When I was a young newspaper writer, I was a copy editor’s worst nightmare. One particularly forgiving improver of words described my early writing style as “breezy,” which was a diplomatic way to say “I asked you for 700 words, and you puked up 1,400.”
As I progressed in the industry, I slowly found out that editors wanted shorter, tighter copy not just so it would fit in the allotted space in the print edition (remember those?), but so that it would be at least marginally readable.
It was my tremendously good fortune to work with one managing editor early on who realized that I, like many young journalists growing up in the Please Validate My Opinion Era, saw myself as the next great American columnist. If I wanted to write columns, my editor said, then Gene Weingarten was required reading. The Washington Post scribe’s weekly “Below the Beltway” column remains required reading for me to this day.
Sure, Weingarten’s wit could cut through a ’68 Buick. But that isn’t why he’s one of our most brilliant living columnists. He earns the distinction because of the depth of emotion he elicits in 500 words or less.