“Say one thing”: a great reminder for bloggers

Online readers have even less patience than people reading on paper. This mean bloggers should embrace journalist Donald M. Murray’s advice to “say one thing.”

In Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at WorkWriting to Deadline by Donald Murray, Murray says:

The greatest problem in news writing is the story that lacks focus. The writer tries to say too many things of equal importance. An effective news story has one dominant meaning.

To avoid a lack of focus, Murray tries to identify “the one thing the story must say.”

How do you find that one thing? Murray sets his notes aside and thinks until the answer hits him. It could be something as simple as “more taxes.”

Sometimes Murray’s technique works for me. Other times, I take a more analytical approach. For complex stories, I find mind mapping, a technique I discuss extensively in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, helpful.

Mind maps give me a bird’s eye view on patterns and themes that I can’t see when I’m too close to the data.

By the way, once you figure out your “one thing,” consider dropping it into your introduction. I wonder if this is what New York Times reporter Floyd Norris did when he opened a column with “Has Japan turned the economic corner?” You can read this sentence in context in his column, “Government stimulus lifts Japan.”

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