Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
Sports Pages Provide Writing Tips
For examples of colorful contemporary writing, look to the sports pages. However, with the pressure of deadlines, sports reporters don't always convey what they intended to convey. To make sure that you say what you mean when you write for work, incorporate the tips outlined in the following examples.
Example 1: "Yes, Kraft would have joined a group of owners that includes Al Davis and Donald Sterling as the only professional North American teams to sue their league, but neither of those lightning rods had to deal with a dictator on the level of Goodell, a power-hungry falsehood of integrity who has the ability to hide behind his league's tainted shield and the billions of dollars that his 31 other owners bathe themselves in."
The Problems: Purple prose; character assassination. The writer charges Goodell with five exaggerated misdeeds. Do not attack someone's character verbally or in writing. Focus on the problem, and describe it in straightforward language that addresses underlying causes. Also mention potential solutions. A calm face-to-face conversation is more effective than an emotional email.
The Solution: Kraft would have joined Al Davis and Donald Sterling as the only owners of professional North American teams to sue their leagues. However, neither Davis nor Sterling had to deal with Goodell.
Example 2: "The Bruins still have a year left on the contract of Max Talbot, whom they traded for at the deadline, so he's likely to be on the line - either at center or at wing."
The Problems: Uncertain emphasis; misplaced modifiers; and awkward prepositional phrases.
Solution A: Emphasis is on the contract: The Bruins still have a year left on Max Talbot's contract, so Talbot is likely to be on the line at either center or wing. Talbot was a last minute trade.
Solution B: Emphasis is on the contract and the timing of the trade: The Bruins still have a year left on the contract of Max Talbot, a last minute trade. Talbot is likely to be on the line-either at center or at wing.
Solution C: Emphasis on Talbot's playing position: Max Talbot is likely to be on the line at either center or wing. Talbot was a last minute trade, who still has a year left of his Bruins contract.
Example 3: "U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who's been asked by the NFL Players Association to void the suspension, warned a league lawyer during oral arguments that there was precedent for judges to toss out penalties issued by arbitrators in the scandal over underinflated footballs."
The Problems: Unclear, overly-long sentence; misplaced sentence elements. Did judges toss out penalties for many varied infractions or for many instances of underinflated footballs?
Solution: Divide into two sentences, and place the request to void the suspension and the judge's response in chronological order.
The NFL Players Association has asked U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman to void the suspension of Tom Brady over underinflated footballs. However, during oral arguments Judge Berman warned a league lawyer that there was precedent for judges to toss out penalties issued by arbitrators.
Example 4: During more than two hours of argument by attorneys, the judge noted other arbitration decisions have been rejected when a key witness was not allowed to testify as he asked why NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash -- who worked on the NFL investigation -- could not be questioned by union lawyers during the suspension's appeal."
The Problems: Too many thoughts in one sentence. The writer interrupts the main thought: "...he asked why NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash... could not be questioned...." Omit the length of the arguments.
Solution: The judge noted that other arbitration decisions have been rejected when a key witness was not allowed to testify. Then, the judge asked why union lawyers could not question NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash during the suspension's appeal. Pash had worked on the NFL investigation.
Will readers interpret your words in the right way? The gold standard for all writers is to write sentences that readers don't have to re-read to understand. Unlike sports journalism, business writing has the goal of obtaining a specific result, not entertaining while reporting. Make prose interesting through use of good examples and effective vocabulary, not emotionally laden language. Use short crisp sentences. Don't insert lengthy phrases between the subject of a sentence and the accompanying verb. Omit unnecessary words. Above all, re-read and revise.
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