lunes, 29 de junio de 2009

Can you write effectively?

by
Alfredo Ascanio
(resumen del libro THE MAGAZINE ARTICLE, de Robert P. Crawford, McGraw-Hill,1931)

Why learn to write? that sounds like a foolish question, but before passing it by too lightly, think it over. It does not mean penmanship, nor does it mean simply the casting of words, phrases, and sentences into paragraphs.

But it does mean this: Can you write effectively? Can you influence another person through writing or speaking?

In whatever line of work you engage, you may have the best ideas in the world, but if you cannot write them down or explain them by word of mouth so that people will understand and be influenced by them, you will probably not accomplish much.

The average person believes that writing for publication is a mysterious sort of thing. People are born writers, it is said. But like almost any other line of work, very, very much can be learned. Some individuals show more aptitude for it than others, but nearly everyone with a working knowledge of English can accomplish something. And there are few lines in which effort properly applied will show such quick and tangible results.

This article deals with the magazine article. Most important of all, this article aims to show you how to dig down to the bottom of a subject, assimilate large amounts of material quickly and readily, and hand the material over to the reader in an interesting form. It will show you how to secure crisp, well-defined ideas, and how to keep your writing from becoming commonplace. You are to learn to write interestingly. These things will be invaluable to you, no matter what line of work you may later take up.

The Idea

Newspaper reporters often gravitate into the business of writing for magazines because they have this sense of knowing what will make a good story. In newspaper work, this is known as a “nose for news,” or news sense. In magazine writing, as you will learn later, this same sense exists, but in a much broader way.

Editors decline essays, articles, and papers submitted to them because they do not mean anything to the great mass of the people in the country today.

What interests people? To insure acceptance, a manuscript must fit a particular magazine or newspaper; that is, it must some appeal to that publication’s readers. So we are going to simplify this matter by dividing articles into four main types:

1. Articles that deal with subjects that are unique, new, out of the ordinary, or unusually interesting.
2. Articles the primary purpose of which is to impart useful knowledge.
3. Articles concerning or written by interesting personalities.
4. Articles that depend for their success not so much on subject matter as on the way in which they are written.

Whether in writing, it is the idea that counts. This article deals with the rather simple matter of writing articles. But before we get through, we are going to learn, rather definitely, just how to discover an Idea for an article. Then we shall learn how to develop it, and finally how to inveigle some unsuspecting editor into sending us a good congratulation.

The “nose for news or article” is the first requisite of a good newspaper reporter and is the first requisite of the reporter writer. This is the old example of the fact that a dog biting a man would not be news, but a man biting a dog would make a firs-rate item for a daily newspaper.

The articles that are easiest to sell are those that “feature” something or somebody, or aid in accomplishing something. The article, which deals with abstract ideas, usually falls down because it lacks “backbone”.

The first task of any writer is to secure the reader’s attention. His second task is to hold that interest throughout the article. And, very important, the writer must remember that the same things that catch the reader’s attention when he opens a newspaper are naturally those things that catch the editor’s attention when he sifts a manuscript out of the morning mail.

There are four ways by which this reader attention is secured: (1) by the title of the article: (2) by the photographs accompanying it ;(3) by the name of the author; (4) by the beginning of the article, or the lead, as it is called.
If the attention is not secured, all is lost. And the article has failed in its purpose. Keep in mind the reader.

Shorter paragraphs and vigor

The tendency today is toward shorter paragraphs. Some well-known editorial writers and others go so far as to make practically every sentence a paragraph. The main thing to remember is that paragraphs should not be drawn out to too great length. Break tem up.

Writing today is much more vigorous than the writing of a few generations ago.

If you have anything to say, say it without fear or apology or imitation of fine writing. And as far as possible, use the active rather than the passive voice. This will insure greater vigor and choice of proper words.