Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating

RaceAhead editor Aric Jenkins says goodbye, and good luck.

But first, here’s your Cicely Tyson memorial week in review, in Haiku.

Cicely Tyson
was never here for any
of that okey doke:

The servile, the weak,
the criminal “Negro” on
stage and screen. What an

I am Rebecca, she said.
I am the struggle

and the dignity
and the strength and the story.
The whole, American

story. The awards
she did not win await her
in heaven. Rest, Queen.

Aric has been a blessing to me and the raceAhead community! I can’t wait to see how he shapes the world next. To all, wishing you a powerfully restful weekend.

Ellen McGirt

In Brief

The top trending subject on Twitter in the U.S. yesterday afternoon was "harsh writing advice." We all need it sometimes, whether you're a reporter filing copy, an executive drafting an all-hands email, or a friend composing a delicate text to the bestie who's convinced they should call up their ex.

Harsh writing advice, "snark isn't wit. Cynicism isn't wisdom," one Twitter user wrote. Harsh writing advice, "writing that is done with the motivation of status or glory is always bad—even if many people think it's good," said another. Harsh writing advice, "being a good writer is only half the battle. The other half is being an overconfident white man who is fluent in the politics of the relevant institutions." Now that's harsh!

Harsh writing advice, quoting others in your introduction is generally not advised. But I can do it because it's my last week at Fortune.

As I prepare to transition from full-time writer and part-time raceAhead editor to full-time editor elsewhere—which I'll share more about on my Twitter in the coming weeks—the subject struck a chord. Now seems the perfect time to gauge what I've learned about writing at this wonderful magazine for the past four years: Write fast, and get that terrible first draft out the way.

Just kidding. Though that works for some people, I hear.

No, but really: my harsh writing advice is that you aren't as smart as you think you are, but you can be if you do what Ellen is always encouraging us to do—the work.

For me, this is what being a reporter has been all about: being borderline embarrassingly ignorant about things, asking people who are impressively knowledgable about said things, absorbing, condensing, growing, and then communicating it all to the audience. As clearly as I can.

Communication is so important in a hyper-online world. Things so easily get taken out of context. Seemingly good intentions get warped into performative reactions. You may recall my piece on Juneteenth over the summer, and how that worked out for some companies putting out vague statements (read: not great). It's not enough to just write. You have to communicate. With your peers, your colleagues, your employees. And sometimes that means taking a step back, listening and learning, before you proceed.

For some writers, this might just sound like permission to procrastinate. But for most among us, I'd consider it an exercise in curiosity. In line with what Ellen has recently been writing about in regards to "candid conversations," think deeply about what you want to communicate, and how might to be the best way to do it.

When you actually, genuinely, think about what you want to say, you have something to say—and that's the difference between great writing and all the rest. Coherent typing is not enough to write well. Communicating an idea, a story, can be. It's okay if you don't know exactly what you want to say at the beginning. Embrace your ignorance. And then do the work.

It has been an honor and privilege to edit this newsletter, work alongside Ellen, and get to know some of you. I have appreciated the messages and tweets throughout. I will miss this community very much, but I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Thank you for reading, and being committed to, or at least interested in, a diverse and equitable world.

All the best,


This edition of raceAhead is edited by Ellen McGirt.

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