Tuesday 9 February 2016

A 'must read' post - or else!

If you don't read this post in full I'll set hired goons on you. 

And don't think I'm joking. I've already handed Edward Stourton some knuckle-dusters, and I've told Mark Mardell to aim for your knee-caps.


I was reading Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century last night. He wrote, "Good writing starts strong. Not with a cliché, nor with a banality, but with a contentful observation that provokes curiosity."

I then read all the openings to my recent posts, and every last one of them begins with a whimper, not a bang.

Sue's posts always open in the way Steven Pinker describes, so it must come natural to her to write like that.

And it must come natural to me to begin posts with sentences like "And talking about..." or "The BBC's coverage of that UN panel's verdict on Julian Assange's 'arbitrary detention' in the Ecuadorian embassy hasn't been straightforward"

So I got thinking last night as to how to begin posts on a much stronger footing.

And I was still stuck when I fell asleep. 

I thought of lines like "I wish I was Mark Mardell. Or at least I wish I had his ability to wangle an all-expenses-paid trip to Portugal during the UK's bleak midwinter" and "Vote to leave the EU and woe betide Northern Ireland! Or so Ed Stourton led us to fear tonight"

That was the best I could come up with, and I don't think Steven Pinker will be featuring those as shining examples of great writing in his next book. 

On waking this morning it finally dawned on me that the answer to my problem was obvious: Every post should begin with a threat.

Proof positive that you should always sleep on a problem.


  1. No threat needed I come here every day to read your insightful and top notch investigations ! but if you do have to make threats I'm sure like much here they will be well done threats !

  2. I too enjoy the style of yourself and Sue on this blog.
    Personal, clear and discretely punchy...
    And pleasing to see such self-criticism...maybe we have learned muchly from Mao, whether we wanted to or not.
    Continue to see you as the exemplar for quantitative bias as exhibited at the BBC...and do mention you for this "scientific method" that the likes of Harrabin can only dream of!

  3. It is always good to have self-doubt, it shows you think about things and try and understand the opposition's perspective. The BBC could, maybe, do with some. I enjoy your blog very much indeed, keep up the good work, if only I was half as erudite as you and Sue.

    Christopher Scopes

  4. Thank you all very much. That's VERY kind.


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