Great Tips for Writing an Article

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This entry is a little different than most of my entries.  I found a lot of useful information so I’ve compiled it into a sort of study guide for myself and anyone else who may need it.  Chapter 8 was especially helpful in clarifying some of my subconscious questions about news writing.

From Cappon’s The Associated Press Guide to News Writing:

1)      “The furthest you can go is to fix minor grammatical errors and omit pure padding or meaningless repetition” (66).

I’ve often wondered this about quotes.  Now I know that you can fix a person’s grammar, but just don’t take it too far.

2)      “Good quotes should summarize what’s on a person’s mind, crystallize an emotion or attitude or offer an individual perspective of some sort—preferably in a concise and interesting way” (66).

Quotes are all about the person.  Their opinion is what is supposed to be captured because, as the writer of the article, you can’t put in your opinion.  You need to put some sort of emotion in for the audience to relate to while still being objective.  A simple fact isn’t quotable because it’s known.  If you want to say that someone informed you of a certain truth, there is no need to quote them.  Paraphrase them instead.

3)      “But an ellipsis is seldom required in the ordinary run of conversational and interview quotes, which readers know to be excerpts anyway” (70).

I was wondering about this.  When I was interviewing people for my spot article, I would fall behind when they were speaking.  I either had to ask them to repeat or I just let go of what they said all together because they elaborated a lot more than I’d ever put in an article.  In the places where I lost them which occurred at the ends of sentences, I would put an ellipsis and pick up again.  I guess Cappon is saying that I don’t need to do that.  (Correct me if I’m wrong.)  Also, if my interviewee says something before what I end up quoting, an ellipsis isn’t necessary.  What a nice little trick!

4)      “You can also skew a quote by converting a long, involved question into the subject’s answer:

Reporter: Do you feel the verdict was wrong, that it was a gross miscarriage of justice?

A: Well, yes.

Copy: He said he ‘felt that the verdict was wrong and a gross miscarriage of justice.’”(73)

                Now to me, this doesn’t feel right.  I get the point in doing it but it just seems like a dirty little trick to get people to say what you want them to say.  This means that if you ever talk to a reporter you better make sure you listen to their questions. 


Have a nice day!


Greta Carroll said:

Yes, I was wondering whether we could fix little grammatical things in quotes as well. My question comes when you write “just don’t take it too far.” Anytime I read something like that, I automatically think, what *is* “too far”. Maybe what I consider as a minor error, someone else considers major. That’s part of what frustrates me with news writing, I’m never sure whose definition we are using as “too opinionated,” “too major of a grammatical error,” etc.

As for your last point there, about the questions, I agree that that is unethical, which is exactly what Cappon says. Right below his example, he says, “Reporters shouldn’t ask speechifying questions, but some will” (73). It’s his way of trying to teach new journalists not to do that, while helping us realize that some people don’t abide by that rule. This way if we ever run into someone who does this, we won’t pick up the bad habit as well.

I like how you set up your blog though, it’s a good way to help keep things organized and to help you remember some of the many pieces of advice Cappon gave in these chapters.

Angela Palumbo said:

Thanks, Greta. I know what you mean about "too opinionated" and "too far." I wonder the same things. I'm guessing that if you make someone sound a little better they aren't going to be mad at you. But you don't want to make it sound unnatural or change what they're saying. If a person said, "He don't like her" you might change it to "He didn't like her" (not that it's an interesting enough quote to put in an article. Obviously you wouldn't change it to "He loathes her." You aren't just changing the words, you're changing how that person comes across.

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