Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The best writing tip I ever received

In college I had an opportunity to write for a University publication primarily directed to boosters. I was given a pretty solid writing tip, and I've found it useful throughout the years as a way to keep articles interesting.

There's a natural tendency to try to load up information about your article's subject right up front and just get it all out of the way. Subconsciously, I think there's an idea you're being helpful. This is especially true when writing about a specific person or place. A typical early sentence might be:

The event honored John Thompson, a 26-year-old native of St. Petersburg, is a botanist by trade and an avid cricket fan. 

The problem is that having said just about all you have to say about John in that one line, further sentences often fall prey to the monotonous said Thompson or Thompson added etc.

Instead, don't put any of that description --- or as little as possible --- up front. You can (either mentally or literally) make a list of the subject's characteristics and use them as synonyms for the subject's name as you're writing. If you write clearly and consistently you won't even need to reintroduce the subject over and over again. Being a profile piece, it will be clear you're still speaking about the same entity.

John Thompson was recognized at the event for his accomplishments in the field over the past year.

The St. Petersburg native was joined by his mother, father, and two brothers at the event. "It's a pleasure to receive such an honor in the field I've come to love," said the botanist, "it's been a wonderful opportunity."

Have you seen good examples of this?

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