Writing Tool #2: Order words for emphasis

You know what they say about real estate, location, location, location. See what I did there? Clark’s suggestion is that the most powerful words should be at the beginning or end of our sentences and paragraphs.  In that sentence it’s the most important thing, location.

That sentence could read, The most important part of real estate is where you locate. Not the same for sure. Some of the reason is because we’ve lived with the first location expression for so long it’s become familiar, but upon Clark’s guidance, I would argue its familiar because of the structure.  Clark suggests that the period acts as a stop sign, making you pause on the word before.  My Disney princess daughters understand this when they say “Best. Day. Ever.”

bestdayever

Cal Newport is another favorite writer of mine.  A  great example of how blogging with focus helps you develop a writing niche. In So Good They Can’t Ignore You he writes.

“Follow your passion” might just be terrible advice.

Newport waits until the end of that sentence to share the idea that following our passion is – wait, what – terrible? I need to read more because Newport’s written a good hook.

Stephen King is a master of many things, and he too orders words well.  Clark suggests that the end of a paragraph and all that white space around it, also brings attention to the words there.  This is from King’s 11/22/63:

I spent August and September of that presidential election year driving the Sunliner around Dallas, apartment-hunting (even after all this time sorely missing my GPS unit and frequently stopping to ask for directions). Nothing seemed right. At first I thought that was about the apartments themselves. Then, as I began to get a better sense of the city, I realized it was about me.
King introduces the idea of the city as being full of grit and grime – especially where our hero is going – but we find that the roughness is actually in him.
Within non-fiction my favorites are A.J. Jacobs and Malcolm Gladwell.  The former who can add the humorous twist at the beginning or end, like a bartender can effortlessly add a peel of orange to a fruity drink.  The latter who introduces the key part at the end or beginning with a heavy thud that swings the balance of your thoughts. With Gladwell the idea is like a large man who settles into your canoe and disturbs your thoughts.

As a tool this also works for quotes. “Begin with a good quote.” Clark writes on page 17, “Hide attribution in the middle. End with a good quote.”

That’s not very clever on my part, but serves as an example.


These writing tools are from Roy Peter Clark’s wonderful Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.  My examples are like Hostess cupcakes compared to Clark’s professional wedding cake.  I’m the $20 Gucci knockoff to Clark’s Italian leather.  I’m the nobody who’s written nothing, he’s the pro who’s written it all.  

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