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Chapter 7: Writing News Stories and Headlines
Transcript of Chapter 7: Writing News Stories and Headlines
A good rule of thumb for avoiding sexism in journalism is to not describe either a man or a woman in a way that you would not describe the other (age, physical appearance, etc.).
Writing News Stories and Headlines
by Delani and Kristen
Eliminating Sexist Language
In journalism, the audience is often unknown. Therefore, word selection is a careful process. You should develop a "clean and clear" writing style, shaving extra verbiage from each and every sentence. As you write, review each sentence, for the editing process begins with the reporter.
Use clear, simple words. Remember that journalistic writing is for communication, not a vocabulary pageant. Journalism is a "controlled creativity." Avoid jargon, and write straightforwardly.
Avoid Other Common Hazards
Many problems may crop up in your first draft news stories. Learning to avoid these is key to improving your writing skills.
One common mistake is redundancy. Phrases such as "surrounded on all sides" are considered redundant because they repeat the information twice; only one statement of the fact, such as "surrounded," is necessary.
Cliches are another common mistake. These overused, trite expressions allow the reader to believe that the writer is too lazy to invent a bright, new figure of speech. As a rule of thumb, do not use expression that you are used to seeing in print.
Fear of repetition is another struggle for beginning journalists. However, you should have no fear of repeating a word, lest you end up with outrages synonyms such as "yellow metal" for gold or "grapplers" for wrestlers.
Passive voice is a mistake that should be avoided as much as possible, because these sentences sound weak and awkward. They should be reworked to be in active voice for a stronger and clearer message. Here is another rule of thumb for telling the voices apart: It is passive voice if the phrase "by zombies" can be inserted after the verb.
A headline has a single purpose: to snag the attention of the reader. It must do so both honestly and creatively. There are many different headline styles.
This Is a Centered Head
This Represents Flush Left
Big on top, small on bottom
Main head intended
This is a kicker, or overline
The intro paragraph here could run several lines and offer enticing facts to lead the reader naturally to the
Main Title Here
Grab their attention here
You can then expand into a longer deck, using as many words as necessary to really get your reader interested.
This is a read-in head:
A word or phrase leading the reader to a word that captures the story's
And, finally, when it comes to headline style:
AVOID ALL-CAPS HEADS
They are difficult to read because people read words' shapes as well as their letters, which is lost when all of the letters are capitalized.
Building On The Lead
After your readers are hooked in, the most important thing is keeping them interested. A quote is a great way to to do this, adding a personal touch to the story. Then, to link the consecutive paragraphs, use transitions to keep it cohesive.
Here is a list of useful transitional words:
The Body Of the Story
The transitions lead the readers into the body pf the story. Organization is key to keeping your story clear and straightforward. The helpful pyramid method begins with the main idea and broadens with details as the story progresses;this style can also be inverted to begin with broader details and narrow to the main idea. Another popular organizational tool is the storytelling style, which uses a narrative style to draw the reader through the drama of the story, reading it like an excerpt from a novel. Combination style is increasingly popular. It combines the summary lead of the inverted-pyramid style with a chronological storytelling style.
A sidebar is a story related to but kept separate from another on the same subject. It requires an approach that differs from the pyramid style and provides extra detail or "color." Therefore, a sidebar may use whichever style the writer believes will best capture readers' attention.
Avoiding Offensive Language
For the sake of the readers' sensitivity, journalists much be "politically correct." This is not meant to be carried out to nonsensical extremes, such as referring to a cat as a "feline companion," but respect is necessary. Words can hurt, as we see everywhere from the media to our own social circles. Our society has come a long way in terms of stereotypes, and we must do everything in our power to perpetuate this growth. The only time that offensive terms relating to race or ethnic background are anything less than forbidden is in direct quotes that is absolutely essential for the story. Other than this rare instance, all language that may be considered offensive should be avoided.
of Headline Writing
Extra words within the headline need to be trimmed. Words that can be trimmed are telegraphic.
Headlines should always be written in present tense. Doing so gives it a sense of immediacy. However, if you have a historical event that happened in the past, it is acceptable to write in other tenses.
The only punctuation that will be necessary when writing headlines will usually be commas, quotation marks, or a semi-colon. Exclamation points should only be used if absolutely necessary. Periods should only be used for abbreviations (U.S); otherwise, replace periods with semicolons.
Avoid long words, connecting or repeating words. Connecting words would be “to be” or “are.” Nothing sounds good when it’s repeated 5 times, so try to stay away from that. Big words make a headline look long and boring, and nobody wants that. Try replacing big words with shorter words that still sound intelligent.
Everybody loves puns, so try to incorporate them into your headline! If you see the chance to make a “punny” headline, go for it; but remember to keep it appropriate!
Copyeditors must have a good sense of grammar, punctuation, and organization. There won’t be one specific person assigned to this job, so make sure that your skills in these are pretty good. The symbols needed to correct someone else’s paper are on the handout.
Copyeditors make sure that the story makes sense, the facts are true, and that the article they are checking reads well. They must make sure that facts stated are true and repeated enough so the reader knows where the fact or opinion is coming from. For example, you would say “Mr Jones said…” more than you would “He said…” Some people may get confused about who “he” is.