An article that skips illogically from topic to topic
and back again in a jumbled, befuddled manner lacks
coherence. Coherence means sticking together, and that
is what stories and articles should do. Facts should
follow facts in some kind of reasonable order. It may be
logical order, chronological order, place order or order
of importance, depending on the subject, but order of
one kind or another is vital. Outlining will often help.
Make sure your writing emphasizes what you want
it to. You assure this in newswriting by putting the most
important fact first (the lead, discussed later). There are
other types of arrangements for emphasis that are used
in feature stories or in.editorials. More information will
be presented on this later in this chapter.
To report news accurately, you must keep yourself
detached from the happenings and present an
impersonal, unbiased, unprejudiced story. This is why
you never see a good reporter at an accident running
around saying, Isnt this horrible? I feel so sorry for the
family. Why, just the other day I was talking to ol Jed,
and now he is dead. These may very well be your
feelings, but you must attempt to keep aloof in order to
give an objective report. It is not your job to influence
people directly, but rather to tell them what is going on.
You direct their thinking only to the limited extent that
you make them think for themselves by an unbiased
presentation of the facts.
A news story should deal with one basic topic. There
may be many facts and ins and outs to the story, but it is
still one story. If you set out to write a story on the
services and activities available at the enlisted club, and
end up with a biography of the club manager, the story
lacks unity. The simple solution frequently is to write
two stories, rather than trying to combine a mass of
information into one.
THE LANGUAGE OF NEWSWRITING
Written language is made up of three elements
words, sentences and paragraphs. It. is the way these
elements are handled that makes the difference between
literary and news English. Briefly, let us look at these
Words are your basic tools. Like any skilled
technician, you should be able to select the best tools to
do the best job. This means you should use words that
say exactly what you mean so they can be understood
Every word used in a news story should add to the
picture you are building in the minds of your readers. If
you use an unnecessary, vague or unfamiliar word, this
picture becomes blurred. If it becomes too blurred, it
may give the reader a distorted picture of the facts. This
is a form of inaccuracy that is just as bad as putting the
wrong facts down on paper.
It is an axiom of newswriting that words that do not
work for you, work against you. Here are a few tips on
making words work for you.
AVOID GOBBLEDYGOOK. Gobbledygook is
confusing writing, often marked by pseudotechnical
language that readers cannot understand. In writing a
technical story, do not parrot the words some
technical-minded researcher pours out. Simplify. Ask,
What does this mean in everyday English? Few
people, for example, know what arteriosclerosis
means. But when you say hardening of the arteries,
they immediately understand.
AVOID WORDINESS. Many nexperienced
writers put unnecessary words into their news copy. Call
a spade a spade, not a long-handled agricultural
implement utilized for the purpose of dislodging the
Short, common words are easy to understand when,
in many cases, long words are not. If you must use a
longer word, make sure you are using it to convey a
special meaning, not just for the sake of using a big
word. Why use contribute if give means the same
thing? This also applies to veracity for truth,
monumental for big, apprehension for fear, canine for
dog and countless others. Practically every part of
speech contains long words that may be replaced by
shorter and more exact ones. The same principle applies
to phrases. Why say afforded an opportunity when
flowed is more exact, or why use due to the fact
that instead of because?
BE SPECIFIC. Inexactness is just as bad as
wordiness. Readers want to know specific facts.
Consider the following example of this: