When writing, SHOW don't just TELL

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"Many sentences can be improved by surface trimming" (Cappon 7).

After reading the first two chapters of Cappon's book, I thought that this sentence was very important whether writing a news article or writing an academic paper.

It seems to be almost habit to us, but if we eliminate just a few words from a sentence, then we can make it stand out and have more meaning.

Original (random) Example: The professor assigned several long assignments in Math class, but the result was positive learning and helped make the student a more dedicated life-long learner.

Original (random) Example with surface cleaning: The professor assigned several assignments in Math class, but the result helped make the student a life-long learner.

This was just a quick example of making a sentence crisper and more direct. Sometimes, we add words into sentences in order to make them sound better. I understand that this is easier said than done, but it is something that we must practice in order to learn and understand.

Overall, "Wasted Words, Wasted Space" is very important because if we are writing a news article and put in fluff or un-necessary words, then our readers will not want to read it.

Click here for the web page devoted to Cappon.

4 Comments

You're definitely right about this taking practice. I think we all tend to think the more adverbs and adjectives we add, the more realistic the scene becomes. However, often, this is just fluff, and is unneccessary.

I definitely agree with you about revision being important in newswriting and essay writing. It’s amazing how a sentence can be re-born just because of a bit of trimming. I really like the Cappon text because the author is amusing and proves he knows exactly what he is talking about because he writes this text clearly and concisely like a news article should be. A lot better than Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction! ;)

You’re right, Derek. Also, the more adjectives and adverbs we add, the more likely we are to unconsciously let our own opinions slip into articles. To use your example, the words “long,” “positive,” and “dedicated” are all subjective. What is defined by long? The teacher’s opinion of long and the student’s opinion of long are probably two different things and the reporters might be different yet. However, since the reporter is the one writing the article and picking the words, it is his/her definition of “long” that gets placed in the article. Then when the reader reads the article, they might interpret “long” in yet another way. Needless to say, the more of these types of words we use, the more suspect our writing becomes.

I agree that this sentence could be good advice for either a news article or an academic paper. I find myself being wordy alot, so it was helpful to be reminded of removing unnecessary words.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on September 4, 2009 8:01 PM.

The News and I - Class Reflections and the Concept of Selectivity was the previous entry in this blog.

Reflection #1: News Worthiness vs. News Wordiness is the next entry in this blog.

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