Great column from Roy Peter Clark on Poynter.org. Regarding the MoveOn.org Petraeus ad, he writes:
I think what we have here is more than a failure to communicate. It’s a seduction by creativity, an insincerity mated to hyperbole to meet the demands of a snarky and polarized political culture. The headline writer should have followed the advice, almost a century old now, of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who lectured his Cambridge students that “style … can never be … extraneous ornament … Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
In other words: Stop showing off. Never permit clever language to distort your message.
The MoveOn.org writer should indeed have written the phrase “General Betray Us,” showed it off to friends and colleagues, and then murdered that little darling, burying it and leaving possible exhumation for another day. I make this case as someone who leans left of center, but who thinks the characterization of the general as a traitor is as reckless and dishonest as the accusation that those who oppose the war are hurting the troops and lending aid and comfort to the enemy.
Murder your darlings. Good advice.