Write It Right!
When I started reading The New York Times on Sunday, Aug. 30, my brain kept bumping into articles that were making no sense.
Was the problem myself, having just turned 74? Or was it poor writing and editing on the part of the Times.
After careful analysis, I discovered that editorial excellence in The New York Times has deteriorated right along with its finances.
Poor writing in print media—memos, white papers, letters, reports, newspapers and books—is relatively harmless.
“Today’s $1 newspaper is tomorrow’s birdcage liner,” wrote Doc Searls, blogger, columnist and co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto.”
But if our written material—riddled with mistakes and non sequiturs—makes it to the Internet, it can plague us all the way to the grave and beyond.
A Book Proposal Rejected
Several years ago, I wrote a book proposal: “WRITE IT RIGHT: What Authors Can Learn from the Great Copywriters.”
I sent it off to a couple of publishers and got turned down. A top editor at W. W. Norton & Co. sniffed, “There’s nothing our authors can learn from copywriters.”
With 400,000 titles a year being published, I said the hell with it. The pitch sits with a number of other projects-in-waiting in my files.
Too bad. Copywriters—especially the great direct response copywriters—know how to push emotional hot buttons, grab readers by the throat and not let go until action is taken. For example, here’s the late Bill Jayme’s lede for his letter that offers a free issue of the newly revamped Fortune:
It’s a little thing called success.
It’s no longer having to spell out your name.
Or having to say what company you’re with. Or having to hand out your card. Or having to wait in reception rooms.
It’s commanding a generous expense account, a seat up front when flying, a key to the corporate suite. It’s even wearing a turtleneck to work — and next day, everyone else does.
Success. If you’re determined to carve out a slice of success for yourself, Fortune can help you do it, as nothing else around can.