The third instalment in my series on what to read to improve your own writing
The best writing can do many things. It can inform. Entertain. Educate. Inspire. Challenge. And reading the best writing can help you improve your own.
Do you ever read a line and then read it again, straight away, because it was so well written? Because the writer made their point with such beauty and precision that you just had to experience it again? Because you wanted to absorb it in the hope that one day you might create something close to its brilliance?
I do. And I find myself doing it most often when I read Prospect.
I first discovered the magazine when they sent me a perfectly targeted piece of direct mail. It felt exactly as direct mail should. I felt like they knew me. That they’d been inside my head and were relaying what they’d discovered about me.
Obviously, I subscribed. And I discovered some of the best writing I’ve ever read.
What this magazine is about
Prospect covers the latest in politics, economics and current affairs.
It spans the political spectrum and has been described as ‘more readable than the Economist, more relevant than the Spectator and more romantic that the New Statesman.’
Take this, from a short opinion piece by former prime minister John Major. He was writing about the need for tolerance, at the height of the Brexit debate:
Tone matters. It can enthuse or repel. Excite or deflate. Clarify or confuse. From Churchill to Enoch Powell, oratory has often changed opinion – for good and ill.
It is decades since the popular press fully reported speeches in parliament. The speeches may have been dry, often dull but, perhaps by osmosis, policy was understood. “Spin” has replaced informed argument with meaningless phrases: Labour’s “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”; and the Brexit Conservatives’ “Take Back Control” are examples of pitch-perfect absurdity. They convey nothing. They explain nothing. They are worth nothing. And they can mislead.
Clarity–and honesty–is the best policy. By honesty, I mean more than straight-talking. I mean honesty in facing up to challenges; honesty in acknowledging dangers; honesty in admitting the limitations of government. Honesty commands respect. Slogans do not.
Who writes it
Prospect is written by a mix of staff writers, guest writers and regular contributors.
They’re a diverse group that includes politicians, authors, scientists and philosophers. But they have one thing in common: they all write brilliantly. Or at least they think brilliantly and Prospect edits their thoughts into writing that flows like butter off a hot knife. And then strikes you with a thought as piquant as lemon curd.
What the magazine covers
Everything! It covers the most pressing political, social and economic issues along with art, literature, cinema, science, the media, history, philosophy and psychology.
It’s a mix of long, analytic articles and regular columns.
Why you should read it
Both the excellent writing and clever design make Prospect a joy to read. It’s often challenging and always frank and so will make you think as well as delight you.
When they first wrote to me they got me with (among other things) ‘If you enjoy the written word and intelligent surprises, then Prospect is for you.’ And it is exactly that. Intelligent. Surprising. Challenging. Honest. Authoritative. Informative. Balanced. And entertaining.
Why I recommend it
I’m always excited when Prospects lands on my door mat (even more so now they’ve ditched the plastic wrap for a compostable potato starch one).
It expands and refreshes my mind. And, because I’m reading such superb writing, it can only help me improve my own.
Others who recommend it
Michael Palin, who takes it with him on his travels.
Andrew Marr (the BBC presenter) who described it as ‘Political thinking for grown-ups, well beyond the party political playpen.’
David Mitchell – the novelist, not the comedian – who said, ‘The articles are expert, precise and witty. For a novelist, it’s a valuable source of voices, narrative and ideas which I would have to reply on chance to happen across otherwise.’
And Robert McCrum from The Observer who said, ‘That indispensable guide to life, the universe and everything.’
Hello. I’m Sarah Russell, a freelance copywriter from near Cardiff in south Wales.
Miti Ampoma, one of my long-standing clients, said: ‘Sarah, you really get me, for which I’m immensely grateful.’
Like Prospect gets me, I’ll do the same for you.
Call me on: 01873 776 153
Email me at: email@example.com
Connect with me on: LinkedIn
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you found something in it to help or inspire you, or to make you smile. Please feel free to share it.