Don’t dance around it, get to the point

When you want someone to consider your opinion, you need to get right to the point.  Made to Stick, an excellent book for ideas on how to write more pursuasively, demonstates that news reporters are taught to begin their reports with the most important information, then follow up with the details.  They use a story that is rumored to come from the Civil War of news reporters who would try to telegraph information regarding the latest developments to their offices, only to be cut off when lines of communication were interrupted by the war.  The lesson learned?  Begin with the point you intend to make, then fill in the details. 

Halfway through his recent opinion piece in The Royal Gazette Opposition Leader Kim Swan summarizes

The point here is not to say "We told you so," but to say that the Government has shown little willingness to confront emerging economic realities. Bermuda needs a Government with both hands on the wheel in these dangerous times.

The problem is that the first half of the opinion piece comes across exactly as an "We told you so" and it’s largely taken verbatim from the mouth of Shadow Finance Minister, E.T. (Bob) Richards.  If the point of the piece isn’t to say "we told you so" then why even bother doing so?  If one were to completely cut the "we told you so" portion out of the piece and get right to the point, it’d be more likely people would actually read past the first few paragraphs.

[T]he Government has shown little willingness to confront emerging economic realities. Bermuda needs a Government with both hands on the wheel in these dangerous times.

Now that’s an opening: it gets right to the point.  Right after that, the piece has some teeth and the much needed passion that was missing throughout the first half.

In these modern times people have attention spans that match that of the communications lines of the Civil War.  If you don’t get to your point quickly, often times you’ll lose your audience as they’ll wonder why they’re reading what you have to say.  By getting right to the point, you’re clear on your position and you may have hooked them enough to want to find out why you hold that position.  At the minimum, at least you got your point across.   In the end, isn’t that the point?

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