Just the facts, please.

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Merlin1047, Oct 10, 2004.

  1. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    If you're like me, you get a little tired of trying to pick the facts out of the hyperbole in newspapers, magazines and especially television. Here is a website that should be compulsory reading for any current or would-be journalist. The following are only a few excerpts. There's lots more at the site.

    http://www.newswriting.com/groaners.htm

    Aftermath - Print words don’t belong in spoken copy. Do you know anyone who says “aftermath” in normal conversation? When we were kids, aftermath came recess.

    Against the Backdrop - Are you writing copy or painting theater scenery? Leave the backdrops to the carpenters. If you want to explain the facts behind a story, explain them, period. You don't have to say, "The President's visit to the Middle East comes against the backdrop of renewed fighting." Why not try, "The President is arriving in the Middle East just as new fighting breaks out."

    Allegations - “I deny the allegations... and I deny the alligator!” This bloated substitute for “claims”, “charges” or “accusations” is as bad as “allegedly”. Nobody in real life uses it. Unless they’ve been watching too much TV news.

    Allegedly - NOBODY, not even cops and district attorneys, NOBODY in real life says “allegedly” in regular conversation. Do you tell your neighbor that someone allegedly broke into your house? Do you tell your buddy that the mayor allegedly took a bribe? Why then, would you say such a thing to your television neighbors?! If you’re worried about legal protections, try these alternatives: “Police say Jones broke into the store”. “Prosecutors are claiming Smith embezzled the money”. “The U.S. Attorney says the Congressman took a bribe.”

    Amid, Amidst - Print words. Newspapers may get away with them, as substitutes for “in the middle of”, but we write for the ear... and any ear that hears “amidst” will soon be telling the brain to click the remote.

    Area residents. “Shhh, Tommy, don’t play the drums so loud, you’ll wake the area residents!” Normal people don’t refer to their neighbors this way. Why should we?

    Arraigned - Yes, it’s a formal court procedure and you don’t want to mess with it. Just one problem. You may know what “arraigned” means, but Joe Sixpack thinks it means he needs an umbrella. Courtroom stories are complicated enough. Don’t make things worse with terminology designed by, and intended for bureaucrats. Ditch the term. Use the EXPLANATION of the term instead. Say the guy appeared in court. Say he faced a judge. Say he was formally charged. Say how he pleaded. Don’t say “arraigned”.

    Authorities Say - see Officials Say

    Behind Bars - Trite way of saying “arrested and jailed”. Not even very accurate anymore. Most modern jail cells use steel doors, not bars. (Thanks to Jonathan Koynok)

    Botched Robbery, Robbery Gone Bad - Like “unsuccessful suicide”, this is just plain silly. If some punk tries to rip off a 7-Eleven, and the cops show up, so he takes hostages, that’s not a “robbery gone bad”. It was bad at the start. We don’t need to feel sorry for the idiot who “botched” his chance to empty the cash register and decided to become a kidnapper. Let’s just say what happened, and leave the judgments to the folks watching.

    Brutal - Often used to describe a rape or a murder, as if there were any other kind. (Thanks to Anne Linaberger, Executive Producer, KDKA-TV Pittsburgh)

    Campaign Trail - What, exactly, is a campaign trail, anyway? Are there covered wagons? Does Campaign Cookie rustle up Campaign Grub? Do folks munch Campaign Trail Mix as they warble yippie–i–o–ca–yay through the precincts? Why do writers feel a compulsion to use this terrible term? Just say where the candidate is, and get on with it.
     
  2. MissileMan
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    MissileMan Senior Member

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    People who are given restricted space to express themselves often have to resort to using words not typically used in conversation. It's called economy of words. Often times a single word describes what you are trying to say in a more effective manner than a 10 line paragraph. Economy of words also allows journalists to fit more information into their restricted space. Most aren't trying to make themselves appear more intelligent or degrade their readers.
     
  3. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    Okay, so their space is limited. More likely they use extravagant phrases to hype their story or to slant it toward their particular point of view.
     

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