‘Just enough’ isn’t good enough

By · Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

not teaching,
still THINKING …

When a special occasion comes around and we order a roast to entertain, we always order more than the suggested number of pounds per person who will be seated at the table. Usually the standard is given as 1/2 pound per person. We make it 1 pound per person. The thinking goes:

That practice of ordering more than we need has gotten us through many a meal without worry — well, at least about the roast.

“Just enough” isn’t good enough. It’s the same with storytelling, too.

As editors, we always encouraged more quotes in a reporter’s notebook than might actually be published. And for those quotes to get in the notebook, we encouraged reporters to interview more people than only a couple or a few.

Why? Because you always want more than you need.

Today with digital, which offers links and options to read more or less, it’s even easier to offer more, and it’s less likely that material won’t be published for space reasons.

As we say in our “Think Like an Editor” book:

“When you read and write stories, you listen for and hear voices. They humanize our work. That’s why there’s a premium not just on collecting good quotes, but also on placing one or two of the very best ones high in a story, in the opening paragraphs. We all know good quotes when we see them or hear them, and we intuitively know how important they are to our work.”

Not a writer or an editor? You’re still a reader, and you intuitively have high expectations for stories that you read.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Comments are closed.