of Simon Hoggart by Morten Morland (@mortenmorland)
During a 2010 interview with the late Christopher Hitchens at The Arch hotel in London, George Eaton said that Hitchens credited Simon Hoggart, the Guardian's parliamentary sketch-writer, with improving his prose (Kingsley Amis, casting a critical eye over his son's friends, called him "the one who can talk but can't write"). Hitchens said:
"I think it was at dinner at his house, some time in the late Seventies, I'd written a piece in the New Statesman and Hoggart said, 'Good piece, I agree with you, you've made a strong case this week. But I thought it was a bit dull.' And I bridled, 'What do you mean, dull? I was making a strong argument for the cause of the labour movement. Dullness doesn't come into it.' He replied: 'No, the thing is it's not as amusing to read you as it is to have a conversation with you. Why don't you try and write more as you talk?' That insight stayed with me."
Of that, George Eaton said:
"For that, and much else, we are indebted to Hoggart."

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