Monday, November 2, 2009

Concise writing is usually clear writing (9) – Alex Beam, literate newsman

Here’s another great example of clear, concise writing. It’s from Alex Beam, a columnist for The Boston Globe. He is the paper’s resident curmudgeon – and one of the few literate newsmen still working for the mainstream press.

Background: Mr. Beam was recently assigned to the political beat. Many of his long-time readers will be delighted: In Boston, politics equals corruption, and Mr. Beam is a master of irony and sarcasm.

His first piece from the political beat ran October 23, 2009. Even if you aren’t familiar with the weasels he names in this piece, it is worth reading purely for entertainment.

Here are the first 181 words:

“So my maiden assignment is an expense-account-funded pub crawl. Covering politics sounds like fun!

“My first stop of the evening lands me at Jasper White’s Summer Shack on Alewife Parkway in Cambridge, just in time for Senator Anthony Galluccio’s fund-raiser. ‘Free Beer and Wine, Compliments of Senator Galluccio,’ the invitation reads. Understandably, I am psyched for a wing-ding.

“Yes, it does seem like an odd moment for the senator to be popping corks and tapping kegs. It was just a few weeks ago that the former Cambridge mayor left the scene of a hit-and-run traffic accident, prompting the Globe and others to remind readers of his previous encounters with the DUI [driving under the influence] laws.

“Astonishingly, Senator Galluccio didn’t seem happy to see me. After some gettin’-to-know-ya banter, I asked him about the advisability of holding a fund-raiser in a bar so soon after his traffic mishap. As he ushered me to the door – politely, gently, firmly – I heard the words: ‘No comment . . . off the record . . . this isn’t a bar; it’s a restaurant.’ ’’

By the way, the piece rates a very high Flesch Reading Ease score of 60.9.

The Takeaway: To improve the clarity of your writing, spend at least ten minutes a day reading aloud from writers who write clearly, such as Alex Beam. You will see, hear and feel the stark contrast between careful, grown-up diction and the careless, infantile diction that besets us every day. If you would like a list of recommended writers and works, please email me at the address shown in my profile. Ask for my “List of Writers to Absorb.” I will respond via email.

No comments:

Post a Comment