Magazine article The Quill

Flashy Tools Don't Trump Writing Basics

Magazine article The Quill

Flashy Tools Don't Trump Writing Basics

Article excerpt

JOURNALISTS ARE AMONG THOSE profes sionals expected to know how to write a sentence. Whether in print, online or in a broadcast script, we reporters and editors need to know how to draft sharp, precise copy at a moment's notice for public consumption.

It's tempting for younger journalists to gloss over these rules in favor of impressing editors and audiences with flowery narrative styling and the latest, flashiest tools. However, journalists coming out of school or in the first few years of their career would do well to remember that the fundamentals of good reporting and writing are just as important as knowing the latest social media platform.

Some syntax and AP Style rules are easily forgotten in the heat of breaking news or a tight deadline. In the best of times, we can replace those clunky chunks of text with something easier on the eyes, but our audience will benefit if we write cleaner from the get-go.

Here are a few suggestions - for journalists young, old and everything in between - on how to craft the best copy possible when sitting down at the keyboard.

AVOID USING "IT IS ..." OR "THERE ARE ..." SENTENCES

Boring sentences kill copy. My beat reporting instructor in j-school said sentences that start with "It is ..." or "There are ..." are the most boring sentences possible, and I couldn't agree more. We use sentences like this in everyday speech, but they don't really work in news stories.

Look at this sentence, for example: "There are five city council members who sponsored the bill. "

The statement conveys the idea, but it also puts the audience to sleep. The writer needs to invite readers to continue to the next sentence.

Writing with more punch, a writer could say: "Five city council members sponsored the bill. "

The sentence is shorter, eliminates the "There are ..." construction and has more pop.

WRITE IN THE ACTIVE VOICE

Passive voice doesn't just make for boring copy; it can also confuse the reader. …

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