Vague: Thousands of fans were turned away
Specific: Three thousand fans were turned
away before game time.
A V O I D T R I T E O R H A C K N E Y E D
EXPRESSIONS. These are the mark of either an
amateur or a lazy writer. Some particularly bad
examples include the following:
Cheap as dirt
Smart as a whip
Fat as a pig
Nipped in the bud
Good as gold
Ripe old age
Picture of health
Quick as lightning
Bouncing baby boy/girl
USE STRONG, ACTIVE VERBS. Whenever
possible, use active voice and the simple past tense. The
use of these injects life, action and movement into your
news stories. In using strong verbs, you will find some
of the tendency for you to rely on adverbs to do the work
is eliminated. In newswriting, adverbs often do nothing
more than clutter writing. Consider the - following
Weak (passive voice): The visitors were
warmly received by Capt. Smith in his office.
Stronger (active voice): Capt. Smith greeted
the visitors in his office.
AVOID MILITARY JARGON. For those in the
Navy, the phrase general quarters is clear enough. Yet
for others, the phrase may mean nothing; to some, it may
seem to mean the area where the general is housed.
When you assume that all your readers know general
quarters means the command to man battle stations for
crew members aboard ship, you make a false
assumption. You do not impress your readers by using
words and phrases they do not understand; you only
For example, an unidentified Navy official issued a
statement explaining that the purpose of an overtime
policy was ...to accommodate needs for overtime .
which are identified as a result of the initiation of the
procedures contained herein during the period of time
necessary to institute alternative procedures to meet the
In some situations, it is appropriate to use common
military phrases, such as fleet training exercise,
ships galley and weapons system.
WATCH SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. A JO,
or a person interested in becoming a Navy journalist,
should have better than average spelling ability. This
person should also have a good command of the English
language as far as correct grammar is concerned.
Therefore, no extensive lesson is given in this area of
study, although some basics are presented in Chapter 6.
One goal of every good writer is not to learn to spell
perfectly, but to learn to spell well enough so that a
mistake can be spotted when words are put on paper.
When in doubt, use the dictionary. Dictionaries are
standard stock items in the Navy, and every public
affairs office should have one. (For style, usage and
spelling questions not covered in The Associated Press
Stylebook and Libel Manual, use Webster's New World
Dictionary of the American Language, Third College
Edition.) Additionally, keep in mind that virtually all
word processing software packages contain a spell
check feature that you should use at every opportunity.
USE A STYLEBOOK. In newswriting, the word
style refers to the spelling, punctuation, capitalization,
abbreviation and similar mechanical aspects of
grammar used in preparing copy (a term used to describe
all news manuscripts). Most newspapers and other
periodicals have their own style sheets or local
interpretations of style rules. The important thing for
you to remember about style is consistency.
The recommended guide for preparing military
news is The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel
Manual. However, any locally prepared style guide or
style sheet is fine as long as it is internally consistent and
is suitable for your purpose. For further information on
stylebooks, consult Chapter 7 (Newspaper Staff
Supervision) of the JO l &C TRAMAN.