Thoughts on the AP Guide to Newswriting

23 May

At the end of the first chapter, Cappon says his book teaches how to produce simple, direct news writing. He says this should be every journalist’s goal, and I agree with him. Nowadays, life moves quickly; readers don’t have the time or patience to deal with stilted, empty writing. Additionally, journalists worldwide can compete for the attention of the same audience. Because readers have a lot of choices, they can easily abandon one news source for another. If we want to keep our audience, we must make our writing relatable and less formulaic. In this sense, wordiness, abstraction and jargon kill good writing.

My room reflects how I like my writing: Clean.

These practices can be hard to overcome; from early on, instructors train us to believe that successful writing comes from complex sentence structure and advanced vocabulary. Simple is equated with uneducated. We shouldn’t repeat words, instructors tell us, but replace them with synonyms in order to add variety, to avoid staleness. In addition, businesses and institutions surround us with carefully constructed phrases that sound good but ultimately don’t say anything. We fear the danger of misrepresenting what others say, so we feel obliged to maintain their abstraction and jargon, chatter we consider neutral. Wordiness traps us in much the same way. We want to accurately capture the nuances of a situation without imposing judgment. Our solution? Add more and more to our writing in order to avoid generalization. Finally, journalese provides writers with a comfortable bank of phrases and words to draw from when they write. It’s nice to not have to worry about how to put a story together when we already have to worry about gathering information. Some phrases even seem naked without the unnecessary words that pepper them.  It will be hard, but we need to evaluate the reasoning behind every word we use when we write. Through increased consciousness, we can eliminate the unnecessary and the formulaic and learn how to capture everyday life in our writing.

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