Picture of a yawning cat.

By Jacqui Banaszynski

A message popped up on my Facebook message box that captured, in short form, a not-infrequent lament I hear from reporters who long to stretch into deeper, more engaging stories but must write about specialty or technical subjects for niche publications, and/or for editors who seem to think that boring equals smart.

The writer in question gave permission to use the exchange, but with identifying information excised to protect the guilty — and said writer’s future contracts. Because money talks even when the writing yawns.

WRITER: Dang! Since you turned me into a narrative writer, I can’t do straight (unnamed subject) reporting anymore. Struggling right now to make a (unnamed publication) piece boring, which is their metric for important….

ME: Just write it as a series of bullet points. Then put those into long, passive sentences with subclauses. Oh, and be sure to include multiple useless transitions, like “Meanwhile,” “What this means,” “In other words.” You might tuck in a line that start with “The implications of … “

WRITER: LOL — you completely nailed my old writing style!

ME: One must have multiple scores in one’s life playbook. (I think I just tortured a few metaphors.)

ME: BTW: the odd pronoun “one” is great for boring writing.

WRITER: Metaphors screaming in agony! Thanks for the reminders. Off to scatter the piece with commas and “ones.” And remember not to use a simple word when a long, pretentious one will do.

ME: You’re a fast learner.

ME: Postscript: Hit send and invoice!

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