Writing Tips – “… to and … from”

Not a big tip but it alters flow. Or should I say, improves it. The “…to and … from” sentence has always been a clunker for me. Serviceable, it conveys the proper information but it’s like eating an ash sandwich: very dry and leaves me asking if there’s anything else I could have.

Example: “The wealth given to and taken from Mr. Moneybags created a cyclone of bad decisions everybody suffered for.” Writing in this way delays introduction of your subject and deadens the action. Instead of that, this: “The wealth given to Mr. Moneybags, and just as quickly taken from, created…” We’ll skip the suffering. We’ve had enough of it from this sentence’s first draft.

Isn’t the second version better? More direct, it gives wealth to our subject and then, as we’re comfortable with Mr. Moneybags’s station in life, creates the shock of taking it away again – the cyclone everybody suffered for.

If the meaning should convey a circular motion of wealth in Mr. Moneybags’s life, “… to and … from” still doesn’t satisfy. Move Mr. Moneybags up in the order and we have: “Wealth for Mr. Moneybags came in an unending cycle of giving and taking, creating…” Again, enough suffering.

This isn’t an example ready for all instances where “… to and … from” can occur. But I hope it illustrates the ability to always find a better way, one with more finesse and oomph, to deliver information without it reading like bookkeeping. That and the benefit of a good writer.


And Now – A Shameless Plug

Having voiced an opinion on traditional big box book stores sniveling about courageously waging war on Amazon, it occurred to me that some small book stores might need help getting noticed in their communities.

Running a book store is tough, especially these days in a tight economy with high tech toys. Reaching out to the community is key. Contact me – dtkcopy@gmail.com – and we can discuss your needs, how and where you’d like your business to grow. Advertising special nights, author readings and other promotions takes skill. Visit my website for samples of my work and let’s make something together.

Your reputation is my priority.

Reading Fee – and not the kind you think

Today, the Washington Post blog had an item about “showrooming”. If you’re not familiar with the term, they helpfully defined it. Customers enter a book store, sample a book then go home – or online through their phones right there in the store – and order it off Amazon. To combat this, the UK HarpersCollins CEO suggested charging customers – or loiterers, she might say – for looking at books before they buy (or don’t).

Apparently they do this sort of thing in British shoe stores. Unless I am allowed to put my feet through Finnegan’s Wake and An Infinite Jest, I disagree with the strategy.

I have worked in Barnes & Noble. Claims that 40% of customers use the store to discover new books they then go and buy cheaper elsewhere is not only not new but a facet of the store beyond any threat of internet commerce. B&N led the charge in getting customers to get comfortable. Stores not having their own cafes are often connected to a Starbucks. Every store has various settings of extremely soft chairs in cozy nooks to drink coffee in, eat cookies at and read. People have been taking advantage of that kind of generosity for years. Far from buying books online, they just read them through pleasurable routines in their favourite seats.

Brick-and-mortar stores – the big box ones (i.e. dinosaurs) – will never combat this through complaining to publishers. They can only fight back through price points. Barnes & Noble won’t if it means sacrificing what the company owners think makes their stores unique. Borders can’t because it’s out of business. And for much of its life in the 21st century, Borders partnered with Amazon and directed online customers there. Borders did not fail because of Amazon. It failed because of bad business practices. It failed because most of its stores weren’t in the business of customer service.

The answer is not in big box stores but in a return to small local stores. Customer loyalty, the frequent interactions between store and patron, the edification of being recognized and acknowledged will trump a savings in price any day. Its knowing when entering a storefront and have more than fair chance of knowing the first name of the clerk behind the counter that will save traditional book stores from the frugal online community. And that’s usually not found in a three-tier, highly-monetized library/warehouse hybrid struggling to make $20 million a year.