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Such a fine line between clever and stupid

"Hello, tree. There is good news and there is bad news for you today."
--page 28, The Associated Press Guide to Newswriting

I picked this quote because I think it illustrates how hard it is to write good leads. As David St. Hubbins once said, "It's such a fine line between clever and stupid." I think that would be my problem in writing news stories; I can be as creative as I want when writing plays or short stories, but if I start injecting too much personality into the story, it distracts from what I'm really trying to communicate. So I think I'd err more on the side of being boring and dry, which isn't good either. I don't want to write a lead that sounds like a forced attempt at being creative, but I don't want to put the reader to sleep either. Now, I'm gonna say that as a reader, I'd probably prefer a stupid attempt at humor than a sentence that's accurate but doesn't really get my attention. Even a bad joke can make you laugh just by virtue of how bad it is. So I'm gonna agree with Cappon that that lead was silly, but I think it's probably better than some line that doesn't do much of anything except say that some trees are being cut down.
Another difficulty is this whole notion of objectivity that confuses me. If you get too creative, couldn't this cloud the facts a bit? What happened to the whole window metaphor? If you start adding all kinds of funky decorations to the window like bits of humor and wacky ways to phrase things, doesn't that make it kind of hard to see through? So while I agree that it's important to find ways to grab the reader's attention, I think you need to be careful that you're not sacrificing integrity for getting readers. Once again, the whole integrity vs. being entertaining thing pops up. And I think it's most important to balance the two, rather than completely favoring one over the other.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 17, 2009 2:01 PM.

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