Yet another Lesson on English vs. Journalism...and it never gets old

| | Comments (3)
This is not my first interaction with the inverted pyramid, nor is it my first interaction with the differences between an English essay and a News story. In fact, I've even seen this chart before, in my EL200 course last semester. I've even blogged about it already--but I'm still going to write a new blog, because that's what I do...I write.

Clear writing packs power.
--English Essay Vs. News Story

To me, the above quotation is one of the most important aspects of news writing. Passive voice--(the use of "of" "have been" and other dull things like that) kills great stories before they even have a chance. Who wants to read "the cat had been waiting for the mouse all day" when they could read "the cat waited for the mouse all day." In News writing, more than anywhere else, less really is more. The objective is to get as much out of your words as possible, because usually, you have a word limit, and as our trusty inverted pyramid shows, if your story runs too long, the end is going to get chopped. And let's face it, no matter how "unimportant" the end of your story might be, its still information that you seemed to feel was important to include in the essay in the first place. When I was the copy editor for my high school's paper, I spent more time rewriting articles to eliminate unnecessary words and statements than I did writing my own stories; however, I feel that all that editing really paid off, because yet again, the inverted pyramid and passive voice elimination are now so deeply engrained in my brain that I'm pretty sure I'll be avoiding the use of them (oops, there's an "of" ...my bad...) for the rest of my career as a writer. Oh, and I'll NEVER use a comma before "and" or  "or" in a list again...some habits die hard.

3 Comments

Kaitlin Monier said:

I really like your point about less being more and the example of the cat. It could be applied to all writing, but would be especially important in news writing. Because the news often reports on important stories, people would probably just want the facts and not a wordy description. Thanks for the tip!

Aja Hannah said:

Thanks for bringing up this issue. Passive voice makes readers less interested and less impacted by the story. It's frustrating when I copywrite and article and all the reporter did was use passive voice; that leaves so much for me to change.

Active voice really grips a reader. I understand that sometimes (maybe when you're missing a fact) passive voice is unavoidable, but most of the time it's not. Get someone to look over your work before you submit it.

Jessie Krehlik said:

I think people underestimate the value of active vs. passive voice. I'm not trying to discredit passive voice, because like Dr. Jerz said in class ( I think it was actually in EL 237), sometimes passive voice does a better job of getting the point across...but the main point I'm trying to make is that when you use active voice, you use less words, meaning you can have more important stuff to put in your articles rather than just filler.

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