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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Issue: Industry at crossroads. We Say: Northern Lights, landscape and culture world-class attractions.

Today’s episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: How to, write good.

The title of this post is copied directly from the editorial I am about to show you. Don't look directly at it. We'll just head straight into the main part of the editorial, which I swear I am not making up. My analysis is in bolded text:

Aurora tourism is shining as brightly as ever, but it's critical that business and government ensure, [name of town withheld] remains the northern lights tourism capital of North America.

Excellent. A wise man once said that there are no commas in radio, only pauses. When you write for radio, you use commas to indicate that the speaker should pause for a moment. This gives listeners a chance to think about what you’ve just said. Obviously, this writer uses commas the same way. I definitely want to pause after the word “ensure” to think about business and government. Good call.

That means working to improve airline connections and looking to other markets keen to experience the NWT's rich First Nations culture and amazing landscape.

OH. MY. GAWD. Improving airline connections and looking to other markets? What a fabulous idea! Does Harvard Business School know about this? You should totally give a seminar. I bet nobody, especially airline companies, ever thought of improving airline connections. And I’m CERTAIN that tourism companies have never thought of looking to other markets.

My biggest concern here is that you are just giving these ideas away. You should write a book or give speaking tours.

Crowds of Japanese tourists have been coming to [name of town withheld] since 1989, after an entrepreneur looked to the amazing light show and saw more than just flickering space plasma. By 2001, 13,000 tourists, mainly Japanese, were coming North each winter.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks hit the business hard. It has recovered to where 10,200 aurora tourists came to [name of town withheld] last winter, spending millions of dollars along the way.

OK, stop. What do you mean when you say “to where”? I like to proofread my work before I print it 10,000 times and pass it all around the city, but that’s just me.

Everyone should be thankful for the efforts of aurora entrepreneurs, because it's become a huge part of our city's economy. Without their annual trips to Japan and efforts to keep [name of town withheld] on top, this business could easily have been lost.

I think it’s time for a short lesson about pronouns. I love pronouns, because they keep me from having to write phrases like “aurora entrepreneurs” over and over again. However, it’s important to remember that when you use a pronoun, it should match the form of the noun you’re replacing. For example, you can’t use “it” to replace a plural noun like “aurora entrepreneurs”. It would be better to use “they”. In this case, you would change “it’s” (“it has”) to “they’ve” (“they have”). See how easy that was?

That hard work can't end when there's growing competition for aurora bucks.

An American Press article published on the weekend suggests more and more Japanese are flying to Fairbanks, Alaska to see the lights. This year, 3,500 will fly there on 10 direct charter flights to Fairbanks from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

This one’s not really your fault. I mean, how could anyone in the news business know that the world’s largest news agency is called the Associated Press?

[Name of town withheld] can't offer the same direct flight. That would take a longer runway. To get here from Japan involves 24 hours of travel, with stops in Vancouver and Edmonton.

The land to extend the runway to 3,500 metres is available but the dollars aren't. The price tag was estimated at $19 million in 2004. In comparison, Edmonton's longest runway is about 3,400 metres.

[Name of town withheld] council, MLAs and businesses need to press the government to move ahead with the runway extension so we can compete with Fairbanks.

Wait, what? You want to spend $19 million of taxpayers' money (and God only knows how much that figure has increased in the past three years) in hopes that 10 extra flights will come here every year? Is this a joke?

Perhaps airlines can offer charter flights from Vancouver to [name of town withheld] during aurora season. First Air tried, but that was after 9-11. Is it time to try again?

Another fabulous idea. I bet nobody at the airlines has ever thought of tapping this market. Again, my concern is that you are giving these ideas away. Do you know how much money consultants earn?

As well, tourist companies must look to other markets, in Europe and beyond. Let's use aboriginal culture as another drawing card by developing a First Nations cultural centre as part of Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. There, drummers and dancers from around the North can play, slide shows and lectures can take place.

I'm not going to ask what a "tourist company" is or how it might be different from a "tourism company". There are two lessons here. First, you’ll want to use the word “the” in front of the heritage centre’s name. (See how easy that was?) I also think it’s important to review the basics of parallel construction. I like the way you’ve set up the last sentence to use parallel construction, but you seem to be missing part of the sentence. It would be good to have a third example, like “and art can be displayed” or “and crafts can be sold” or “and elders can tell stories”. This creates a nice rhythm and adds power to your argument. I understand that this is generally a problem for you, so I’m trying to help.

Business should not have to do this job alone. Tourism has never been a top priority for our government but it should be because it makes all of us and the bottom line look good.

I understand that commas are confusing. You might want to take some training, so you can be more confident when you need to use punctuation. Fortunately for you, this training is available right here in town at several locations. These training centres are called “elementary schools”. They also provide helpful tips about how to re-write clumsy closing sentences. Not that you need this type of help, of course.