April 17, 2007

Honestly, don't bother

I've always liked Robert Wright (though not enough to sit through a Blogginheads session). So I was distressed to read the first paragraph of his guest op-ed in today's Times.

I have a theory: the more e-mail there is, the more Prozac there will be, and the more Prozac there is, the more e-mail there will be. Maybe I should explain.

At least he didn't give it its own paragraph .

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I don't get it?

What's wrong with telling someone what's coming--either in life of in literature. It makes for a smooth transition. (Kinda like "Heads up, I'm going to throw you the ball now.")It seems consistent with The Three Rules of explanation:

1) Tell them what you are going to tell them.

2)Tell them

3)Tell them what you told them.

As an editor, my pet peeve is the expression "The fact that..." As in: "The fact that people say 'Let me explain,' typically suggests they have introduced a potentially puzzling concept and are now about to pay it off."

(Just my 2 cents, anyway)

The 3 rules are about structuring an argument. "Let me explain" is just needless throat clearing. If you're writing a column it's in order to explain something, so just do it. I have the same problem with "in my opinion" (which you see more on blogs than in print). Who else's opinion would it be?

Also, I think it usually conveys a subtext of "I've just said something way too complex an innovative for mere readrs to understand, so let me dumb it down for you." When in fact it's usually not that complicated.

And if the statement really DOES require explanation, as in this case, I would prefer that the writer come up with a clear and understandable way of making his point in the first place. Why lead with the confusing, obscure formulation, knowing that you're just going to have to explain it?

Has anyone ever sat through a Bloggingheads session? I mean, I know they must have traffic statistics about how many people visit a page and start watching one, but are there any statistics about how many people actually finish? Because I'm guessing the number would be between zero and zero.

Inclusive, that is.

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