Saturday, May 27, 2006

Easy Recipe #1

Blog #6

You face an assignment of a 1500-word article, let’s say. You quake. 1500 words?

Don’t worry. It’s a snap. We’ll just use alternating statement and quote. It’s easy.

When convenient, refer to an article in print for ideas. Let’s do that with “Model Planes” by Willow Bay on page 98 of the May 2006 issue of Reader’s Digest.

Start your article with an illustration as this author does: “In late fall 2004 a powerful rainstorm battered New England, reducing visibility and snarling traffic.” In this case, the storm created havoc at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Flights had backed up that Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. In response, one “enterprising crew member” at JetBlue Airways New York headquarters loaded a bus with staff and drove north to help.

“The guy at the wheel? JetBlue’s founder and chief executive, David Neeleman.”

At this point, we begin an alternating statement and quote description of what’s going on at that fast growing airline.

The first quote has “the 46-year-old entrepreneur” saying that in his business “you have got to be close to the action.”

The statement following that explains how financial acumen, common sense and religious faith (he’s a Mormon) have lifted his airline into competition with the nation’s best.

Then follows a quote from an editor who has watched JetBlue from its beginnings and another quote from Neeleman telling that he’s eliminated the frustrations that worry passengers. The statement that follows explains how he did that.

Another quote from the editor is followed by another quote from Neeleman, a statement that all employees enjoy profit-sharing rewards and opportunities to buy stock at a discount.

A flight attendant says that customers constantly say, “You’re always so happy.” She adds that the employees have every reason to be happy.

A statement tells that the boss has a reputation for working alongside employees and serving passengers. “He’s a mingler,” a vice president says of him.

The next statement tells that he will take the non-reclining back seat when flying so that the crew will see it’s more important to keep passengers comfortable than the CEO. He’s “egalitarian,” believing everyone should be treated equally.

The next quote, “I was raised in a home where my father was always for the underdog,” leads into statements that tell how Neeleman learned on a missionary trip to Brazil that no one person should be put on a higher ground than another. “No first-class seats, no second-class citizens” is the quote that follows.

The article works through his early life and comes back to how Jet Blue is developing. The author narrates for longer stretches here and comes back to alternating S and Q at the end: “It’s time for us to really shine, and do better at the things we do,” Neeleman says.

A statement ends the piece: “Given the strength of its founder’s faith, Jet Blue is pretty likely to keep flying high.” Notice there is a tie back to the beginning when the author mentioned the founder’s faith. It’s always good to play plant-and-pick-up when you write an article.

Rule: Never let the quote repeat what came before or what follows after. If it follows the statement section, it will expand on or comment on what has been given just as the “You’re always so happy” quote followed the statement that employees share in the profits.

Conversely, that quote could have come first and introduced the profit-sharing policies of the company.

Alternating statement and quote is easy to do. Granted, you must have the subject matter well in hand. But when you follow a structure such as this, writing comes easily and looks very, very professional.

Professor Dick Bohrer


Blogger Paul said...

This is where you will find comments to your blog posts. You can even leave a comment to yourself, if you want.

And this is the way you leave comments on other bloggers' places.

10:08 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home