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© 2008 – 2010 Ugur Akinci
Avoid “jumping tracks” in the middle of your copy by shifting from one topic to another without any advance warning. The result would be confusion on the part of your readers and erosion of trust in your abilities (and perhaps even “good will”) as a writer.
If you’re going to shift from one topic to another, always signal it in advance so that your readers would know what’s up ahead. You owe that much to your readers.
Here is an EXCERPT from the mid-section of a news agency story on the “Mediterranean diet” and how it allegedly is proven to help people lose weight.
The excerpt is a bit long but I wanted to make sure you see the SUDDEN SHIFT in subject matter:
The low-fat diet — no more than 30 percent of calories from fat —
restricted calories and cholesterol and focused on low-fat grains,
vegetables and fruits. The Mediterranean diet had similar calorie,
fat and cholesterol restrictions, emphasizing poultry, fish, olive
oil and nuts.
The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates, but none for
calories or fat. It urged dieters to choose vegetarian sources of
fat and protein.
Most of the participants were men; all men and women in the study
got roughly equal amounts of exercise.
Average weight loss for those in the low-carb group was 10.3 pounds
after two years. Those in the Mediterranean diet lost 10 pounds,
and those on the low-fat regimen dropped 6.5.
Menthol used to attract young smokers
Tobacco companies have manipulated menthol levels to attract young
cigarette smokers and keep older ones, researchers at the Harvard
School of Public Health reported Wednesday.
Their finding, with which industry spokesmen disagree, is based on
a review of more than 500 internal tobacco-industry documents dated
from 1985 through 2007.
The documents showed, according to the researchers, that tobacco
companies studied how controlling levels of menthol could increase
brand sales. They concluded that new and young smokers liked mild
menthol that masked the harshness of tobacco smoke. Veteran
smokers, the companies are said to have concluded, favored stronger
doses of menthol because it cools their throats.
Menthol has proven appeal to young people. According to the 2006
National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 44 percent of smokers aged
12 to 17 reported they smoked mentholated cigarettes.
A reader, for very understandable reasons, left this comment:
Do you guys read your articles before you put them on the internet? Do you have editors? This article goes from a discussion of weight loss and a study comparing diets to menthol in cigarettes with absolutely no cue to the reader who is left confused at best.”
Can you blame this reader? I think not.
One way to signal such a shift in advance would be to use a SUB-HEADER in the title of your copy, provided of course that the two topics are somewhat RELATED. Otherwise even a sub-header cannot save an ill-structured track-jumping copy.
For the above news story, for example, the author might have tried the following HEADER and SUB-HEADER set:
“Mediterranean Diet is proven effective in weight loss
Menthol cigarettes curb appetite but at steep cost”
Be relevant and deliver the promise of your title/header. Keep that train of thought on the same track until it reaches its destination.
Focus, stay the course, and deliver the promise.