Qualities of Good Writing (Journalism)


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This lecture focuses on some basic writing tips and techniques in reporting. It includes some AP style rules.

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Qualities of Good Writing (Journalism)

  1. 1. Qualities of Good Writing
  2. 2. Short Paragraphs • In English class, you may have been encouraged to write long paragraphs for your essays. • In news writing, though, your paragraphs are kept short. – Short paragraphs are easier to read on a small mobile device. – They also look better when typeset into a long, skinny column in a newspaper.
  3. 3. Traits of Good Writing • Take charge and develop your own ideas • Develop strong leads • Examine the story from all angles • Revise and rewrite • Do an “AP style” check
  4. 4. Principles of Clear Writing • K.I.S.S. • Avoid tangled sentences • Don’t show off with “big words” • Use active voice not passive voice
  5. 5. Active Voice • Active voice uses a subject-verb-object structure • ACTIVE: Joe Smith wrote the book. • PASSIVE: The book was written by Joe Smith.
  6. 6. Spelchek Yer Werk • Everyone makes spelling mistakes…so use computer spellcheck technologies to your advantage
  7. 7. Proper Nouns • In reporting, it is critical that you get the name correct of the individual or business • Many well-known businesses are commonly misspelled
  8. 8. Common Mistakes • J.C. Penney – not Penny • Marriott: hotel chain • Men’s Wearhouse: not warehouse • Procter & Gamble • Berkeley, California • Columbia – University or Washington, D.C. • Colombia – South American country
  9. 9. Commas • Use commas to separate items in a series, except just before “and” (example: Red, white and blue) • Use comma with semicolons when dividing complicated materials, such as names and titles – Example: – “Alexis Lew, president; Stephen Ro, vice president; Cathy Smith, treasurer, and Natalie Hack, secretary.” – Note that you switched from the semicolon to a comma before the “and”
  10. 10. Beware! Exclamation Point! • Use exclamation points sparingly • Usually a period or question mark will be sufficient
  11. 11. Hyphen Use the hyphen symbol as follows: •13-year-old girl •30-second commercial •One-minute break •15-page paper •Three-day cruise •24-hour hotline •Queen-size bed
  12. 12. Quotes • When quoting a source, make sure that the quotation marks are placed outside the other punctuation. – Example: • “I enjoy teaching,” she said. “I created this guide to help you.”
  13. 13. Writing Tight Sentences • Do not repeat key words in the same sentence • Example: – “The University of Hawaii students have been attending University events…”
  14. 14. Numbers & Things • Spell out single-digit numbers (nine and below) • Use figures for numbers 10 and above unless: – the sentence begins with a number – you are expressing money, age, dates, etc.
  15. 15. Writing Tips • When writing about the current date, do not use the year. It’s obvious. • When dealing with money, omit the decimal point when the amount is even – $25 not $25.00 • In writing amounts with many zeros, use the word “million,” “billion,” etc.
  16. 16. Said vs. Says • Use “said,” NOT “says” in interviews and quotes • Use “says” when referring to a printed document or sign
  17. 17. Other common mistakes • “In regard to…” NOT “In regards to…” • “Toward” NOT “Towards” • “Often…” NOT “Often times…” • “Try to…” NOT “Try and…”