Author Topic: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker  (Read 6100 times)

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Offline EC

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Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« on: February 01, 2016, 07:11:50 PM »
First off, let me assure you. Anyone can perform the practical magic known as writing. You post here, you certainly have the basics in your tool box already. However, writing well, reports and opinion pieces that people look forward to and enjoy reading, has some quirks and tricks to it, which we'll look at over the course of a few posts.

Lets start with the big one, from which all others flow.

Know Your Audience

Word selection is your biggest problem, and that is a function of the audience you are writing for. Lets take an example:

" Einstein's equivalence principle says that gravity (with the vector pointing toward the center of the mass) is equivalent to actual movement with acceleration pointed "outward". That's why we observe gravitational blueshift."

"As mass increases, time slows down."

"Yo mamma so fat, her watch runs slow."

All three mean exactly the same thing, yet you rarely find "Yo mamma" jokes in a scientific journal, while the first three words of the first example puts most casual readers off. The middle statement, while no different in meaning from the other two, hits the sweet spot for a general audience.

General audience writing requires four things:

  • No more than an eighth grade vocabulary. While it may be tempting to utter long strings of polysyllabic words, resist the temptation. People don't have the time to admire your prose and no one likes a show off. A truism in journalism, proven accurate by the internet, is that you have 3 seconds at most to grab your reader's attention; so make the most of it by using words which, for want of a better phrase, are readily digestible.
  • Short, declarative sentences. Don't do what I just did in point one. That last sentence went on forever. It loses readers.
  • The use of active voice. In active voice, the sentence has an object which is taking an action. "The police arrested the villain" is active. The opposite of active voice is the passive voice. "An arrest was made." Active voice is preferred.
  • The liberal use of spell check. Poor spelling is inexcusable when every word processing program gives you a handy hint when you have gone wrong.

These rules may be tweaked on occasion. They may be broken at times. It depends on your audience. Yet stick with them. Your readers will thank you.

« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 07:16:43 PM by EC »
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Offline flowers

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2016, 07:42:15 PM »
How about a site where I could post my writings and it would auto-correct it for me? I am horrible at that.


Online mountaineer

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2016, 07:44:43 PM »
A reporter of hard news should follow EC's advice. Sad to say, whatever you write really should be dumbed down a bit. We're not idiots, but we have to assume our readers are ...  well, let's just say many are not as bright as we. Yes, we should write at the 8th- or 7th-grade level and avoid using the passive voice at all cost!

As one currently working in the newspaper business, I'd suggest that anyone reporting a "hard news" event record everything that happens (I mean write it down, not necessarily "record" via an electronic device), and then pick the single most important thing for your lede as you write the news article. For example, tomorrow I will be covering a regular weekly county commission meeting. Very little happens at these things, but I'm confident that one thing will happen that is interesting and somewhat significant to most readers. If someone says something provocative, even better!  I'll focus on that one thing in my first sentence. (Perhaps I'll edit this post tomorrow to let you know what that one thing turns out to be).
« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 07:27:55 AM by mountaineer »
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Offline ABX

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2016, 08:21:45 PM »
Thanks for sharing

Offline ABX

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2016, 08:22:48 PM »
How about a site where I could post my writings and it would auto-correct it for me? I am horrible at that.

A good site that helps is the Hemingway editor. I'll post a link later.

Offline flowers

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2016, 08:29:11 PM »
A good site that helps is the Hemingway editor. I'll post a link later.
  :patriot:  :seeya:


Offline EC

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2016, 05:22:32 AM »
Opinion Pieces

"Opinions are like **, everyone has one." You've probably heard that a time or two. So, why should someone read your opinion instead of flaunting their own? It's a tough crowd, so let's look at the basics. Bear in mind that "Know Thy Audience" applies here.

My very first editor told me "There are three type of opinion pieces: Those to inform, those to reform, or those to cause a sh**storm." She wasn't wrong.

Informative opinion pieces are, oddly, the hardest to pull off well. This is because they seem so easy to do. Introduce the topic, grab some facts to support your position and pad the word count ... bang, job done. Great, you now have the textual equivalent of watching paint dry. No one wants to read a couple of pages ripped from a text book!
The key here is to move as far from academia as possible. Keep it informal, without descending into a parody of a rural hick. You are (hopefully, at least) providing new information to your readers. New facts for them to consider and (again hopefully) incorporate into their worldview. New things are scary. Make it easy on the reader and they will be more receptive.

Reform pieces are the big brother of the pack. State the problem you are looking at, clearly, in the first couple of sentences. Then actually address it! Prime examples of this type are articles by Mark Levin or Thomas Sowell, and I'm not even going to try to compete with the masters. Pick a couple of their pieces at random and study them from a structural point of view. Look closely at how they are put together.

The final type ... these are fun and profitable to write. These get clicks or eyeballs. They sell newspapers and magazines. The only basic rules here are to complain as eloquently as possible, while elegantly and viciously denouncing whoever you feel like attacking today. The New Yorker is good at high end versions. The Daily Mail has built it's entire media presence on these types of opinion pieces.
They're crap. Preaching to the choir may be emotionally satisfying, but it's not exactly going out and witnessing, is it. Notoriety is not the same as popularity - just ask the guy who landed his autogyro on the White House lawn. Heard from him lately?

You may, and indeed will, combine types in your writing. A reform piece always has some informative component, and the complaining component of the sh**stormer. An informative piece always starts (in the writers head at least) with a problem: "Too few people know about X." But the three basic categories still hold and act as a guide.

So, in answer to the question at the start of this post:

"Why should people read my opinion?"
"My opinion is well structured and sourced. Theirs is all over the place."

Coming up next - Voice.
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Offline EdinVA

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2016, 08:56:42 AM »
This is great EC...   :beer:

Offline EC

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2016, 09:28:45 AM »
 :beer: I'm having fun! Could talk about writing for weeks.
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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2016, 09:42:53 AM »
My wife and children often remind me about the word choice rule!  :laugh:
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
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Online DCPatriot

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2016, 12:52:43 PM »
Thanks E.C.   Love when you get going.....    :patriot:
"It aint what you don't know that kills you.  It's what you know that aint so!" ...Theodore Sturgeon

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Offline ABX

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2016, 06:34:24 PM »
Here is the tool I promised earlier. The Hemingway Editor doesn't go through a full grammar and spelling check but what it does is help you simplify what you write for readability. This helps you bring the 'grade level' down in your writing to make it easily digestible.

https://www.hemingwayapp.com/

Unlike what you may think, reducing the grade level isn't 'dumbing down' the message. On the contrary, intelligence is often measured by the ability to make a clear, understandable, and simple point out of a complex subject.

Offline flowers

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2016, 06:37:39 PM »
Here is the tool I promised earlier. The Hemingway Editor doesn't go through a full grammar and spelling check but what it does is help you simplify what you write for readability. This helps you bring the 'grade level' down in your writing to make it easily digestible.

https://www.hemingwayapp.com/

Unlike what you may think, reducing the grade level isn't 'dumbing down' the message. On the contrary, intelligence is often measured by the ability to make a clear, understandable, and simple point out of a complex subject.
thank you will check it out!!!  :king:


Offline R4 TrumPence

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2016, 02:47:03 AM »
How about a site where I could post my writings and it would auto-correct it for me? I am horrible at that.

Also, the first paragraph has to Get the reader's attention.  You need the 4 W's, to write your first paragraph and story::


WHO

WHAT

WHEN

WHERE


I am Repub4Bush on FR '02

Offline Gefn

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Re: Writing - How Not to be the New Yorker
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2016, 11:41:21 AM »
@EC

Just found this.

Bookmarking.
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