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Ransom Notes Too 'Wordy', says Association Head

Reuters. Ransom notes that have too many words are not effectual, says Roy Enders, president of The American Ransom Note Writers Guild. “Ransom notes should be written with a succinctness matching that of a good sales letter: statement of purpose, a rationale for financial compliance, and a call for action,” he said.

Enders, speaking at the National Conference of Ransom Note Writers held in Newark, New Jersey, also gave examples of ransom notes the Guild find 'wordy and long-winded'. “When you write, as one did recently, a 15,000-word ransom note – so large that it required a cover letter – often the recipient fails to get to the core message. One ransom note like this resulted in it taking so much time to reach the ending that the family had adjusted to not having their cat and didn't want it back at any cost.

“Similarly, ransom notes sent as continuing chapters are not in the best interest of the note writer,” he said. “And, while I am a great believer in modern technology, sending a ransom note as a PowerPoint presentation is also not as effectual as traditional cut-and-paste versions.”

What does make a good ransom note? Experts say that following the rules of journalism work best and since most ransom notes are written by poorly paid journalists and aspiring writers, the standard is high. However, as Roy Enders is quick to point out, many new ransom note writers fail to restrict their note writing to a standard and, as he phrased it, “Think that a ransom note is a submission – not a demand – and write as if they are trying to make the Best-Sellers List.”

Writing a ransom note can be fraught with difficulties if not done correctly. Charles Fleer, on a day pass from the Newark Correctional Facility, said that while a short, to-the-point, ransom note can be effective, he warns against not taking The American Ransom Note Writers Guild's writer's handbook on ransom notes, We Have Your Cat, guidelines completely. “Step five, where you make sure the paper you have to paste words on is blank on the other side. I made this mistake of using an old electrical utilities bill with my name, address and telephone number on it. I should have paid attention to what the Guild has for guild-member literature.”

Another error, told by James Hiddle, a speaker at the National Conference, is to include a return address or a SAE. “Many of our members do this and I can tell you that this is truly counterproductive.”

Enders concluded his remarks at the conference by saying, “A good ransom note is less than 25-35 words. If you cannot write one in this limit, I would suggest that Aspiring Ransom Note Writers practice until they can do this easily. I suggest spending at least an hour a day writing ransom notes and ruthlessly editing so that the word count is as concise as can be done.”

© Reuters Fish and Deli

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