Steal That Technique

We’d never steal the words of other writers — that’s plagiarism — but it’s perfectly okay, even encouraged, to “lift” the techniques used in their published articles. In fact, writing instructors everywhere show student writers how to “lift” techniques by examining how published writers use leads, structure, pace, anecdotes and setting in their articles. “Lifting” those techniques helps students learn how to construct their own articles and bring them to satisfactory conclusions. Whenever I have difficulty coming up with a lead for an article, especially when a deadline is looming, I go looking for techniques other writers have used to begin their articles. Never have I failed to receive the help I need.

Below are three examples of leads I like that I found recently. The techniques that these writers used could be “lifted” to begin many types of articles.

An old saying:

In a takeoff on, “A penny for your thoughts,” Larry Atkins used this lead to draw readers into his article, “Writing Op-Eds for Pay & Pleasure,” in The Writer;

“Are you passionate about a current event in the news? Want to get something off your chest? There are many publications that will pay 10,000 pennies or more for your thoughts.”

A pertinent quotation:

For a “Miss Manners” article about a certified etiquette consultant, writer Karen Ott Mayer found an ideal start in an Emily Post quotation. Here’s the quote she used to introduce her article in DeSoto Magazine:

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”

Ask a question about your subject:

Some articles work well with a question beginning. Consider this one: “Can A Machine Think?” Writer Clive Thompson expounded on that idea in his Discover Magazine article, “I Chat, Therefore I Am….” His article began with this:

“Can a smooth talking robot initiate good conversation, generate witty responses and reveal profound thoughts? See what happens when two chatbots speak to each other.”

Those two sentences draws readers right into the article, eager to earn more.

These leads and hundreds more provide valuable lessons for seasoned writers, as well as those aspiring to be published. You need not hesitate to steal techniques used for leads — and for middles and ends of articles — and adapt and use them for your own articles.

Please leave a comment.

© 2007 by Laverne Daley
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