Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Warm-ups: Edit thyself

Writers often warm up to a topic by scribbling a bit of nonsense. It gets the words flowing. Oww's advice today is always edit that stuff (find the delete key on the keyboard's top right region) before publishing. Here's this morning's column opener by a newspaper editor.

Hey everyone, it's the beginning of a new week and we're already more than halfway through September. Can you believe it?

So with time sliding by so quickly and the number of events ramping up, let's briefly look at what's coming up."

Oh, pain. Where to begin? I'll skip over "Hey everyone," because we're country, and the editor is indulging in a bit of homegrown vernacular. And, the English teacher in me will try to overlook both forgotten commas. After all, it's her column, right?

But, let's look at the proposition that we've reached the beginning of a new week. Uhmm, it's Tuesday. My wall calendar puts Sunday at the start of each week. Monday is day two. Tuesday is day three. We're more than 40 percent through this week. If the editor prefers a New Testament perspective and calls Sunday the seventh day, we're still two days into this one.

Even in folksy columns, readers like the news nugget near the top, say, in the first sentence or so. This editor finishes her crucial first sentence with no hint of any real news. Yes, indeedy by golly, we are more than half way through the month.

Perhaps to inject suspense, the editor postpones the news by asking: "Can you believe it?" The answer is, "Yes, dear, I sure can. And, I'm not even much surprised." Maybe she's going to write about how she doesn't believe it? No. The warm-up flows on.

The second paragraph features twin cliches: time is "sliding by" and events are "ramping up." But these old saws haven't made enough noise, so she inserts a loose rhyme and an ear-catching echo: "ramping up...coming up."

Excuse me, I can't go on. I have an earache, a headache, an eye ache and a stomach ache.

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