January 16, 2003: Issue 47
SIM STYLE: When Harry met Sally
Sure, it was a great movie title, but as a lead, it leaves something to be desired. What is a “when Harry met Sally” lead, you ask?
• When Lisa Sanchez decided to remodel her kitchen, she knew the window looking out to the alley had to go.
• When Dana and James Larson walked into their new home, they agreed the plain-vanilla walls didn’t suit their preference for color.
• When Mike Jones and Chris O’Connor bought their 1940s bungalow, the long-neglected and overgrown garden belied the home’s charm.
It’s not that the “when Harry met Sally” lead isn’t an effective way to start a story. It has simply become a victim of sheer overuse, especially in SIM. The fix is usually simple: Reword the sentence, or pull up a few details and expand a bit on the idea you’ve already got going. Check out these suggested rewrites.
• An alley is the last thing Lisa Sanchez wanted to see from her kitchen, so eliminating a window and its unappealing view was the first step in her remodeling plans.
• Plain vanilla is too ordinary for Dana and James Larson. They want a world filled with raspberry, chocolate, lime, and apricot—and they splash those flavors all over the walls.
• Long neglected and overgrown, the garden that Mike Jones and Chris O’Connor inherited when they bought their 1940s bungalow belied the home’s charm.
Anytime a story starts with the word “when,” let it send up a red flag. “When Harry met Sally” leads aren’t bad, but use them sparingly—no more than one per issue.
GRAMMAR: What’s the difference between “anyone” and “any one”?
Last week, we looked at the adverbs “anytime,” “anymore,” and “anyway.” This week, let’s look at the pronouns “anyone” and “everyone.” How do you decide whether the pronoun (one word) or an adjective-noun construction (two words) is correct? Here’s a foolproof method, courtesy of author Patricia O’Conner:
If you can substitute the words “anybody” or “everybody,” then the single words “anyone” and “everyone” are correct. If not, use two words.
correct: The project is so easy anyone could do it.
correct: Any one of the designers is qualified.
correct: Everyone agreed the project turned out better than expected.
correct: Every one of his designs drew praise.