Weekly Writing Tip 2: Discussing Commercial Stories

Discussion in 'Public Feedback Forum' started by Hazal, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. Hazal

    Hazal Legendary Member
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    I’ve written a bit on this topic before but I think it’s one of the hardest, yet most important, questions to get right (although, if you’re brilliant at writing commercial stories but can’t articulate why you’re interested in a specific law firm, then there’s no point). It's difficult because we often go through our lives not questioning why we’re attracted to the things that draw us in. Therefore, a question like HSF’s Introduce us to a topic you know about and explain why it interests you or MoFo’s Please detail a recent news article that has interested you and highlight how this might have an impact on Morrison & Foerster’s business can throw many of us off track. It’s crucial that you understand how to write about your topic in an interesting way and that you’re answering the question as closely as possible. This week’s tip will hopefully cover most concerns around writing about the stories that interest us.

    1) Picking a topic

    Of course, before you can even start writing you have to have an invested interest in a story. For a question like HSF’s, where the question can be guided by you, I wouldn’t worry about choosing a story that relates to the firm. In this instance, it’s more important to pick something you’re truly interested in so you have the passion needed to drive good/easy writing. If you’re stuck at this point, the best places to go are:

    i) TED/TEDx talks or YouTube: Covers a huge array of topics and issues so it might inspire you to follow a story they’ve already touched upon. Also easy videos to sit back and follow

    ii) Podcasts: Any commercial podcasts will do. Same as above, they will cover a wide range of stories and there may be one that particularly sparks your interest. I would recommend The Economist: Money Talks podcast.

    iii) Have a browse through news websites: You might have a particular favourite site or paper, but whatever it may be, sift through and see if there’s anything that grabs your interest (so long as it has a commercial streak). Have a look at pages other than the front page as well for further inspiration. Once inspiration hits and you’ve found something, really question yourself: what exactly was it that drew me in and hooked me?

    2) Researching the topic

    Even more important than picking your topic is knowing your topic and feeling excited about it. When I chose to write about Netflix for my HSF answer, I found a great TED video with the co-founder and noted down what was said every time I thought “that’s cool” or “that’s interesting – I've never heard/seen that before”. This motivated me because I enjoyed the process. Your question can’t be that long though so whatever you’re researching, there’s no need to go overboard. As long as you have all the stats or facts to back you up, you’ll be fine. In addition, quotes are a nice addition sometimes. Collecting this is particularly important if your question is asking you to relate it back to the firm as the above MoFo example does.

    3) Structuring your answer

    It’s important to write in an engaging way but to not lose sight of why exactly a story has interested you and simply cite facts. Therefore, you need to have a clear structure first. I would recommend:

    i) Brief but engaging introduction to your topic/story

    ii) The 2 stand-out reasons why it engaged you, stated concisely and clearly

    iii) The backing evidence for those reasons

    iv) A concluding point for the reader to remember your interest

    Remember that 2 and 4 can be completely different. So, for example, if my reason for liking the Netflix story is 1) it’s use of data 2) it’s use of debt, I need to conclude what that means for me in point 4. In this case, my answer would be Netflix drives competition in the entertainment industry through 1 and 2 and competition interests me because I enjoy seeing the economy working and consumers being given competitive prices and an abundance of choices. If your chosen story has an emotional link to you somehow, that’s also a good thing to exploit. In conclusion, make sure you dedicate as much time to describing the topic as explaining your interest (maybe more so to your interest, but never devote more to the facts themselves).

    4) Engaging your reader

    Once you’ve established your structure and your interest, you’ll need to try and get your reader as interested in your topic as you are. The first one or two lines are crucial to this as they’ll set the tone for the rest of your answer. A tip that Jaysen once gave was: Try to form an opinion on the topic. To make your answer strong, lead with your opinion rather than simply describing the topic. (Alternatively, give a brief description and then go into an evaluation). Taking that advice, I used a quote by an industry expert that summed-up what I was trying to say which allowed me to flow through into my argument. In addition, I think it’s very useful to read good journalistic writing that you personally find engaging, evaluate why you were engaged and attempt to incorporate the same tricks into your writing. Although you don’t have much word count to manoeuvre in, I would recommend reading an Economist article. They always have engaging beginnings.

    But remember, don’t lose sight of what’s really going to win you points – clear, concise language (see here) that presents the story, establishes your interest and concludes your interest.
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