Nouns and verbs, Nouns and verbs

We can’t say those words enough. They are the ones that propel good writing. Journalists know this, but even they often lean too hard on adjectives and adverbs. Those are fine in small doses, like horseradish, or chocolate sprinkles. But too often in corporate writing and marketing, the nouns are nondescript and the verbs are passive, and the effect is, well, see the photo below. We want the nouns to announce themselves. We want the verbs to ditch their adverb crutches and run.

Find the Lede

That’s not a typo. Journalists use lede to describe the first paragraph of a story. Like the name Oregon, no one knows the origin. Industry lore is that editors wanted to avoid confusion with lead, which has many meanings. Finding the lede in a story can be like finding obscure origins. Sometimes it jumps out. Other times it hides, and gets buried. We know ledes when we see them, and we put them atop everything we create. No matter what you write, the first sentence is the most important. Miss with that one, and you lose your audience.

eschew jargon

During much of the last century, the Journal of Commerce and the Wall Street Journal had similar influence and circulation. Now, it's difficult to find anyone who reads the JoC, much less subscribes. The Wall Street Journal won because it wrote for everyone, not just finance professionals. Before Rupert Murdoch bought it, the Journal was crafted better than the New York Times. In every story about the bond market, the Journal explained that when prices fall, the yield on bonds rises, even though every bond trader knows that. Many people think words like nearshoring, disintermediation, social graph and bounce rate make them sound smart. They might, to a small group of experts. But they will end up like the Journal of Commerce unless they explain those terms to bigger audiences.