This, from Seth Godin. I am guilty of throat clearing. Writing columns for the newspaper has helped me a lot over the years; the discipline of a fixed work count does wonders to sharpen your ability to be brief and to the point. But show me a blank page and I'll ramble merrily away before getting anywhere near an argument. I like free associations and delight in blurting out all kinds of unnecessary details. Which can work if you do it well (my first book was like that), but really, when you're trying to make a point, it hurts more than anything else.

Begin in the middle.

The first paragraph, where you lay out what's about to happen. The half-apology you use to preface your comments at the meeting. The email that takes a paragraph or two to get to the point...

You can skip those.

Throat clearing is a good way to make sure that people are looking at you. And an even better way to give yourself time to collect your thoughts, to indulge your fears or to get yourself warmed up.

But we're already looking at you. We've clicked through to your link, given you the microphone, read your note...

Say all that stuff in your head, but, we'd really like to hear the best part first.

Begin in the middle.