Connection, The Soul Of Good Writing. Part 2
It took me less time to tell him than to write it that I wasn't trying to sell him a cat in a bag; that his own judgment confirmed the quality of my goods;, that I had confidence in him, and hoped he had confidence in me; that nothing could be gained by either of us by delay; and if he wanted my goods it would be necessary to book his order right there, as I would not guarantee the prices for forty-eight hours.
That brought him around. When I said good-bye the perspiration was run-ning down my back, but I had his order for four hundred and fifty dollars safely tucked away in my inside pocket. That made eight hundred dollars for a few hours' work. - Moody: Men Who Sell Things.
Sometimes a numeral expression makes a good transition, as Secondly, Thirdly, etc. This is formal method, of course, but sometimes you want to remind the reader that you are making just so many points. The fewer the points, by the way, the better. Remember what was said about too many paragraphs. Remember how desperately tedious the old preachers were, with their Ninthly, brethren, let us ask style of sermonizing. But here is a legitimate use of numerals:
There are, in my opinion, two things that are hurting advertising. First, we shall have to clear up the agency situation, and convince people that agencies have the first essential to success - absolute honesty; I believe it is being done by most agencies.
And the second thing is no less important than the first, and that is that publication circulations shall be just what they are presented to be. If I buy 5,000 axles for automobiles, and they only deliver 4,000, you can rest assured I don't pay for the fifth thousand; why should it be different in advertising? - Hugh Chalmers, in The Business Philosopher.
That, I say, is legitimate use of numerals. But you must already have noticed that there is lack of connection between the first sentence and all the rest. Mr. Chalmers has not said what he means; he has said the opposite. He is going to name two things that hurt advertising. But does "clearing up the agency situation" hurt it! No. It helps it. Does "honest reporting of circulation" hurt it! No. It helps it. That first sentence ought to read There are two things which we must do if we are to help advertising. If that seems weak, then he must say, in substance, this: "There are two things which are hurting advertising. One is the popular impression that agencies are dishonest. The second is the fact that publication circulations are often dishonest."
There are many ligament-words which are more or less like numerals: Again, In the next place, Once more, Furthermore. It is hardly necessary to illustrate their use.
§ 23. Sometimes the best transition from one paragraph to another is an answer to a question. In the following we have both an echo-word and an answer:
"Well, Mr. Morphy," I said finally, when there was a lull in the one sided conversation, "What seems to be ailing you?"
"Ailing me?" he literally roared. "Why, I'm so sick and tired of insurance men that the sight of one gets on my nerves. By actual count, you are the twenty-fourth man who has butted in here in the last twenty-four hours, trying to sell me endowments, twenty pays, tontines and a thousand other kinds of policies. Now you are about the last straw, and the worst of it is, I have never even heard of your company. One thing certain, 111 have nothing to do with a company I don't know about" - System.
Sometimes it takes a whole sentence, a transition-sentence, to get smoothly from one paragraph to another. Approach the whole situation from another standpoint, writes Mr. Deland, and puts down a period. That shows that a considerable shift of attention is desired.
In fact, every good opening sentence is a sort of transition. That is one reason why good opening sentences are usually short. The writer gives the reader time to get across to the new topic. Note the italic sentences in the following paragraphs, which are also from Mr. Deland's "Imagination in Business":
Let me try now to illustrate the use of imagination in business by three business problems. I select them partly because of their remoteness from the present in point of time (there being little harm in my speaking of the occurrences at this late date), and partly because they typify widely different cases.
The first is a retail problem, the circumstance of a carpet house. The general question was whether the volume of business could be enlarged. This firm was advertising extensively in the daily papers, and such advertising is the fool's first resort and the wise man's last one. It is the proper remedy in about one in four cases of the kind here considered. It could hardly be used advantageously in a carpet business, for the reason that carpets are not tempting merchandise. In other words, one is not prompted by any advertisement to rush out and buy carpets. One buys them when one needs them. The buying of carpets is done in a cold-blooded way.
Once a year, rarely oftener, a family decides that it wants a new carpet. This is usually at the strenuous period known as "spring cleaning." But there is a more important time than this, and that is when the family is removing from one house to another. Probably from twenty to thirty per cent. of all buying of carpets is induced by a change of residence. Estimated roughly, there is one day in the year when each house-holder may buy carpets; accordingly, on three hundred and sixty-four days of the year the advertising of specific carpets for that man is wasted. For every man it would be wasted three hundred and sixty-four out of three hundred and sixty-five days, and such a proportion of waste will not permit of profitable advertising. The important thing, then, was to get at people when they were about tor move, and it seemed to me at the start that the key to the situation was the real-estate agent In this direction work was begun.