Narrative articles, such as personal experience stories, confessions, and narratives in the third person, consist almost entirely of incidents. Dialogue and description are very frequently employed in relating incidents, even when the greater part of the incident is told in the writer's own words. The incidents given as examples of narrative beginnings on pages 135-37 are sufficient to illustrate the various methods of developing incidents as units.
Statistics. To make statistical facts comprehensible and interesting is usually a difficult problem for the inexperienced writer. Masses of figures generally mean very little to the average reader. Unless the significance of statistics can be quickly grasped, they are almost valueless as a means of explanation. One method of simplifying them is to translate them into terms with which the average reader is familiar. This may often be done by reducing large figures to smaller ones. Instead of saying, for example, that a press prints 36,000 newspapers an hour, we may say that it prints 10 papers a second, or 600 a minute. To most persons 36,000 papers an hour means little more than a large number, but 10 papers and one second are figures sufficiently small to be understood at a glance. Statistics sometimes appear less formidable if they are incorporated in an interview or in a conversation.
In undertaking to explain the advantages of a coöperative community store, a writer was confronted with the problem of handling a considerable number of figures. The first excerpt below shows how he managed to distribute them through several paragraphs, thus avoiding any awkward massing of figures. In order to present a number of comparative prices, he used the concrete case, given below, of an investigator making a series of purchases at the store.
(1) Here's the way the manager of the community store started. He demonstrated to his neighbors by actual figures that they were paying anywhere from $2 to $8 a week more for their groceries and supplies than they needed to. This represented the middlemen's profits.
He then proposed that if a hundred families would pay him regularly 50 cents a week, he would undertake to supply them with garden truck, provisions and meats at wholesale prices. To clinch the demonstration he showed that an average family would save this 50- cent weekly fee in a few days' purchases.
There is no difference in appearance between the community store and any other provision store. There is no difference in the way you buy your food. The only difference is that you pay 50 cents a week on a certain day each week and buy food anywhere from 15 to 40 per cent less than at the commercial, non-coöperative retail stores.
(2) The other day an investigator from the department of agriculture went to the Washington community store to make an experiment. He paid his 50-cent weekly membership fee and made some purchases.
He bought a 10-cent carton of oatmeal for 8 cents; a 10-cent loaf of bread for 8 cents; one-half peck of string beans for 20 cents, instead of for 30 cents, the price in the non-coöperative stores; three pounds of veal for 58 cents instead of 80 cents; a half dozen oranges for 13 cents instead of the usual price of from 20 to 25 cents. His total purchases amounted to $1.32, and the estimated saving was 49 cents —within 1 cent of the entire weekly fee.
Since to the average newspaper reader it would not mean much to say that the cost of the public schools amounted to several hundred thousand dollars a year, a special feature writer calculated the relation of the school appropriation to the total municipal expenditure and then presented the results as fractions of a dollar, thus: Of every dollar that each taxpayer in this city paid to the city treasurer last year, 45 cents was spent on the public schools. This means that nearly one-half of all the taxes were expended on giving boys and girls an education.
Of that same dollar only 8 cents went to maintain the police department, 12 cents to keep up the fire department, and 13 cents for general expenses of the city offices.
Out of the 45 cents used for school purposes, over one-half, or 24 cents, was paid as salaries to teachers and principals. Only 8 cents went for operation, maintenance, and similar expenses.
How statistics may be effectively embodied in an interview is demonstrated by the following excerpt from a special feature story on a workmen's compensation law administered by a state industrial board: Judge J.B. Vaughn, who is at the head of the board, estimates that the system of settling compensation by means of a commission instead of by the regular courts has saved the state $1,000,000 a year since its inception in 1913. "Under the usual court proceedings," he says, "each case of an injured workman versus his employer costs from $250 to $300. Under the workings of the industrial board the average cost is no more than $20.
"In three and one-half years 8,000 cases have come before us. Nine out of every ten have been adjusted by our eight picked arbitrators, who tour the state, visiting promptly each scene of an accident and adjusting the compensation as quickly as possible. The tenth case, which requires a lengthier or more painstaking hearing, is brought to the board.
"Seven million dollars has been in this time ordered to be paid to injured men and their families. Of this no charge of any sort has been entered against the workers or their beneficiaries. The costs are taken care of by the state. Fully 90 per cent of all the cases are settled within the board, which means that only 10 per cent are carried further into the higher courts for settlement..
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