• Get Your Story Straight

Get to the Point (Please!)

Writers and bloggers, can we just get to the point already? We’re all busy here – what do you want?

There’s something to be said for an artful opening that engages and intrigues. Too often, writers think that means making us plow through long openers that only engage their sense of self-importance.

Or, as we used to say in newspapers, are you burying the lede? (And here’s why I spell “lead” that way.)

Have you ever desperately searched online for a recipe you needed quickly – meatballs, say – and gotten stuck in a food blogger’s long, boring story about her grandmother and the old Italian folk songs she used to sing while making meatballs? Or the villa in Tuscany where the writer fell in love with a handsome artist name Paolo while learning to make her own pesto from basil grown right in Paolo’s garden?

By the time you get to the recipe, you’re ready to just tap Uber Eats.

Here’s my point: Stop annoying your readers with overblown openers.

  • Puffing up and bloating your copy with extremely unnecessary adjectives and egregious adverbs, stuffed in like fillers stretching a recipe to – let’s be honest — make a minimum word count. Yo0u know the SEO analyzer’s always gonna get you anyway.
  • Fantasizing that readers care about your inner dialogue about where to go on vacation, what to wear, what to do. Especially when you aren’t even writing about vacations

Just this morning, I found an article about the art exhibition “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” coming to the U.S. After scrolling through what felt like miles of copy on my phone, I finally got to the date when it will be in Miami.

I get it. The site wants me to stay there as long as possible, and that means making me scroll and scroll to what I want. Trouble is, I didn’t actually read what I was scrolling through; my eyes simply sharpened to stop as soon as I saw some kind of date.

People simply do not have time to wait for you to make your point. Most who come online are here to get information, not for a literary experience. Yet even the most literary of blogs, even the longest long-form content, has to make its words count. There has to be a reason for every word you use. It had better be a good one.

How to Write a Lean, Clean Lede

Internet users tend to skim rather than read as they would a printed book or magazine, so your writing has to be concise and easily understood. It still has to grab their attention, give them a reason to stay with you and ignore all that other shiny content popping up.

Here are some ways you can do that:

Think visually. Imagine someone reading you on their phone, which is how many people now consume content. Don’t make them scroll down just to get to your point.

Keep it to 25 words or less. That should be enough to say what you want, and it will keep your piece visually inviting. My lede on this post is 19 words long.

Start with the end. If you choose to start with a story, don’t tell the whole tale. Pick out the most essential or dramatic point and lead with that. Next, deliver the message that the story is intended to illustrate and then tell the rest of the story.

The Bottom Line

As always, put yourself in your reader’s place. Does it make you want to keep reading? If it doesn’t hold your attention, why in the wide, wide world of words would someone else stay with it?