"Any writer who knows a lot knows there's a lot to know. And every writer should know that what counts most is what you learn after you know it all." - Mervin Block
Oh Merv, how wise you are. I've been reading my "professional handbook" for broadcast newswriting - "Writing Broadcast News: Shorter, Sharper, Stronger" by Mr. Merv himself. For those of you writers, especially those interested in news or the media, I highly recommend this book. It may sound boring, but it's oh-so-entertaining. So like I said, I've been reading it and thought I'd share with you some of my favorite parts. This is, after all, a blog called the cure for writer's block.
A few of the "Dozen Deadly Don'ts" -
- Don't give orders. Don't tell listeners to do this or that. Don't tell them to listen, or watch, or stay, or fetch. Just give them the news.
- Don't use newspaper words... Slay is another word we should kill on sight. Slay is a good Anglo-Saxon word, but slay is not so strong as kill or murder. And slay isn't conversational. I don't know anyone who says slay. Nor do I know anyone who uses the past tense, slew, or the past participle, slain. So don't use slay unless you're talking about dragons. Or Santa.
- Don't start a story by saying, A new development tonight... Every item in a newscast is supposed to be fairly new, based on something newly developed. And don't start with "Our top story tonight is..." If it's the first story, it should be the top story. Top stories run at the top. So skip that needless opener and go right to the news. And don't write, "Topping our news tonight..." Sounds like Reddi Whip.
-Don't characterize news as unusual. We don't report the usual do we? Not usually.
- Don't start a story with as expected. When I hear an anchor say as expected at the top, it's usually a story I had not expected. Hadn't even suspected. Most listeners tune in to hear the unexpected. Even seers have no idea of what to expect.
A couple "venial sins" -
- Don't use In other news as a transition. Every story on a newscast is other news. Each story differs from all other stories. If the first five minutes has been devoted to one big story, shift to the next story by going to commercial. Or pausing. Or changing tone. Or changing camera. Or anchor. Or writer.
-Don't hotrod. Hotrodding is high-powered writing... One way to avoid hotrodding is not to write on a hypewriter. We want our copy to be calm, clean, clear and crisp, true and trustworthy. And free from sin.