Doubt-- The Enemy of Succinctness

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The importance of word selection is covered in the assigned Cappon text.  In all writing, but especially journalism, it is important to avoid verbosity.  Considering this is such a common problem for writers of all disciplines, I began to wonder why it is so difficult to keep things short, sweet, and accurate.  I believe that most of our problems arise when we, as writers, do not trust the words we select to be enough for reader comprehension.  When these doubts override our writing sensibilities, we are underestimating not only ourselves, but our readers.  Another reason writers tend to err on the side of wordiness is because of a desire to paint a certain picture for the reader.  However, in journalism it is not the writer's job to make the reader feel as though he/she was there, it is the writer's job to present the facts in a way that leaves the reader free to make his/her own judgments. 

4 Comments

I actually disagree; I think that part of the journalist's job is to paint the picture of the scene. This shouldn't be at the expense of actually reporting the facts, but truly talented journalists do both. I think the story about Rwanda on page 4 is a really powerful example of making the reader feel like he/she was there. The facts are still there, but what really grips you is the writer's eloquent description of the scene. It actually follows the reverse order of the inverted period, which can be risky, but here it really works. As I was reading, though I didn't know exactly what happened, the horrific details made me want to keep reading to find out the specifics behind this horrible tragedy. Sometimes it probably isn't as easy to go into this much detail with physical description and scene-setting, but I think drawing the reader in with this level of detail is a great goal to strive for. And it can be done with succinctness; the word choice in the Rwanda story is really spare and poetic.

Josie Rush said:

Part of the journalists job is to paint the picture of the scene, but my point is that it needs to be done in a succinct way. There often isn't enough room in a paper for a journalist to go prose crazy with descriptions. I agree that the Rwanda story is a good example. As you said, it's "spare and poetic." The "spare" part is what I'm referring to when I state that it's important to avoid verbosity. You can "paint the picture of the scene" and not be overly wordy.

Josie Rush said:

Oh, I see what you disagree with now, heh, sorry. At first I thought you were disagreeing with the statement that journalists should avoid verbosity, and I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. But, I think it was "in journalism it is not the writer's job to make the reader feel as though he/she was there..." I see where you're coming from, Matt. I think that if a writer can make the reader feel present for the situation, that's great. But facts should not be sacrificed for prose. As you said, talented writers can have the best of both worlds. But, as we all know, we're not always reading work by talented writers.

Jennifer Prex said:

That makes sense. Since writers cannot always be in the same room as their readers, they cannot clarify any parts of their writing that is unclear. It is only natural to want to make sure that the reader can understand it without clarification. As such, writers can have a tendency of going overboard with it.

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