Henry R. Luce

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

As I get older—and my time on this planet gets shorter—I go berserk when people promise one thing in writing, deliver something else and waste my time.

At right "IN THE NEWS" is the lede of Howard Shapiro's review of "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller at the University of Delaware, roughly an hour's drive from my house in center city Philadelphia.  

I wanted to know one thing quickly: was this production worth the trip?

Of the 403-word review, the first 88 words are devoted to the excruciatingly dull details of how Shapiro got stuck in stop-and-go 8 mph traffic that caused him to miss Act I.

Shapiro spends the next 94 words dumping all over Arthur Miller's first act—which he has not seen:

Ah, yes, the babbling, daydreaming Willy Loman, aging badly from a hard life of sales on the road, is in his Brooklyn house, frightening his wife with his erratic behavior. He's also yelling at his grown boysparticularly Biff, who had been Willy's great hope and now is his constant disappointment.

In all, 182 words—or 45 percent of this supposed review—are expended (1) highlighting Howard Shapiro's self-described inability to keep an appointment and (2) wasting my time.

Shapiro and his editor—if such an animal exists in the bankrupt Philadelphia Inquirer—should be fired for letting this irrelevant drivel see print.

My message to Howard Shapiro—and to everyone that writes for public consumption (as opposed to private diaries or journals):

  • Consider the readers needs and wants before your own
  • Ruthlessly self-edit, because most businesses do not have professional editors.

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