Thursday, July 17, 2014

A clear piece of political writing (2)

The mayor of Seattle signs the city's minimum-wage ordinance.

Most people who write about politics use too many arcane words, long sentences, circumlocutions, and uninhabited clauses. They don’t use enough concrete examples. Usually they are careless with their sentence structure, the organization of their paragraphs, and the flow of their entire text. These vices make their writing difficult to read and understand.

Today I show you a nice exception: a brief political news item that is well written, readable and clear: “Labor Supporters Hail Seattle’s Landmark $15/hour wage,” written by Matthew Rothschild and published in The Progressive.

Mr. Rothschild has many virtues, as demonstrated in this news item. He uses a good mix of short and long sentences. His sentence structure and flow are good. He writes in a straightforward manner. The quotations are good. It is a smooth piece of political writing – smooth in the good sense, meaning that the reader glides right through it. (By the way, if you are a beginning writer, be aware that all this is harder than it looks.)

For the record, the article is 379 words long and merits a very good Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) score of 56.0, slightly more readable than Time magazine. Some details: words per sentence, 18.0; characters per word, 4.7; passive sentences, 4%.

I do not know or care whether the article is accurate or inaccurate, or even whether it is honest or dishonest; I am interested in the article only as an example of relatively clear writing.

The Takeaway: Whatever your opinions on the minimum wage, progressive politics or Seattle may be, temporarily turn off the political part of your mind (important) and just the read the article for its diction. If you have the time, read it twice. This kind of exercise helps you improve your writing.

See disclaimer.

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