A Bad Example – and a Good One

Today’s topic is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let’s start with bad and ugly. I just saw an ad that proclaims, “This is why we science.” (Click here to view it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fq6hpigoTc.) The ad is touting Bayer’s Complete Insect Killer, which contains imidacloprid (an insecticide that has been associated with the deaths of many bees). 

Science isn’t a verb. It’s a noun (a thing). You can’t say that you’re planning to “science” tomorrow – no matter what the Bayer company thinks. (And I wish they’d stop endangering our bees!)

On to the good. I just read a marvelous sentence in a New York Times article about presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s problems with debate prep: “He is prone more often to groaners than zingers.”

Great writing!

I will admit that the sentence doesn’t meet all the requirements for formal writing. Groaners (“corny jokes”) and zingers (“witty remarks that sting”) aren’t Standard English words. But the sentence is fun to read, and – to my mind – that’s a big plus.

Compare this sentence: “He is prone to use overdone jokes in a misguided attempt to win his audience, and he doesn’t often surprise opponents with his wit.”

Which version would make you want to keep reading? I hope you answered that question the way I did – and you’ve learned something important about good writing. It’s not enough to know where to put the commas and how to stack up your ideas. You have to make readers want to read what you’ve written.

                  Michael Bloomberg


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