Being reader friendly
One of the seminars I do is called "Editing to be reader friendly." It's built around a basic idea: A story should answer a reader's likely questions where each is likely to occur in the story.
That's not a novel concept, but one we too often violate, as shown by my increasingly thick file of examples (among my least favorites -- making readers go to the jump page for answers).
Paul R. Martin, style keeper and proprietor of the Wall Street Journal's style & substance newsletter (PDF), provides two good examples in the latest edition of S&S:
- In a note on rating banks by market capitalization, not assets: "Also, we shouldn't refer to the second-biggest bank without mentioning which bank is No. 1. Thus, at the moment, Bank of America is the second-biggest bank by market capitalization behind Citigroup."
- He follows that with this entry: "Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia either have laws on their books -- or case-law precedents -- that shield journalists from revealing sources." So what's the first question a reader would ask? Right, "What's the only state that doesn't?" Our article and articles in scores of other publications haven't answered the question. So, as a public service and for future reference, we'll tell you. Wyoming.