Using and Abusing One’s Quirks—Avoiding them in Word Choice, Using them in Voice (When Appropriate)

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Matt Henderson’s blog made me reconsider several things.  First, there is the importance of using simple language when we are writing our news articles.  He wrote, “But I do think that the plainer language you can use, the better, and usually the language of people just speaking off the top of their heads is much less artificial than the plain prose you as the writer sit and agonize over and revise.”  This can be a challenge at times for me.  When we over think what words we use, we end up making things more complicated then they have to be.  While we are searching for that fancy word which avoids repetition of some repeated noun, we are cutting off some of our readership.  I think this even extends beyond using big or complex words, simply to words that may seem awkward or unusual to one’s readers which may seem normal to you.  For example, I rarely use the word stuff, even when I talk.  I just don’t use it.  I’ll say “I’m going to go gather my belongings” or “hold on one minute, let me get my things,” but I don’t say “let me get my stuff.”   If I was writing a news article and wrote, “Then she went to collect her belongings,” it would seem strange to the readers, because most people don’t say “belongings.”  Therefore, we need to be aware of our own little speaking quirks so that they do not seep into our news writing and distract our readers.

Second, Matt wrote, “…the real task of newswriting is how to weave the different voices of the people you interviewed into one well-crafted story that has a good flow.”  As I have been struggling the past few reading assignments over the idea of voice in news writing, this quote shed some new light on it to me.  First, I thought that no writer’s voice was allowed in a news article, then I realized that voice was necessary, Matt helped me see that the real task is creating voices for the people you quote (through the actual things they say and the little details about them), while still infusing your voice in (without it biasing the facts).  It is truly a balancing act, one which will take practice to master.  

Read more on Scanlon and Clark 294-302.

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