Journalistic Writing: Building the Skills, Honing the Craft

Overview

Aimed at those pursuing careers in creating public prose, this is the definitive handbook for aspiring journalists. Offering budding writers suggestions on how to improve their skills—even when faced with a tight deadline—this guide also reviews many elements essential to the occupation such as utilizing strong nouns and verbs, paring down adjectives and adverbs, describing with concrete detail, and avoiding clichés and the passive voice. Going beyond a standard presentation of information, this reference ...

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Overview

Aimed at those pursuing careers in creating public prose, this is the definitive handbook for aspiring journalists. Offering budding writers suggestions on how to improve their skills—even when faced with a tight deadline—this guide also reviews many elements essential to the occupation such as utilizing strong nouns and verbs, paring down adjectives and adverbs, describing with concrete detail, and avoiding clichés and the passive voice. Going beyond a standard presentation of information, this reference encourages students to put its methods into practice, making each and every word count and maintaining the appropriate energy level in their content. With expert analyses of real-world articles, this book also provides advice on avoiding poor sentence structure that can kill reader interest and includes perspectives on diversity sensitivity. Accessible, humorous, and engaging, this revised edition offers a practical approach for those seeking to improve their communication skills.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An indispensable guide for all writers—journalists, essayists, novelists, playwrights, and poets alike! A thoroughly engaging, canny, entertaining, and wholly informative compendium of how to write clear English. Author Robert M. Knight brings light, depth, and admirable pacing to his work. Every writer should own a personal copy of this remarkable book—and use it daily."  —Kevin Klose, president and CEO, National Public Radio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933338385
  • Publisher: Marion Street Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Edition description: Third edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 606,460
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Knight has written for nearly 40 publications and news services, chief among them the Chicago Tribune and its Sunday magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, Reuters and the Washington Post. He is a former senior editor and broadcast editor of the City News Bureau of Chicago, and is a past president of the Chicago Headline Club chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. A veteran journalist, he began his career with United Press International in Denver and Albuquerque and spent several years as a print and broadcast reporter in New Mexico. A graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Knight earned his master’s degree at DePaul University in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xvii

Chapter 1 Why and How Good Writing Counts

The Deadline Dilemma 19

Getting the Subject from One Mind to Another 20

The Jargon Trap 21

The Blessings of a Well-Crafted Lede for the Reporter and Reader 22

The Time-Saving, On-Deadline Formula 23

The Style Trap 24

Some Basic Guidelines for Developing Writing Skills 25

A Word about the English Language 26

Bigger Does Not Always Mean Better 28

The Beauty - and the Bane - of a Big Vocabulary 29

Chapter 1 Exercises 31

Chapter 2 Is It Newsworthy?

The Lede, the Story, the Medium 33

Audience and Audiences 34

The Prime Criteria of Newsworthiness 35

Human Interest: The Grab-Bag Criterion 40

Newsworthiness for the Eye and Ear 42

Designer Newsworthiness: Creating "News" for Ratings and Profit 46

Taking the Electronic Hits 47

But Does It Matter? 49

Chapter 2 Exercises: An Improbable News Day 50

Chapter 3 Leading the Reader On

The Lede: The Critical Element 53

Avoiding Dull or Generic Ledes 60

Leading with a Question 64

Leading with a Direct Quote 65

Ensuring the Lede Makes Sense 66

The "Nut-Graf" Approach 67

Getting to the Point 68

Avoiding Lede Intimidation 72

Chapter 3 Exercises 74

Chapter 4 Building the Story

How Not to Conduct an Interview 81

Bringing the Story Together 84

One Reporter's Example 86

When to Stop Describing 91

Developing the Breaking Story 92

Developing an Issue by Using Specifics 95

The Feature: Writing about How and Why 97

Writing for Magazines: A Category in Search of a Definition 104

The Magazine Feature 107

Chapter 4 Exercises 111

Chapter 5 The Craft

The Rewards of Murky Writing 115

Separating the Craft from the Profession 117

Avoiding Wordiness 119

Caution: Concise Writing Doesn't Always Enhance Clarity 124

Eliminating Redundancy 124

Compounding the Sentence with Complexity 128

Correctly Using "That" and "Which" (and "Who" and "Whom") 131

Writing with Precision 133

Using Parallel Structures; Making Your Numbers Agree 137

Sexist Language versus Good English 140

An American Dilemma? 143

Your Antecedents Are Showing: Dangling Participles and Misplaced Modifiers 146

Writing Directly, Without Apology; Avoiding Tiptoe (or Weasel Words) 148

Replenishing the Word Supply 150

Chapter 5 Exercises 152

Chapter 6 Active Voice, Action Verbs

The Relationship of Active Voice and Action Verbs 155

Active Voice and Honesty 157

Active Voice, Clarity and Crispness 158

Action Verbs and Imagery 160

Being (or Linking) Verbs 162

Creativity Killers? 163

Chapter 6 Exercises 164

Chapter 7 An Appearance of Honesty

Journalistic Ethics: An Oxymoron? 167

A Passion for Accuracy 168

Avoiding Generalizations, Assumptions, Pomposity and Overblown Statements 170

Euphemisms: When Tact and Truth Don't Agree 172

Fudge Marks: How Not to Embellish Your Prose 175

Of Opinion and Ethics: The Elusiveness of Truth 176

Don't Editorialize Unless You Are Writing a Column or Editorial 177

Respect the Reader 179

Make Sure the Reader Knows What You're Writing About 181

Quotations and Attributions: Taking the Onus off the Reporter 183

Is the Reporter Making this Up? 186

The Power of the Direct Quote 187

Keep the Reporter Out of the Story 189

Chapter 7 Exercises 191

Chapter 8 The Eternal Cliché

Word Exhaustion and the Death of Originality 195

Avoid the Empty and the Trite 196

The Making of a Cliché 197

Clichés to Avoid 198

Apprentice Clichés and Slang 202

Juggling Jargon: the Mark of a Lazy Writer 204

Business Jargon 205

Cop and Criminal Lawyer Lingo 208

Journalese 209

The Comic Value of Clichés 212

Chapter 8 Exercises 215

Chapter 9 Red Flags and No-Nos

The Need to Exist Versus the Need for Surgical Removal 217

The Big Red Flag: "That" 220

Special Red Flags: "There is" and Similar Usages 220

Another Special Red Flag: "Feel" 221

Red Flag Tenses: Perfect Doesn't Always Mean Good 222

No-nos: Only Use Them in Direct Quotations 223

Special No-nos: "Currently" and "Presently" 224

Rules to Write By 225

Chapter 9 Exercises 227

Chapter 10 Broadcast Style

Medium versus Message 229

Comparing the Media 231

Writing for Broadcast: How to Cater to the Ear and Eye 232

Some Broadcast Style Pointers 237

The Anchor and the Reporter 238

Variations for the Visual Media 242

An Alphabetical Digest of Broadcast Writing Rules 244

Chapter 10 Exercises 248

Appendix A Various Points of Style 251

Appendix B The Beautiful Mongrel

Learning the History of English: the Point 289

English Language; Celtic Expression 291

A Question of Pedigree, or Lack thereof 292

Geoffrey, Will and the Boys 294

Dr. Johnson and the Beginnings of Modern English 297

English, the Equal Opportunity Borrower 298

Bibliography 301

Index 307

About the Author 315

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