I have spent most of my daytimes this week on the phone, and doing my actual work in the evening. Spending all day in phone meetings gives you hot ears; it also gives you the opportunity to write down some of the funny things people say. The other day I managed to capture perhaps the finest example of mixed-metaphor business speak I have ever heard. Here it is:

We need something concrete, even straw-manish. I think we’re all trying to get there, you know, what’s the really crystal deliverable?

I was reminded of this polemic about writing, by Clive James. He really hammers home the need to be consistent in your metaphors. He was inspired to write it by the following sentence that appeared in a piece of tennis analysis in the Sunday Telegraph 2001:

Now, the onus is on Henman to come out firing at Ivanisevic, the wild card who has torn through this event on a wave of emotion…

He calls this the “perfectly bad sentence,” as it leaps from metaphor to metaphor even within the same clause. He spends good time eviscerating it, but the rest of the essay may be more helpful as it amounts to a quick-fire guide to putting together a good piece of writing.