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The Write Stuff

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The Write Stuff

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January 2018

By Alan Crawford
Editor of Impact

You’re at a ball game. The ballpark is packed to the rafters. Your team is trailing, but there’s still a chance to get back in it. It’s so late in the game you can’t leave your seat to grab a hotdog, even though you’re dying of hunger. Suddenly, out of nowhere, your team mounts a comeback. Fans are screaming their heads off.

Then you realize this is actually just a boring article about writing.

So, now that you have regained your equilibrium, look at that first paragraph again. You’re in the action, right? You can visualize the whole thing. You can sense the excitement and even begin to care who’s going to win.

But imagine if that paragraph were written the way too many people these days write and even speak.

Instead of a ballpark, you’d be at an “athletic venue” or “sports complex.” Instead of fans, there’d be a “fan base.” And even if you’d make it to the concession stand, you wouldn’t be a ravenous and agitated you, you’d be part of a nameless, characterless “customer base.” Rather than digging into your pocket to fork over $15 for that hotdog (or whatever you pay these days at a stadium), you’re studying the menu’s “price points.”

In addition to being the editor of Impact, Alan Crawford is a published author and journalist. His latest book, How Not to Get Rich, looks at the financial misadventures of Mark Twain.

Now how interested can you be in an “athletic venue,” a “fan base,” a “customer base” and “price points”? You can’t — not if you’re human.

Abstractions are Deadly

The point is this: Abstractions are killing our prose, draining all the human juices from a situation — at precisely the time we’re being instructed to tell stories!

If you want to weave narratives people care about, avoid abstractions. You’ll have to use them once in a while (they’re unavoidable) so don’t use them unless you absolutely have to.

Readers will thank you for it.

Want More Information on This Topic?

Contact Alan Crawford, editor, Impact Newsletter at [email protected]

Additional Resources

Persuasive Writing Workshop – January 23

The Write Stuff – Translating Gobbledygook