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Jim's Jottings

Think short, write short, hold on to your readers

September 01, 2010 - Think short, write short, hold on to your readers

During my decades of owning a half dozen weekly newspapers, I urged writing "short."

I'd tell new reporters, "get in, get out and go to the obituaries."

They didn't do it. Journalism professors, and all other breeds of academes, think thesis. Make it long to prove you're terribly smart.

I preached, "Write for the reader. They don't have time for drivel."

Of course, since they learned from highly educated people, reporters didn't (don't) consider listening to a Western Michigan and Michigan State drop out even if that dropout (me) has decades of practical experience on the subject.

"Write short sentences and paragraphs. Give readers a chance to inhale," I'd say.

"No, no, let the editor jump the story past the classifieds, into oblivion," they say. "I write to show how smart I am."

I've read The Detroit News for years. It was often referred to as The Old Grey Lady because it had masses of grey, uninterrupted print, that was hard on the eyes and harder on the reader.

Practicing my belief, here's some short stuff.

• It's probably my age, but pro football players with earrings don't exude "toughness" to me.

• I play golf four days a week. After every game we go the club/bar to comfort ourselves. I'm no longer going to call it a bar. It's my recovery room.

• I believe I've figured out what Congresspersons and state legislators do. They pass loophole legislation, thus giving the succeeding Congress and legislature something to close, making them heroes to we, the duped.

• Daughter-in-law Linda tells me to never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

• Question: The Lottery can give lucky number winners seconds after closing. Therefore, can't these computer nerds run through all the numbers played in nano seconds, and decide there are no lucky winners, and to try again tomorrow?

• My accountant wanted some information. I read the agreement, but stopped when I got to the word expires.

• Above I said I read The Detroit News, still do, but when The Detroit Free Press hired Jim Fitzgerald I started reading that paper for his column. He, being five days older than I, wrote for The Lapeer County Press, while I started at the Clinton County Republican News in St. Johns, MI. Both were among the largest weekly newspapers in Michigan. Fitz taught me how to drink at conventions. Anyway, oops, this is getting long. Time to shorten. In 1982, Fitz wrote that I lived in Brace Beemer's (the radio Lone Ranger) tack house. Then he added, "That's how the word "tacky" got its most common meaning. Fitz is still alive, has never written anything since retirement in 1996, and has not been missed.

• The purpose of Fitz's column was to knock the highway department. Oxford was promoting the Super Bowl and Brace Beemer Days on a billboard on M-24. The State said it would violate an Act. Can't have anything compete with advertising the Super Bowl.

• My last political jab this week: Not than anyone does, but do you believe politicians who say, "I will work hard for you!" It's so inclusive. So, they're going to work hard for things I don't believe in, too.

• News flash: The man who fell into the upholstery machine is fully recovered.

• After reading hundreds of Will Rogers quotes, I saw this one: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Why did he say that? The others I've read seemed nonpolitical. Seems they weren't.

• The man in the moon eats out of satellite dishes.

• Damn this computer. I never lost a column on my Smith Corona.

Jim Sherman, Sr. is president of Sherman Publications, Inc. He has penned "Jim's Jottings" since 1955.
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