Writing easy-to-understand and memorable RFP responses isn’t easy. The place to start is to keep things as simple as we can.
“Write drunk; edit sober.”
The first time I read this little gem somewhere online, I laughed aloud. Working on RFP responses, I’d often wondered what was wrong with the experts whose drafts I was editing, and what would explain the stream-of-consciousness jumbles I often encountered. Maybe this was the answer: They were drunk.
Not surprisingly, this saying is widely attributed online to a writer who made no secret of his drinking habits: Ernest Hemingway. But it seems that this attribution, like so many others, is suspect. Instead, this version likely originated in a Peter de Vries novel.
“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”
The character speaking was, apparently, based on Dylan Thomas: as reasonable a literary link as Hemingway, I’d say.
Who took it from this lengthy version to the one that now appears on t-shirts? Dunno. I do know that it’s much more memorable in this four-word form, as are other simple sayings that set up a similar contrast.
Measure twice; cut once.
Buy low; sell high.
Work fast; eat slow.
Does our physiological bilateral symmetry predispose us to think in binary terms—a leaning to “on one hand, on the other” thinking? Does this structure subtly appeal to the left and right hemispheres of our brains? Or are we just not smart enough to hold more than four words in our heads at a time? Dunno.
I do know that we often make our RFP responses too complicated, and end up failing to communicate simply by trying to communicate too much.
You know what Hemingway said, right?
“Keep it simple, stupid!”
Or maybe it was Dylan Thomas. Dunno.