Many writers I have worked with are confused over the central message in whatever they
are writing. When I ask them: In a sentence, what are you trying to say? They often
respond with several things, qualifications, explanations and other moving parts.
One of the most valuable practices we teach in writing is the concept of the coat hook.
You can think of the coat hook as the one, specific point that everything hangs off of.
Everything connects to the coat hook.
In the same way, the coat hook in a document is the one, single point that the document is
all about. If you can’t say clearly what that is, there is potential confusion in your mind,
and then guess what happens in print, and in the reader’s mind?
One way to understand the coat hook is to ask yourself which sentence – if everything
else were stripped away – would the last man standing.
It’s easier to start out with a clear coat hook, though. State out loud what you would say if
your boss said, “In a sentence, what are you trying to say?”
Writers find that once they get clear on the coat hook, everything else can then fall into