Opinion | How to avoid a covfefe kerfuffle

Opinion | How to avoid a covfefe kerfuffle

US President Donald Trump’s “Poland speech” earlier this month was statesmanlike, lauding the resilience of that nation, and reinforcing the importance of upholding the legacy of Western civilisation.

Authorship has been attributed to current senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. But it has also been suggested, “while Miller might have held the pen for the Poland speech, the influence of Bannon, implicit or otherwise, is unmistakable”. Bannon is Steve Bannon, Trump’s former senior adviser.

It’s always handy having a good speechwriter or two, and Mr Trump, if nothing else, knows how to deliver a speech that’s been well crafted. Always handy having someone holding a pen, too. Well-crafted writing has played an inestimable role in the endurance of Western civilisation. Nearly 600 years after Gutenberg’s printing press the “Poland speech” was reproduced almost instantaneously and published around the world.

But when crafting and delivering his own communication, the President is less Churchillian. Writing in The New York Times last week, Charles M. Blow said: “Listening to Trump speak is a dizzying experience for anyone interested in candour, clarity or concision. It’s as if he puts language through a meat grinder and what emerges is nearly unrecognisable, in either comprehension or certitude.”

Mr Trump uses Twitter incessantly. There is no media filtering of his messages as they go directly to 34 million followers. Fair enough, but all his messages are still analysed. Case in point is the mystery “covfefe” tweet.

He would be better off writing his thoughts in longhand. As David Butterfield noted in The Spectator Australia: “Several studies have shown that the more fluent the complex process of handwriting becomes, the more brainpower is devoted to cognitive activity: to write better really is to think better.”

In relation to writing, Barry Hill penned this in a recent review of Dennis Glover’s The Last Man In Europe: A Novel: “A good student of Orwell’s famous essay Politics and the English Language, Glover, a former Labor speechwriter and adviser, writes sentences in the active voice, resists abstract nouns, is chary of rhetoric … and constructs paragraphs that ring with intellectual and emotional integrity.”

Don’t risk “covfefe”. Your speechwriter is your ability to self-edit. Use a pen first so your communication takes pole position.

Darrell Croker is senior coach at Write For Impact.