Feature Writing House Style, Cont.

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Way back here, PR had some fun with the New Yorker’s style when it comes to article ledes, which he summarized thusly:

On a date that’s peculiarly specific, and in a sentence that uses more commas than you’re accustomed to, someone you’ve never heard of did something, or had something done to him/her, of puzzlingly little apparent significance.

I came across a great example of this weirdness in an otherwise very good New York Times Style Magazine piece:

At 10 past 6 on a January morning a couple of winters ago, a 35-year-old man named Matt McCabe stepped out of his house in the town of Kenly, England, got on his Piaggio X8 motor scooter, and started driving north.

Hey, why don’t you tell us how many feet his house is above sea level and the number of miles per gallon his scooter gets too. After that sentence the piece spends five long paragraphs describing in great detail this dude’s commute from the London suburbs into the city. OK, it’s an article about London cabbies learning the city’s geography, so I guess spending almost 700 words describing his route to work is relevant. Or maybe they’re just more unimportant facts.

After all the prefatory nonsense, we get to the article’s sixth paragraph:

McCabe had spent the last three years of his life thinking about London’s roads and landmarks, and how to navigate between them. In the process, he had logged more than 50,000 miles on motorbike and on foot, the equivalent of two circumnavigations of the Earth, nearly all within inner London’s dozen boroughs and the City of London financial district. He was studying to be a London taxi driver, devoting himself full-time to the challenge that would earn him a cabby’s “green badge” and put him behind the wheel of one of the city’s famous boxy black taxis.

Why not start there? Isn’t that a much better opening? Anyway, it’s a fascinating article, check it out.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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