Employment law attorney Mike Maslanka explains how a specific passage in Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way influences the way he writes.
If you’re going to be writing something, take a look at Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the WayTaoism Books) a copy of which you can pick up at any bookstore. No. 81 from the Tao has been translated as “True words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not true. Experts do not argue; the argumentative are not experts. The knowledgeable are not generalists; generalists are not knowledgeable.” In other words, don’t try to sound smart, just write like you talk.
It reminds me of a passage from a great book by Peggy Noonan, Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style, Substance, and ClarityBusiness & Investing Books). She writes that we need to write and speak “straight and plain and direct.” She writes that when a soldier gets shot in battle, he doesn’t say, “I believe I’ve just been struck by a bullet,” he says, “I’m hit.” Unadorned expression is always the most powerful expression.
Michael Maslanka is a partner in the Dallas, Texas, office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP. He has 30 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases. He is the editor of Texas Employment Law Letter, and he also authors the “Work Matters” blog for Texas Lawyer.