The first and last issues of
relates to its original meaning that
Veronica Volpe of the Pittsburgh Press wrote the
For those unaware of the military
usage of the word, the phrase the best
small mess in the Navy might have
questionable connotation, least of all
merit. Not so to the crew members of
the USS Semmes just returned from a
M e d i t e r r a n e a n t o u r a n d n ow
undergoing overhaul in Norfolk, Va.
The military usage of mess
of a group of persons who eat their
meals together, as do the men of a
ships company or an Army group. . . .
An important fact to keep in mind when writing
about Navy equipment and weapons is that the reader
can soon lose interest in a dull story about a machine or
weapon. The reader is interested in the men and women
in uniform who will handle, install, maintain and operate
those inanimate and intrinsically dull pieces of
The effect of the machine on the person, and the
person on the machine, must be presented in a way that
emphasizes people, and the writer must make those
people into rounded characters who become real in the
readers mind. In other words, the story must have
The writer of the following feature lead did just that
by beginning a story in the following way:
The machine, a metal monstrosity,
squatted in the center of the metal deck,
circled by a knot of Navy men: a
bemused young officer, three puzzled
sailors and a knowing old chief.
I know what its supposed to do,
the first sailor said, and I know where
were supposed to bolt it down, but
whos ever going to operate a Rube
Goldberg puzzle like that?
You are, buster, the old chief
said, and . . .
When you write the body of a feature story, it is
important for you to avoid monotony. You do this by
varying sentence length, however, long sentences must
be clear and easy to understand.
Note the varied sentence length in the following
feature from the Indianapolis News:
eight newspapers were published at Ft.
Benjamin Harrison the other day.
But their brief life span had little
relationship to the energy and interest
devoted to their publication. The
papers were the last journalism
exercises for 70 servicemen and
women, graduating with a newspaper
in one hand, and a diploma from the
Defense Media Institute at Ft. Harrison
in the other.
From all the armed forces, staffers
in the quill and scroll exercise got a
glimpse into their military future.
These military journalists will go to
assignments throughout the world.
Many will find jobs on more permanent
newspaper staffs, using what they
learned at Ft. Harrison.
Nine weeks ago, this basic military
journalist class began. Since then
students have spent 209 classroom
hours in the Basic Journalism
Another point to note is the use of quoted material
to carry the story along. Skillfully conducted interviews
with articulate experts will provide the writer with
quotations. Such quotations, interspersed with
expository material, help move a story along and
maintain a lively spark throughout. Explanations and
readily comprehensible revelations from authorities in
a given field impart an air of authenticity to writing,
particularly in stories about technical subjects, such as
rocketry, instruments, engine improvements, jet engine
overhaul and nuclear propulsion.
However he or she chooses to explain technical
subjects, the writer should always remember the need to
translate technical terms into lay language for the sake
of the general audience. When this is not possible, the
writer must define the technical terms.
When you write a feature on a technical subject, use
the following points to help you plan and organize the
body of your material:
Make paragraph beginnings forceful to impel the
reader through the story.