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Aug 30 / Leo Howell

Shoot straight: Brevity is the soul of sportswriting wit

Leo HowellThe key lesson I have been learning as part of Bleacher Report’s Advanced Program in Sports Media is to make sure I don’t envelope my main thoughts into drawn-out sentences and long-winded paragraphs.

I have always found myself to be somewhat verbose. This ability to string out a 10-word thought into 30 words worth of fluff was great for college essays, but it’s not so great for sportswriting.

You need to stay on message and make sure your message stands out.

People want to know what you think, so give it to them straight.

When someone clicks on your article, you want your strong opinions to stand out. Many readers aren’t going to sift through your intricately laid out arguments to find the good stuff. There are a plethora of other articles on these same topics available on the web. They need to know why yours is different.

If you bury your ideas in the middle of a long paragraph, people likely will have clicked away before getting there. Or if they did stick with it, they probably won’t come back.

You may have a great lede and headline, but if your analysis looks like chapters of “War and Peace” posted as paragraphs, most readers will bail before finding out the great information and supporting facts you’ve found.

I still struggle with this when I write because I usually have more ideas than I do practical space to write about them. But it’s something very valuable I have learned, and something I have noticed other good writers do as well.

Not every short sentence needs its own paragraph, so don’t take it too far. There’s a fine line between a string of harsh thoughts and a thoughtfully placed abrupt statement.

In general, it’s been a huge help for me to focus on readability, and I hope that as I progress with Bleacher Report, I see continued growth in this area.

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Leo Howell is a member of our Fall class. Follow him on Twitter @LeoHowell8.

One Thing You Need to Know is a series in which we ask members of the Bleacher Report Advanced Program in Sports Media to write about just that: One thing they’ve learned that they would pass along to other aspiring writers.

  • Thomas DeYulia

    Good article

    Thomas DeYulia

  • Verenda

    I can take out 10 percent of these words and sentences and they would never be missed. Keep working at it, Leo.