I’m a long time fan of the comedian Brian Regan and love his style and sarcasm. Earlier this year we attended his show, “The Epitome of Hyperbole” and he did a routine about the phrase, “One thing led to another.”
Before that, I hadn’t really thought about how that phrase is just a clever way for the writer to get out of filling in what are probably mundane details that aren’t interesting enough to write. And in most instances that’s the case, no one wants to read about what led to what if it doesn’t matter. This is especially true in news article writing where there are strict word limits. There isn’t space to have a complete story and readers are only looking for the key points.
There is one place where using this phrase is a really bad idea, and that’s fiction writing. Readers have come to be immersed in a story and not just the key points. By saying “one thing led to another” the writer is essentially throwing his hands in the air and declaring that the sequence of events is so boring that he doesn’t want to even bother trying to write about them. If this is happening, he might want to reconsider his career choice. No story should get boring enough that whole scenes are glossed over. And if they do, we hope that the writer is wise enough to skip those scenes entirely.
I haven’t noticed the phrase in any of the books I’ve read in the past year, which leads me to believe that most of the world agrees with me about avoiding its use in fiction. It still happens occasionally, I’m sure. With millions of writers pecking out billions of words there has to be more than a few that believe that this phrase is awesome. Don’t be one of them.
Brian Regan is right, when you think about it, it is funny thinking about what might have happened when “one thing led to another.”
Check out this short clip –