Bernoff's starting point in the book is that the way we read today does not align with the way many of us write. He notes that most people only spend about 30 seconds with an individual piece of reading material. After my initial alarm at this statistic, I examined my own reading habits and realized its truthfulness. When I am reading the news online each morning, I tend to click on a headline, read the first paragraph or so, skim the main ideas of middle passages, and look at the final few sentences. I read enough to get what I need from the article, then I move on to another. Bernoff says that our style of reading in the 21st century should influence the way we learn to write in school, at work, and in our personal lives.
Bernoff claims that anything that wastes the reader's time is bull---- and should be cut out of your writing. He spends several chapters elucidating various examples of bull----, such as writing filled with jargon, writing that is too long, writing that has "weasel words" (those that are vague and unhelpful), writing that is too passive, and others. Overall, writing that lacks clarity and directness should be avoided at all costs.
The back half of the book is less challenging and offers more standard writing advice, mostly regarding editing, collaborating, and other process-oreinted tips. Bernoff also provides some specific samples of writing from the business world (emails, sales pitches, press releases, etc.) that are helpful models to follow.
While I certainly agree with his application of these ideas for the business world, I wonder to what extent they would work in college classes. After all, much of the writing we do is in the form of long expository or argumentative essays that no one will ever actually read. Only lifelong academics and a few other types of researchers ever write anything in their careers like what we make them do in our classes. So what's the point? He would certainly call this bull----. Bernoff's book has really made me rethink the length and purpose of writing tasks we require of students. I will ruminate on his ideas further, but I see a significant change in my syllabus in the near future.
Take a look at Writing Without Bull----, and start improving the quality of your writing today.