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Friday, January 6, 2017

Can you write a three-word intro? Do three-word intros work?

Here is the three-word intro Sam Borden wrote for a golf story in The New York Times:
It was in.


To understand why it is a great intro, you will need to read a little bit more. But don't take my word for it. Instead let a master, the man I consider my journalism guru, Roy Peter Clark, guide you through the story's spectacular structure. Here is Clark's post: Want a lesson in focusing your writing? Read this hole-in-one lead.

PS: Marvel too at the nut graf in the original news report  again, just three words.

  • Learn more about Roy Peter Clark: The power of writing. Commits students can also borrow from our library three wonderful books written by Clark: Help! for Writers, How to Write Short, and The Glamour of Grammar.
  • On New Year's Eve, Roy Peter Clark retired from Poynter, a legendary journalism institute. His first piece since retirement was published six days later: 40 things I learned about the writing craft in 40 years. There are so many great points on the list, these three especially:

8. Tools not rules: We could think of writing as carpentry, learning how to use a set of tools. Rules were all about what is right and what is wrong. Tools are all about cause and effect, what we build for the audience.

9. Reports vs. stories: Reading scholar Louise Rosenblatt described a distinction I adapted to journalism: that reports were crafted to convey information — pointing you there. Stories were about vicarious experience, a form of transportation — putting you there. 

19. Emphatic word order: The journalist with news judgment decides what is most interesting or most important. That judgment can be conveyed in word order, placing the key words at the beginning or end. Not “The Queen is dead, my lord.” But “The Queen, my lord, is dead.”

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