Some of us will read about hedge fund managers even if they’re written about in prose as dry as the Sahara. But many people won’t. This is why I’m discussing “One Trader’s Binge on Cocoa Wraps Up Chocolate Market” by Julia Werdigier and Julie Creswell in today’s New York Times (free registration may be required for access to the article). As I type this blog post, this article on the front page of The New York Times is its “most emailed.”
Here are three writing lessons from the article.
Lesson 1: Use colorful images. “To some, he is a real-life Willy Wonka. To others, he is a Bond-style villain bent on taking over the world’s supply of chocolate,” write the authors in the opening paragraph. This immediately draws in readers who may not care about hedge funds. Of course, the fact that hedge fund manager Anthony Ward is buying cocoa, an essential ingredient in chocolate, lends itself to tasty images.
Lesson 2: Explain numbers in everyday terms. “”By one estimate, he has bought enough to make more than five billion chocolate bars,” says the article. That’s a much more colorful image than “7 percent of annual cocoa production worldwide.”
Lesson 3: Get your main point across quickly. By the end of the first column, I learned that “.. hedge fund manager …named Anthony Ward has all but cornered the market in cocoa….and rival traders are crying foul, saying Mr. Ward is stockpiling cocoa in a bid to drive up already high prices so he can sell later at a big profit. His activities have helped drive cocoa prices on the London market to a 30-year high.”
Bonus suggestion: If you’re looking for writing tips, especially for short articles such as blog posts, analyze newspaper articles. The best newspaper articles offer great role models.