Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Bait

“Every reader who picks up a piece of writing is starting out on a journey. Unlike most travelers, however, he is entirely dependent on someone else to tell him why he is going, where he is going, and how he is going to get there . . . If [the writer] has ever had to make his living by putting one word after another on a piece of paper, he knows that it is helpful to make his writing correct, gratifying to make it stylistically pleasing, profitable to make it interesting, but absolutely mandatory to make it clear and sequential. He knows that of all the timid creatures of the deep forest, the reader is the timidest, the most likely to sniff the bait from about a hundred yards away and then disappear. If the bait (the first sentence) is not outstandingly toothsome, if the next little bite is not hooked to it, and the next to that, and so on until the doors of the trap (the conclusion) snap shut on the furry little creature (the . . . reader, of course), the hunter may as well give up hunting and become a supervisor or a top administrator. Best of all, he can become a teacher of writing.”

--Dr. Calvin D. Linton, Effective Revenue Writing


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