I recently read a feature article in the New Yorker magazine, entitled Battleground America, by Jill Lepore. The article talks about gun control, and how the debate has changed over the past 200 years. This is how it begins:
“Just after seven-thirty on the morning of February 27th, a seventeen-year-old boy named T.J. Lane walked into the cafeteria at Chardon High School, about 30 miles outside Cleveland. It was a Monday, and the cafeteria was filled with kids, some eating breakfast, some waiting for buses to drive them to programs at other schools, some packing up for gym class. Lane sat down at an empty table, reached into a bag, and pulled out a .22-calibre pistol. He stood up, raised the gun, and fired. He said not a word.”
The force of this opening comes from two things: the writer tells a story, and uses very simple words to tell it. When combined, story-telling and plain language can be very powerful.
Many articles about gun control start with big words and complicated sentences. I often don’t get past the first paragraph. This article was one I didn’t put down.