Quelle surprise!

ProduceMany years ago, I wrote what I thought was a pretty polished piece about the opening of a new hardware store.  I handed my copy into my editor and, 15 minutes later, she was standing by my desk.

‘I read the first couple of sentences,’ she said, ‘and I knew exactly what was coming next.’

‘Is that good?’ I asked.

She shook her head.  ‘What you’ve written is “dog bites postman”.  Readers want to be surprised, informed, entertained.  They want to read about the postman who bites a dog.’

I was about to protest that my piece had nothing to do with dogs or postmen, but I could see what she meant.  My report was predictable and it was heavy with clichés.

Christine has long-since retired.  But some of her successors would do well to remember that readers still want to be surprised, informed, and entertained.

Here’s the opening of a piece I came across earlier today.  It started by saying that a certain person ‘is passionate about healthy and delicious food that is quick, simple and easy to prepare.’

She is a cook, for goodness sake.  A celebrity cook.  She’s trying to sell cookbooks and attract viewers to her TV show.  Of course she’s passionate about healthy and delicious food.

We are then invited to ‘Follow her as she takes off on a culinary journey … celebrating the abundance of fine food along the way.’

Cliché upon cliché.

Finally we are told that this celebrity cook ‘will put to use the best local ingredients she can find to create her own delicious dishes which are guaranteed to make your mouth water!’

Well, we certainly don’t expect her to be using the worst local ingredients she can find.  And make my mouth water?  Hmm, perhaps.  But isn’t that up to me to decide – even without the unnecessary exclamation point?

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