I'm coaching a team through its first business book and I'm learning a lot. Of course, I'm learning the subject matter well enough to be dangerous at cocktail parties, but I'm also learning a lot about patterns. You read 100,000 words and you start to see things a little differently. A habit someone has, like using introductory phrases too often, is barely noticeable in a 1,000 piece. Times that by 10 or 100 and it's an annoying neon sign.

Here's a habit I see in a lot of writing, but it took observing it "untamed" in a manuscript to realize the opportunity it brings for better writing.

  • In other words,...
  • Simply put,...

These tiny introductory phrases seem innocuous enough at first blush, but over the course of working on this book, I realized what leads to those statements. Almost without fail, these statements tee up the final sentence in a paragraph. The main part of that sentence is a distillation of all the sentences before it. The writer was thinking through the thought in the first sentences, writing until his or her brain had gotten clarity on the concept. When the writer got the "big idea", s/he dropped it in.

In journalism, we call this burying the lede.

In many cases, the "big idea" sentence, sans the intro, can stand on its own or serve as the first sentence of the following paragraph. The great opportunity lies in deleting unnecessary stuff before it to create clearer, tighter writing.

As you write this week, look for this opportunity to take your writing to the next level.

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