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AP Guide to News Writing Ch 9-10...

Ch9:Color: Dip Your Brush in Small Details
This section of the AP Guide to News Writing deals with the use of color in writing news articles. Color is the ability to fit words together gracefully by using particular details in a story. By using color, the reporter writes in a way which readers see the story and are shown something. It all goes back to the literary saying 'show rather than tell' and is written in such a way that the reader supplies his/her own adjectives. The use of color, as mentioned before, relies on the implementation of small details. I noted that in this chapter the distinct differences between literary and news writing are made very visible. Mainly color in writing is contrasted with the standard detailed literary story.

This chapter also remarked on the use of figures of speech in order to add flare to an article. Apparently this is something that if done correctly can be great, but if done poorly can end in the creation of an often embarassing and mundane story. A smart choice of small details can add vitality to a story which is evident in the book's mention of Saul Rett's article about Robert McNamare. Rett wanted to desribe McNamare as 'having a mind like a computer' and instead of just stating that he had a mind like a computer he used colorful word choice to illustrate the concept. The interview/article took place during a dinner, Rett noted McNamare's response in order to refer back to his idea about McNamare's computer-like mind. Ex: "judiciously weighing...evaluating all the features."

In reference to writing with color it is best to use verbs of description rather than adjectives or adverbs. Also, use specifics. Pseudo color won't produce the same effect for the reader and this rules out using grand generalizations. You want to present rich imags in minial word usage. The final note in chapter 9 is that good writers/journalists have the discipline to bring good observations and details to their stories.

Chapter 10: Pseudo-Color: Cliches and Other Tresspasses
The first thing in this chapter that I think really stuck in my mind was the saying that 'shoddy tools yield shoddy results.' I think this applies to so many aspects to news writing. It can be about shoddy facts, sources, writing devices...etc. Though mainly it is refering to the use of cliches in stories, which apparently are defined as good or bad by each individual editor. I found it funny that some of these cliches that they book was describing as bad, I often use in everyday speak. The ones that were particularly common were "selling like hotcakes, breath of fresh air, last but not least, leave no stone unturned." Though at least I found out that not all cliches are bad. They can often be used to end or tie together a story in a few words rather than using a long verbose group of sentences.

Generally...
1. Its ok to use cliches occasionally, but not more than one in an article.
2. Cliches are acceptable when they serve a meaning precisely.
3. You shouldn't try and change up or add to pre-established cliches.
4. Overborrowin is what kills classic cliches.

The most interesting thing that I read in this chapter was in regard to the use of cliches in sports writing. One game of baseball is much like any other. There is not a lot of flexibility or variation in such things. Therefore when we goto write about them our stories follow a pattern that becomes standard. I can relate to this issue personally since the articles that I write for the Setonian are all about sports. When I write a preview on both the mens and womens golf teams for example it is hard not to repeat myself in the second article. The lingo and terminology associated with the sport doesn't change, and the fact that it was early in the season the coaches had similar quotes regarding team goals for the year. When it comes to writing about freshemen recruits on teams (any teams) 95% of the coaches I interview say the same thing: "They will be a great asset to us in the future." I can see how easy it is to fall into a writing pattern for these types of articles and have them seem oddly similar.

Sports cliches are often applied to politics and I found that to be a very interesting application and cross. The use of sports cliches is something that is done until they become threadbare. Because so many sports writers borrow coined terms from one another the life-span of the terms is shortened. It is suggested that sports writers 'cool down' stories and write more straight forward and simpler articles.

The final section of this chapter dealt with strained figures of speech and double headers. The strained figures of speech often become dismal and ludicrous. Trying to create your own figures of speech can end poorly often because of context confusion. The use of mixed metaphors are another common error. I thought the books section on personification was good. "Luck smiles and fate frowns." The last advice that the chapter (10) gave was to beware doubleheaders and redundancies. Ex:null and void, aid and abet. One word might say it all.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 7, 2005 1:13 AM.

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