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70 THE FACTS ON FILE GUIDE TO GOOD WRITING effectiveness of the method, however, it took the best part of a decade before his flop became the predominant style among serious high jumpers. The replacement of the old-fashioned sand pit to land in by a very thick sponge mat made all the difference. Only the very brave are willing to risk their necks for glory.

This is a typical piece of first drafting that would benefit from several kinds of revision. But let us concentrate on breaking it down into paragraphs—or bringing out the paragraph breaks that are essentially already there. (You might like to try making it into paragraphs for yourself before reading the analysis below.) The first two sentences constitute an introduction. At the end of the second sentence, the point of view changes. The writer introduces the “officials and spectators” and presents the event as seen through their eyes. A change of point of view necessitates a new paragraph. Two further sentences (both beginning with “they”) continue the story from the same point of view. Next, the writer’s attention seems to turn to the history of the sport, but the “topic element,” as we might call it in this case, is mostly contained in the second part of that sentence: “it had been taken for granted [since the early days] that part of the skill lay in coming down safely on the other side.” If we identify those words as containing the topic, then all of the next four sentences can be linked together as a unit. There might be an argument for separating out the two sentences that refer again to Fosbury, but against that it could be argued that Fosbury’s method is being presented specifically in light of what had gone before. The last three sentences make quite an effective close, with again a possible option to let the very last sentence stand alone. The paragraphed version, awaiting further attention, would then look like this: At the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, high-jumping set off in an entirely new direction that was to take it to unprecedented heights. Richard D. (Dick) Fosbury took gold for the United States that year with an entirely new jumping style of his own devising that came to be known as the Fosbury flop. Officials and spectators watched in amazement and dismay as Fosbury launched himself into the air, arched his back, went over the bar belly up, not belly down as in traditional jumping styles, and landed, apparently, on his head in the pit. They were amazed at his courage, at his success, and at the fact that he did not break his neck. They were dismayed by the thought of the spinal injuries and concussion that might result as, spurred on by Fosbury’s success, young athletes tried to emulate his method. Since the early days when the high jump developed as a sport out of a desire by young men to show their daring and athleticism by leaping gates and hedges, it had been taken for granted that part of the skill lay in coming down safely on the other side. In most older belly-down styles like the straddle, the jumper’s leading foot was the first part of the body that went over the bar and the first that came down on the other side to break the fall. Fosbury changed all that. His head went over the

Guide to good writing - Martin Manser  
Guide to good writing - Martin Manser  
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