How To Be A Better Writer: 6 Tips From Harvardâ€™s Steven Pinker
Eric Barker stashed this in Diabolical Plans For World Domination
3) Donâ€™t Bury The Lead
Yeah, itâ€™s an old saying from journalism. Whatâ€™s it mean?Â Tell the reader what your pointÂ is. And tell them early.
What I didnâ€™t know was that this isnâ€™t just an old journalism saying â€” itâ€™s alsoÂ backed by research.
People need a reference point so they can follow what youâ€™re saying. Without it theyâ€™re lost.
Readers always have to fill in the background, read between the lines, connect the dots. And that means that theyâ€™re applying their background knowledge to understanding the text in question.Â If they donâ€™t know which background knowledge to apply, any passage of writing will be so sketchy and elliptical, that itâ€™ll be incomprehensible. And thatâ€™s why journalists say, â€śDonâ€™t bury the lead.â€ťÂ Basically, a writer has to make it clear to the reader what the topic of the passage is and what the point of the passage is. That is, the writer has to have something to talk about and the writer has to have something to say.
Feel like that will kill the suspense? Again,Â stop trying to be clever and just be clear.Â
Suspense isnâ€™t useful if people have no idea what youâ€™re talking about and quit reading after the first paragraph.
A lot of writers are reluctant to do that. Theyâ€™re reluctant to say something like, â€śThis paper is about hamsters,â€ť or whatever the paper is about. Because they feel that kind of spoils the suspense.Â But unless youâ€™re a really skilled mystery writer or a really good joke teller, itâ€™s good not to try to build up suspense and then have a sudden epiphany where it all makes sense. The reader should really know where the writer is taking them as they proceed.
How soon should you say what the topic is? Soon. Really soon. Not too far from the beginning.
Funny that this is point #3.