, Manager of Digital Content at Linden Lab, Associate Professor/Director of the Integrated Communication at Everett (ICE) program at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication (Washington State University)
• In English class, you may have been
encouraged to write long paragraphs for your
• In news writing, though, your paragraphs are
– Short paragraphs are easier to read on a small
– They also look better when typeset into a long,
skinny column in a newspaper.
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
Principles of Clear Writing
• Avoid tangled sentences
• Don’t show off with “big words”
• Use active voice not passive voice
• Active voice uses a subject-verb-object
• ACTIVE: Joe Smith wrote the book.
• PASSIVE: The book was written by Joe Smith.
Spelchek Yer Werk
• Everyone makes spelling mistakes…so use
computer spellcheck technologies to your
• In reporting, it is critical that you get the name
correct of the individual or business
• Many well-known businesses are commonly
• 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
• 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
– “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
Beware! Exclamation Point!
• Use exclamation points sparingly
• Usually a period or question mark will be
Use the hyphen symbol as follows:
• When quoting a source, make sure that the
quotation marks are placed outside the other
• “I enjoy teaching,” she said. “I created this guide to
Writing Tight Sentences
• Do not repeat key words in the same sentence
– “The University of Hawaii students have been
attending University events…”
Numbers & Things
• Spell out single-digit numbers (nine and
• Use figures for numbers 10 and above unless:
– the sentence begins with a number
– you are expressing money, age, dates, etc.
• 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.
Said vs. Says
• Use “said,” NOT “says” in interviews and
• Use “says” when referring to a printed
document or sign
Other common mistakes
• “In regard to…” NOT “In regards to…”
• “Toward” NOT “Towards”
• “Often…” NOT “Often times…”
• “Try to…” NOT “Try and…”
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