Anne Wilson Schaef

Today I have two writing snippets for you to read. The message is the same in both of them, but the approaches are different. I want you to decide which one you think is better – and why.

Here’s Version #1:

Anecdotal evidence suggests that depression is often manifested in clients enmeshed in ongoing relationships with persons engaged in alcohol abuse.

And here’s Version #2:

Once as I flew to a speaking engagement, I happened to be seated next to a director of a mental health center. We began talking about our work, and he mentioned that whenever anyone came to his clinic suffering from depression, he automatically checked for alcoholism in the individual or in the family. Impressed (and somewhat shocked), I asked him to explain. He replied that he had found that when the presenting problem was depression, the real diagnosis was frequently alcoholism or alcohol related.

Which one did you choose? I prefer #2. But when I’ve asked writing groups to do this activity, they often choose #1. “It sounds more professional,” they’ll say. “And it’s more direct.”

Right on both points…until I ask more questions: “Which would you prefer to read? Which is more convincing? And which would stay in your head longer?”

They always sheepishly switch their votes to #2.

*  *  *  *  *  * 

Version #2 is from Anne Wilson Schaef’s amazing book When Society Becomes an Addict. It’s a slim volume written in everyday language, and there are loads of stories. She talks about Lincoln Logs, beachcombing, and making tacos. But don’t be fooled – every time I go back to reread it, I find something new.

I wrote Version #1 myself. (I can be stuffy when I put my mind to it!)

Now I have another question for you. Which is better: to be read and remembered – or to  sound like an impersonal writing machine? (Hint: Anne Wilson Schaef has sold tons of books.)

Alcoholic man with a bottle


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