Quotes on the body

What writers and others say

Quotes on the body

Body of evidence “Avoid the muddle in the middle.” — Ann Wylie, writing coach. Image by Matthew Kane

“Strengthen your core.”
— Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar, Poynter Institute

“Hello all you writers with flabby middles and saggy bottoms. You are part of a giant club of writers (I am president for life) whose stories too often are out of proportion. In fact, I realized today that my book manuscript had a structural problem. The last three chapters had shorter writing explanations than the first 18 chapters. So I’m worried that I’ve got the top heavy thing perching on a broomstick.”
— Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar, Poynter Institute

“The middle [often] has no recognizable sequence of ideas, no flow of cause and effect, and no narrative, just puddles of information.”
— Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar, Poynter Institute; and Don Fry, writing coach

“Reporters who only know one form, the inverted pyramid, don’t write middles because inverted pyramid stories don’t have middles (or endings). They just waddle along and trickle off to nothing. … Their middles tend to have clumps and knots rather than sections of information.”
— Don Fry, writing coach

“While the inverted pyramid is the worst form for readers, the ‘stack of blocks’ is the best in terms of reader comprehension. The stack has three parts: beginning, middle, and end. The middle contains the information grouped by subject matter into parts arranged in logical order. The beginning predicts the middle in form and content, and the ending cements the main points into the readers’ memories.”
— Don Fry, writing coach

“The catalog entries now had lengthy analytical essays and illuminating reproductions of other pictures, whether they related or not: a minimalist Agnes Martin might be accompanied by an illustration of the Mona Lisa, whose best connection to the picture in question might come under a TV game show category, ‘things that are rectangular.’”
— Steve Martin, author, in An Object of Beauty

“Avoid the muddle in the middle.”
— Ann Wylie, writing coach
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    Indeed, our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent studies. Studies by the Poynter Institute, Reuters Institute and the American Society of News Editors show that the traditional news structure reduces readership, understanding, sharing, engagement and more.

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    • Stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget this entirely.)
    • Avoid the “muddle in the middle” by choosing one of five structural techniques from a rubric created by the founder of TED Talks.
    • Draw to a satisfying conclusion in the penultimate paragraph.
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