Journalism Writing Tips
By Prof. Mark Grabowski
Email: mark [at] cubreporters.org
The Final Edit:
5 Things To Do
1. Spell check your story.
• It's simple and it's easy, but many young
journalists forget to do it.
2. Print out your story.
• After you've edited it on your computer, print
it out and look over it again. Read it out loud.
Many times you'll catch mistakes on your hard
copy that you miss on a computer screen.
Having a hard copy is also good protection
against a computer crash or file corruption.
3. Underline all names and places.
• For names, check the spellings again. Remember, many
people's names have nontraditional spellings. Is it
Mark or Marc? Cindy or Cyndi? Gregg or Greg? Did you
include full names and qualifiers (i.e. Jon Smith, 44, of
Howell; Byron James, police chief of Long Branch) on
• If it's a place, is it spelled correctly? Are you sure the
address is correct? Is it in correct AP format?
Remember: in stories, states are not abbreviated the
same way as when you're mailing a letter. For
example, in AP Style, New Jersey is abbreviated as
"N.J." - not "NJ".
4. Circle all dates and numbers.
• Double-check to make sure you provided the
correct date. Use proper names of days (i.e.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) instead of
"yesterday," "today" or "tomorrow." You don't
know when the story will run, so using the latter
terms could cause confusion.
• Make sure your numbers are correct. Remember,
it's okay to round off. If you arrived at your
numbers through math (i.e. "The school budget
will increase 22 percent this upcoming fiscal
year."), double check that your calculated
5. Re-examine every quote.
• Compare it to your notes. Is it attributed to the
correct person? Is it typed in your story
correctly? Did you accidentally omit a "not" or
"un" or some other word(s) that could entirely
change its meaning?
1. DON’T use ( ) [ ] and … If you need
parentheses or brackets to explain something,
rewrite the sentence so that your story is clear
without them. If you need an ellipsis in a quote
to show that you have left out some words, then
rethink the quote. Maybe you can paraphrase
part of it and just quote the most important
2. DON’T use rhetorical questions: Tell your
reader what you have learned. Don’t ask the
reader questions. Sometimes simply rephrasing
solves the problem.
– NOT: What happens when these offenses are no
longer humorous quirks?
– INSTEAD: When these offenses stop being funny,
the housing office may let a student change
3. DON’T read minds. Tell readers only what
– NOT: She feels that arguments can be solved…
– INSTEAD: She said arguments can be solved.
4. DON’T put your question or your interview in
– NOT: When asked about roommate swaps, she
said they are rare.
– INSTEAD: She said roommate swaps are rare.
5. DON’T put your opinions or judgments in the
story. Stick to facts.
– NOT: In the end it was better for her to move.
– INSTEAD: In the end, she moved.
6. DON’T write factoids. These look like facts
but have no real basis.
– NOT: Many students are frustrated with their
roommates. MANY? Do you have statistics?
– INSTEAD: Roommates can be a source of
frustration. You DO have quotes to support that
7. DO write about people doing things, rather
than about abstractions.
– NOT: Beginning the process of requesting a
change of roommates requires submitting the
reason for the request to the housing office.
– INSTEAD: To change roommates, students must
submit the reason for the request to the housing
8. DO re-read your work and cut out unneeded
words. Be ruthless.
– NOT: Students have many reasons as to why they
wish to change roommates.
– INSTEAD: Students change roommates for many
9. DO say said. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s cheap. Use
it again and again… Nobody will mind. Nobody
will notice because said just disappears on the
page. Try it at home!
– NOT: stated or commented or went on to say…
– NOT: explained, pointed out, noted, suggested,
claimed, admitted or confessed … unless you
really mean it.
10. DON’T write generalities, introductions or
conclusions. Write the facts and quotes that
you gather in your reporting. Put the new,
interesting information high in the story and
then back it up with quotes. When you run out
of facts, stop writing.