HughPriceNo diss intended, but here’s a recent example of an article that takes too long to get to the point.

In a commentary entitled “What the Military Might Teach Schools” over at Education Week, Hugh B. Price argues that military initiatives can help high school dropouts with academic and behavioral problems.

But Price spends the first 7 paragraphs of a 20-paragraph piece explaining the needs of Black and Latino students in today’s education landscape. Given that this commentary is published in Education Week, his readership is likely familiar with the achievement gap. Regardless of whether I agree with his point (in fact I probably don’t, and I think militaristic-style behavior management is already being used at some “no excuses” charter schools), he should have gotten to this paragraph much sooner instead of spending the first 1/3 of the piece on background:

Research and real-world experience show that student interventions focused on fortifying social and emotional skills can help improve academic performance and behavior in school and beyond. If asked which American institution embraces this robust commitment to the academic and social development of young people, the U.S. military is probably the least likely to come to mind. Yet the military enjoys a well-deserved reputation for reaching, teaching, and training young people who are rudderless and drifting through life.

Doing so would help distracted or multitasking readers engage with his writing and would sharpen his ability to make a compelling point.

In my day job, I’m a writing coach and editor at Bellwether Education Partners. Among other things, I help analysts transition from long-form (and often wonky) reports to short, public-facing blog posts. These writers often make the same mistake as Mr. Price did: they spend too much time warming up, or “throat clearing.” Get to your point sooner, I always say. Don’t bury the lede.

If you found this useful, I’m starting a series of posts with brief writing tips. You can read them all here.

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