The Straight News Story

readable and understandable when it is rewritten in two Sentences The second element of language is the sentence. The simple declarative sentence that consists of subject and verb,  or  subject,  verb  and  object  is  the  most  common form in normal, informal conversation. For this reason, it  is  the  best  sentence  structure  for  most  newswriting. Notice   how   the   following   sentence   becomes   more simple  sentences: Sentence:  Following  his  graduation  from  the U.S.   Naval   Academy   in   1948,   Brown   was assigned to the destroyer USS Roulston, where he served his first tour of sea duty for three years as assistant communications officer and junior watch officer. Rewrite:  Brown was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1948. He spent his first tour of sea duty aboard the destroyer USS Roulston as assistant communications officer and junior watch  officer. Simplifying  sentences  is  not  difficult,  but  it  does take a little practice. In time, you can learn to use just the right number of words to achieve maximum clarity without destroying smoothness. There are no absolute rules, but a fair guide is to try to keep sentences to 30 words or less and to shoot for 17 to 20. Vary the length of your sentences. For example, you  might  use  a  four-word  sentence,  then  a  15-word sentence,  then  an  eight-word  sentence,  followed  by  a 30-word   sentence.   This   keeps   your   writing   from becoming singsong. DO  NOT  CLUTTER.—  Never  crowd  too  many details  into  one  sentence.  Although  a  compound  or complex sentence may contain more than one thought, you  should,  for  the  most  part,  stick  to  sentences  that express one thought clearly and concisely. Otherwise, the  reader  is  apt  to  get  lost  in  a  mass  of  clauses  and details. DO NOT REPEAT.— If you say in the lead of your story that 61 people were killed in a training accident, do not mention later in the story that 61 were killed. If the readers forget a fact, they can look back.  Newspaper space  is  valuable;  do  not  waste  it  with  redundancy. Refrain from beginning a sentence with the same word as  the  last  word  in  the  previous  sentence  and  avoid beginning consecutive sentences alike, unless you do it deliberately for emphasis. Paragraphs The most general guideline for writing paragraphs is that they should be kept reasonably short. When ou use short paragraphs, you give the reader facts and ideas in smaller packages that are easier to handle. The mind can grasp a small unit of thought more easily than a large unit. Also, most news copy is set in narrow columns with only three to five words per line. This makes paragraphs of  normal  literary  length  appear  as  extremely  long, unrelieved  gray  blocks  of  body  type  (more  detail  on typography, the appearance and arrangement of printed matter  is  contained  in  Chapter  8).  These  large  gray blocks of type are monotonous to the reader’s eye and difficult  to  read. Paragraphs should be less than 60 words. Two or three sentences per paragraph are just about right, but it is   perfectly   acceptable   to   have   a   one-sentence paragraph, or even a one-word paragraph, if it expresses a  complete  thought. Yet, a succession of very short paragraphs may give a choppy effect to the writing. For best effect, alternate paragraphs  of  short  and  medium  length.  Never  begin succeeding  paragraphs  with  the  same  words  or  phrases. This, too, can cause a monotonous effect that will soon discourage  the  reader. THE STRAIGHT NEWS STORY LEARNING  OBJECTIVE:  Outline  the  various parts of the straight news story. The major difference in style between newswriting English and literary English was discussed earlier in this chapter.  There  is  also  a  big  difference  in  structure between the literary piece and a newspaper story. Journalism and architecture have more in common than what is evident at first glance. While the designing and planning of a building is far more complicated than the construction of a news story, both are the same in principle. In each case, space is a prime element. An  architect  uses  bricks,  cement  and  other materials;  a  newswriter  uses  words  as  his  bricks  and cement.  If  the  building  lacks  design  and  careful construction, it will collapse; if the news story is not carefully planned, it will only serve to confuse the reader and discredit the publication in which it appears. 2-10


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