You should write like Larry Page in his Google-Alphabet announcement

larry pageGoogle CEO Larry Page’s reorg announcement — about creating a new parent company called Alphabet — is clear, direct, and personal. It’s way better than any press release. You should learn to write like this.

Frankly, I had just been reading all the articles attempting to “clarify” this announcement until I finally read Larry Page’s post on the Google Official Blog. It really is no-bullshit. In its informality and directness, it’s unlike any announcement I’ve ever seen. Here’s the key passage:

[W]e are creating a new company, called Alphabet (http://abc.xyz). I am really excited to be running Alphabet as CEO with help from my capable partner, Sergey, as President.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead.

Page goes on to explain how Alphabet will include a bunch of Google’s “moonshot” projects (longevity, drones, stuff like that). As for Google’s main business (the slimmed down Google):

This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google. A key part of this is Sundar Pichai. Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I’ve been tremendously enjoying our work together. He has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for our Internet businesses. Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google.

Notice how the post is written in the first person, and Larry talks about what “we” will be doing. It’s a very clear explanation and I understand completely. There is no need for separate internal and external explanations, since the whole thing is quite transparent.

From my perspective this is quite clear. As Page writes, “Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things.” Google’s founders want to focus on their portfolio of long-range projects and turn over the main Google business to Pichai. Their company is now a collection of companies, much like Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway or John Malone’s Liberty Media. You may or may not think this is wise, but it’s not that hard to understand.

I’ve got two quibbles with the writing. First, while Page may be “super excited,” he should lose the exclamation points. True, this is informal writing, but I think everyone should have a limit of one exclamation point per 1000 words:

We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for!

Don’t worry, we’re still getting used to the name too!

Settle down, Larry.

And second, the post title, “G is for Google,” sucks. Why not be as clear in the title as you are in the announcement? Here’s a better title suggestion: “Our new corporate structure clarifies our two areas of focus: promising dreams and ‘traditional’ Google stuff.”

This post includes no passive voice, no jargon, no complicated hard-to-parse sentences. While I hope Larry Page is ready to change the world for us, I know he’s set a precedent for management communication. Read this before you write your next press release. Then do a blog post instead.

Here’s the short version, which they probably would have done if they could have gotten away with it:

Sergey and I want to invest Google’s billions in changing the world. We’ll mostly be tinkering with that now. We put Sundar in charge of the parts of Google that make money. Don’t worry, he’s great, you’ll love him!

Photo: Wired.

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  1. “Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) ” How patronizing in content and in form! Direct writing does not use brackets.