The Slant and Bias In Writing Style

What is a Slant?


Once you call an editor and say, "How would you like an article regarding insurance?" he's would say to you, "What about insurance?"

The answer to that question will be your slant.

When you don't have an answer, of if you falter and mutter something like "Well, you know, the 'investments' and stuff," you will hear a click, followed by silence.

You might not even get that far with your writing goal. That's due to the fact that your article query is going through the mail, not over the phone line, and the editor will reject it without even bothering to ask the question. Therefore, your article idea should be slanted before it's presented to an editor.

When we "slant" something, what we're doing is presenting it "to conform to a particular bias." This would make sense to you if you picture different groups of potential readers for your article. You slant your article so that it targets one particular group of readers, one market. If your over-all idea is "Best Tennis Clubs," you could slant it toward the readers of Retirement Living by making it "Learning Tennis After Age 55." If you want to slant it towards the readers of Cosmopolitan, it could become, "Your Local Tennis Club: Where the Boys Are." Or you could slant it towards the readers of Weight Watchers Magazine with "Tennis: Win or Lose, You Lose (Weight, That Is!)."

But the writer does not always select a market before settling on a suitable slant. Just as often, the writer has a slant in mind for an idea and should then determine possible markets for it. As the writer narrows the slant on an idea, he or she also narrows the range of possible markets. If you begin thinking you would like to write something about houses, you can visualize a sale to almost any magazine or newspaper in the world. As soon as you narrow it down to buying a house, you have ruled out magazines for children, for instance, and magazines that are distributed only to condominium dwellers. Make it "Buying a House for Less than $40,000," and you will perhaps lose the interest of people who read Fortune and Town & Country, among others. And by the time you have narrowed it down to "Buying a House for Under $40,000 in the Boston area," you've knocked out every potential market except Boston Magazine, the local papers, and a few regional publications.


Why You Need a Slant

First, if you don't have a slant you do not have an article. Anyone can offer to write about ducks, for instance, but the editor can't give you an assignment unless he knows precisely what you're offering to do. He needs to know what your view of ducks is, what body of duck information you will be providing, and what it has to do with his readers. Think of how you would feel if you were the editor of Animal Lovers Magazine and you gave a writer an assignment to write an article "regarding ducks," and she came back with a piece on how to make roast duck for Sunday dinner.

Next, you may eliminate potential markets as your slant gets more specific, the slant factor turns stronger for the markets that remain. Your suggested article grows closer to being "perfect" for a specific set of readers. Keep this within reason.