Fantastic Journalism Tips

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From Guide to News Writing: The Resource for Professional Journalists by Rene J. Cappon:

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that…a machine [should contain] no unnecessary parts” (7).

This little metaphor really helps me understand why it is important to keep our work concise.  Yes, I understand that we should keep it simple but in order to make a sentence sound nice, we may want to throw in a few extra words.  That seems logical to an English major.  But this metaphor drives home the point that extra words (in a journalistic sense) is like putting another emergency break in a car.  The first one is for safety, but another one would just be pointless. 

So we should stay away from things like too many adjectives for example because “strong writing should rely on nouns and verbs” (13).  If I said, “Jim Jones’ house burned down as a result of a dropped Marlboro cigarette catching his rug on fire” the word Marlboro would be unnecessary.  Who needs to know what kind of cigarette he was smoking?  All the reader would be interested in is how it caught on fire.

Also, I found the advice on page 20 very useful concerning the use of the phrases “there is” and “there were.”  Cappon says, “Always distrust there were and there is, especially at the start of a sentence.”  So instead of saying “there were 50 people gathered at Daisy’s birthday party” you could say “Fifty people gathered to celebrate Daisy’s birthday.”  The second sentence sounds so much better!

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2 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

I wrote about something similar with adjectives. Verbs can serve just as well for a passage without being redundant.

For the second part, I understand that "there are/is" sucks, but I never got why to distrust it.

April Minerd said:

What you said about adjectives makes me wonder. I get your point, but isn't the Marlboro case like the example we had about knowing the dogs name, a measure of detail. Personally, a cigarette is a cigarette to me. I don't see it being crucial to the story, either.
Also, Dr. Jerz commented about one reading saying:
"I love the specific collected information (Clark & Scanlan 291) of the cigar clamped in Sunseri's mouth (G-20 summit article, A1). What is the brand of the cigar?"
So, now I'm confused.

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