James Thurber noted 31 points about good writing made by New Yorker editor Wolcott Gibbs. They include the following (via Charles Miller on the CoJo blog):
- Writers always use too damn many adverbs. On one page recently I found 11 modifying the verb 'said'. 'He said morosely, violently, eloquently, so on' … It is impossible for a character to go through all these emotional states one after the other.
- Word 'said' is OK. Efforts to avoid repetition by inserting 'grunted', 'snorted' etc are waste motion and offend the pure in heart.
- Our writers are full of clichés, just as old barns are full of bats. There is obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one and had better be removed.
- The more 'As a matter of facts', 'howevers', 'for instances' etc, etc you can cut out, the nearer you are to the Kingdom of Heaven.
- On the whole we are hostile to puns.
- Try to preserve an author's style if he is an author and has a style.
Search takes umlaut out of Bruno online July 2, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Guardian style guide ed (David Marsh): " So we have opted to use the umlaut in the paper but not online. The production editor of guardian.co.uk says: "In exceptional cases such as this, where the stories are just not being found on the internet because of the accent, we will remove the relevant accent on the website." "
As style guide editor I support that decision, even though it has given rise to an unusual situation in which we are using one spelling in our newspapers and another on our website. There is not much point in being consistent, however, if no one is reading us.
How to: write for the web (part 2) — Journalism.co.uk October 20, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Christian Dunn, digital editor of NWN Media (N Wales and Chester), offers some solid advice on writing for the web, including the following reminders about headlines online:
"Firstly, don't use puns, metaphors or wordplay. Use your keywords in the title instead – in may not be as exciting, but it works.
Secondly, keep headlines short: evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.
Google likes place names and people search for places a lot online. Google News will find it easier to pick the stories up, categorise and send out as news alerts if there is a clear location.
Finally, make sure you try different phrases to see what gets a response on your site."
On the importance of good writing in blogs, from Computer World's 'top ten' list:
" 'People get bored pretty quickly with sloppy writing and sloppy thinking, and that's true whether you're publishing online or in print,' [Nicholas] Carr told me by e-mail and, as always, he makes a good point.
Stringing together a sentence with a strong noun and verb combination might not seem all that difficult, but many bloggers write like they are on the school bus using a crayon."
Read furious email from senior staff member to Sunday Express editorial department | Media | guardian.co.uk October 10, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Email highlights mistakes by subs and writers that made it to print (issue of 10 August 2008):
"Last week's Sunday Express was riddled with appalling, slapdash and lazy writing and subbing. The style sheets handed out were studiously ignored, as can be seen by the list attached to this e-mail.
There were also two errors so horrendous they moved one reader to email [editor] Martin Townsend to point them out.
The kind of bilge submitted last week will not be tolerated any more. The rest of this email is a list of the drivel that made it into the paper but doesn't include the numerous dashes scattered liberally through copy, counties being abbreviated (Hants and Wilts were two that appeared), the headlines that were centred instead of set left, the ignorance about how the word 'but' should be used, the literal in one of the phoneline questions and the inability to grasp the simple idea that companies, organisations and political parties are referred to in the singular."
David Marsh: The Guardian style guide hasn't banned the word 'grandmother' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk October 9, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Guardian style guru responds to critics — outraged commenters as well as Rod Liddle and Stephen Glover — and on much more than the use of 'grandmother'.
Scope for endless debates here — which is one reason for having a style guide…:
"The diatribe was prompted by the Guardian Book of English Language, given away free with a recent edition of the newspaper. If you missed it, the book was a condensed version of the style guide used by our journalists, which has long been available to anyone, including Spectator readers, with access to the world wide web."