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Words are, of course,
the most powerful drug used by mankind.
Rudyard Kipling

For two years I wrote the monthly column “Industry Watch” for Interface Tech News, a monthly print and online publication serving Northern New England. When the editor gave me an assignment and contact list, I interviewed key players in important industries such as telecommunications and biotechnology, and then wrote a 900-word story and 300-word sidebar.

Writing a column involves all four kinds of prose: expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative. Anyone who has ever been on deadline has learned to adapt to the vagaries of telephone tag, moment-by-moment changes that alter information, and the necessity of confirming all information with each source.

Most important, as an editor critiquing and correcting my clients, I know how it feels to be a writer who is edited! Here are two examples of the kinds of communication that took place between my editor and me:

Editor’s Query: Attached is the sidebar you wrote. Please review the final sentence, which I underlined. It doesn’t make sense to me -- am I missing
something? Thanks. [The original sentence: For example, customers can use an IP network to communicate to storage in distributed sites around the country, but a Fiber Channel SAN in their centralized data system.]

Writer’s Reply: Those are the words of XX, analyst with Y Company. As a fix, I repeated the verb. [The revised sentence: For example, customers can use an IP network to communicate to storage in distributed sites around the country, but CAN USE a Fiber Channel SAN in their centralized data system.] OK now?

Writer’s Dilemma:  AB called me with additional info --although they can’t disclose how big a deal until regulatory approval happens, and that’s expected the end of this month, so in a few weeks we could get more, or perhaps a follow-up story. I’ll go ahead with Company Y and Company Z, but have nothing on Company X. That’s the only company that’s cited failure to get through to me by telephone. CD, CEO of Company V, just returned my call, finally. Although he wants to put me in touch with EF, in charge of worldwide marketing strategy, he thinks the story may be premature, as the deal still needs regulatory approval. Company V actually partnered with Bigname Company in acquiring Small Company, as Bigname Company will resell the product to the feds. Do you want me to continue, or shelve this one until regulatory approval is done? 

Editor’s Reply: Yes, please continue. Did he give any indication that regulatory approval would be denied? What are the odds? Write the story with the idea in mind that this company is gearing up to do something big-- reference the regs, especially if there's a reason to believe it won't happen-- then give us a sense of what’s a stake here. How big a deal is this, really? What are the advantages/challenges, and what obstacles must be cleared to pull it off?

Non Fiction Example


December 2002
Dear Janis:
Great article in the latest issue of Interface Tech News,
www.interfacenow.com on “Positioning for Mergers & Acquisitions.” I don't know your background, but I am always impressed when a reporter masters a technical subject well enough to ‘get it right.’ It appears to me that you did. I am an M&A advisor/business broker in Portland, Maine, with 22 years experience, so I guess I would know.
Glen Cooper, CBA, BVAL
Certified Business Appraiser
Business Valuator Accredited for Litigation
President, Maine Business Brokers' Network
Web site:

The editor then e-mailed me: “Your fan club continues to grow!  Kudos to you on a job well done.”

Persuasive Pen
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