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Why writers should always KISS their stories

With so much going on around us and the ever increasing fast-paced nature of people’s lives, everything — and sometimes nothing — is competing for the average reader’s limited attention.

Even the most avid news consumer can hardly cope with the information blitz on the Information Superhighway in the digital world. It’s overwhelming for us all!

A writer would do well to keep this in mind. The fact is that long, winding stories have since lost their appeal. Instead, they gross out the average reader, who is trying to keep several balls in the air. It gets worse with Gen Zs or Zoomers, who have a legendary short attention span.

Many readers nowadays prefer to quickly grasp the main idea of a story within the first few paragraphs. Therefore, the writing style should be concise and impactful. Unfortunately, the beautiful, lengthy, and creative writing styles of the past turn off most readers.

This calls for proper planning of one’s article. Writers must be clear in their minds what it is they want to say and do so briefly and concisely. There is no point in ‘wasting’ energy writing an article of 2,000 words that will never be read to the end. Important information in the article may be lost if only a few readers can plough through the greyness of the page.

And if you must stretch the article, there are other page furniture that can come in handy to arrest the reader’s attention. These include infographics, charts, figures, quotes, sidebars, and photographs. A clever use of these elements will not only break the greyness on the page, but also incorporate valuable information that would otherwise have been lost to the reader.

Today’s print media writers are in a Catch-22 situation; to either write more or less. This is because they are competing against social media and nondescript citizen journalists breaking stories in real-time. Therefore, writers must be aware of this fact and ensure their story has more to offer to remain relevant. It’s a tough call, but they have to rise to the occasion!

A story on page 9 of The Standard (Monday, April 1, 2024) by Kamau Muthoni titled ‘Trader contests appointment of ARA director in battle for Sh55m’ is a case in point. This is a court case between a businessman, Anthony Odiero, and the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA).

The agency has filed a case seeking to have Odiero forfeit Sh55 million it suspects to be the proceeds of crime. However, in his application before the anti-corruption court on March 26, 2024, Odiero wants the court to first determine how ARA’s director, Alice Mate, got into office.

He argues that Brigadier Mate has no powers or authority to institute any case as there was no evidence of how she was recruited to head the agency.

The story, thus, is the trader’s argument that Mate should have been competitively recruited. But it goes on and on, and one does get the feeling that the idea is to fill the page. Meanwhile, the only photograph used to illustrate the story is a mugshot of Mate that takes up almost a quarter of the page while the graphic used is also too big for the article.

In short, Muthoni could have just ‘KISSED’ the story — kept it short and simple!

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