David Colton, an editor at USA Today, has a great term for writing that doesn’t get to the point quickly.  He calls it “clearing your throat”.  I heard about it in Tate Linden’s post in the Thingnamer, The blog.   

Loyal On the Dot readers know I am passionate about writing that gets to the point quickly. I am hereby appropriating the phrase “clearing your throat” to refer to writing that misses the mark.  David Colton gets credit for coining the term unless someone else wants to step up and claim coinage. 

Interestingly, now that I’ve been blogging for awhile I’m realizing that many of the best posts don’t get to the point quickly.  But that’s for another day.


2 Responses to Ahem!

  1. Tate Linden says:

    Thanks for the link, Dottie.

    Nice closing thoughts. I completely agree – most of us don’t read (or write) blogs so we can get to the point. Blogs tend to be places where opinions are voiced – not where we get unbiased news (as we might from USA Today.)

    Theres an interesting line you’re making visible. There’s the need in business to quickly get to the point so you can snare someone’s interest – and there’s the need to develop a deep and compelling story, tone, and personality so that people will stay interested.

    I’d be interested in hearing how you might balance the two sides… since it seems to me that one without the other will lead to failure.

  2. Dottie says:

    I’d divide business writing into a couple of categories.

    (1) where you are already engaged with the reader. Reports and emails to colleagues fall in this category. So do letters to your customers. In these situations, I say Go directly to the point. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

    (2) where you are trying to engage the reader. Here, both cleverness and clarity are important. because you have to need to attract the person’s attention in the first place. My pet peeve though is marketing language that is clever but doesn’t make the point — it may briefly get someone’s glance but doesn’t deliver on selling the product. (except for some of those crazy beer ads, which I guess must work.) Once you’ve snagged someone’s attention, a compelling story, tone and personality definitely help people stay interested.

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