I took a writing class during my junior year in college. Why? It was required. Writing was my strong suit. An easy A, right?
The professor in my writing class worked for Time magazine for 25 years as writer and editor. He semi-retired and became a university professor. As is the case with many of us when we near retirement age, he was quick to embellish his instructions during each class with stories from his career as a writer and editor. At Time magazine.
That was a clue I ignored.
My first writing assignment got me a C. What? A C? My worst grade ever for a writing assignment was a B+. C? What’s going on?
So, I doubled down, devoted more time to editing and polishing, made sure every sentence led well to the next, that every paragraph was clear and coherent, that spelling was correct, and punctuation was perfect.
I submitted writing assignment #2.
That got me a C+. What?
During the next class I sat in the back of the auditorium and studied the professor. As noted, he was nearing retirement age and embellished every class period with various stories from his career as writer and editor. At Time magazine.
Time magazine? Hmmm.
After class I stopped off at the book store and picked up a few copies of Time magazine, old and new, took them home and read them. Twice. From beginning to end. Why? To get a good idea of Time’s writing style.
Their style was distinct and easily copied. For my next writing assignment I wrote as if I was a Time magazine writer and my professor was the editor.
That got me an A.
Every writing assignment after that also garnered an A. Except one. That one got an A+ and a request to submit the article to a magazine for publication.
Even if it is not your own style or in your own writing voice. That event taught me how writing can be structured in a way to manipulate others. That is great power. With great power comes great responsibility.