THE BLOG
10/17/2012 09:10 am ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

The Secret of the Third Sentence

A lot of would-be writers are always asking me what the secret is to writing good, compelling
articles. Well, I normally keep the answer as a sort of proprietary secret, but because you seem
like a good egg, I'll tell you. Make sure that every third sentence you write is fucking awesome!

People have short attention spans, and so they will typically give you three sentences to dazzle
them. The first one has to be sort of a hook that sets up a premise, while the second one
explains the nature of your paragraph. Tonally then, your third sentence has to read like a space locomotive redlining a full payload of severed martian dicks back from the red planet.

It might seem a bit silly, believe me I know, but I've lost many a reader because I tried to write
some high-minded claptrap about the resilience of the American spirit. Hand to jesus (yes, with a little 'j'), that isn't what people want to read, not really. No, they just want confirmation that what they're engaging in is the hell-forged manifesto of a half-cocked lunatic with genuine hatred seeping through his or her gin-logged pores. The problem with this technique though, is it's easy to get lost in the structure.

Some people don't constrain themselves to three sentence paragraphs and so they aren't sure if
it is the third sentence of every new paragraph or if it is truly every third sentence. These gutless hacks should constrain themselves to wiping their asses with coarse ledger paper for that is the sum total of their so-called talent. Without fail, it should be every third sentence, and you just have to trust in the intelligence of your readers.

Invariably, once I tell people about the three-sentence rule, they ask if I made it up myself as a
sort of filler topic for an article on a "slow news day." "Brilliance," I respond, typing this
one-handed and fully nude as the too-warm battery of my laptop scorches my sallow genitals,
"doesn't need a pedigree." Perhaps this doesn't exactly answer their question, but as true
writers will attest, you are first and foremost scribbling your thoughts for an audience of one.
Everybody else reading your work is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Shakespeare was a coward compared to Basho. Maybe that statement is a bit hyperbolic, but if
you look through both writer's collected works, you'll see that the basis of the "power sentence"
comes not from the Bard's sonnets but from the form of the modern haiku. Two sentences form
up the body of an effective poem, the third drives the message home. "So?" That is the power
sentence from Basho's haiku, "A cold rain starting." The entire poem, written out in linear fashion reads: A cold rain starting, and no hat -- so?

Those same hacks conscribed to scrubbing their wretched filth holes with their own excrementally-inked manuscripts will, no doubt, take delight in claiming that "so" does not constitute a fully formed sentence. That might, to the uninitiated, at first seem like a valid point. If you share that thought with them, so be it. But remember this: I am reading Basho, you are reading me, and neither Basho nor I, is reading you. For the others, the rest of you wise souls: go forth and write great articles. And as a final note: always try to end your own articles with a final power sentence that sums up the entirety of your genius. And for the love of Christ (this time capital 'C' -- seems more appropriate here) don't end it like this slap-dash, piece-of-shit "slow news day" exercise in megalomaniac banality.