How Journalism Makes You a More Efficient Writer by Burgundy Bug
I would like to welcome guest writer, Valerie "Burgundy Bug". Enjoy!
Efficiency and evidence are at the heart of a journalist’s work. In a world where we’re bombarded with news blaring from our speakers and leaping off our screens, a journalist is entangled in a near-constant tug-o-war for the consumer’s attention.
Although digital formats have quickly swallowed the print industry whole, the same training still applies. Articles are neatly written in AP-style, which prioritizes short-paragraphs and strives to eliminate word clutter so editors can fit as much content as
possible into a newspaper.
A woman reading through a copy of
“The New York Times.”
Photo courtesy of Pexels.
Whether you’re a reporter, a blogger, or an author, embracing journalism will make you a more efficient writer in many of the following ways.
No Fluff, Just Get To The Good Stuff
A fluffy duckling takes on a sassy, inquisitive stance. Photo courtesy of Pexels.
Editorializing – expressing your own opinion – is forbidden in journalism (with a few exceptions, like feature stories and opinion pieces). Your job is to deliver the cold hard facts, not Jane Doe’s perspective of the cold hard facts.
Withholding your opinion is more than eliminating the use of “I think” and “I believe.” It often means cutting out adjectives and emotion. While this approach isn’t entirely practical for essays or book writing, it’ll encourage you to use descriptive words mindfully.
In other words, no fluff. Just get to the good stuff. Don’t string your reader along with a list of four or more adjectives, coma after coma in a sentence, unless it’s absolutely crucial to the story.
Sweep Away the Word Clutter
Similarly, newspapers don’t have room for word clutter and neither should your writing. Get straight to the point and avoid repeating yourself. Tell the story in as few words as possible.
Keeping the use of the word “that” to a minimum is another handy journalism trick. You may not realize just how much you overuse the word, but in most cases “that” can be eliminated and allow the sentence to flow much better.
The Truth and Nothing But
Despite “fake news” becoming a buzz-word within the last decade, a journalist must deliver the truth and nothing but. Even if you’re not covering a news story, per say, facts remain a solid foundation for your work.
Do your research – Google is your best friend! There are plenty of tools available to learn more about health (PubMed, Science Direct, Google Scholar), the environment (USGS, NOAA, NASA), statistics (Pew Research Center, Statista), and travel destinations around the world.
Utilizing these sources will ground your story in reality and provide real-world context. It adds depth and relatability to your characters and setting, as well.
When in Doubt, Dial Out
If you encounter a source you want to learn more about, email the expert behind the work. More often than not, the individual will be happy to speak with you for an interview.
Stay On The Clock
Park clock illuminated at night. Photo courtesy of Penelope Peru Photography.
Journalists aren’t just competing for the reader’s attention, they’re competing to cover a major story first. This means whipping out the pen, pocket-sized notepad, tape recorder, and keyboard the moment something major breaks.
In other words, there’s no room for procrastination. Putting off that article until tomorrow will leave it up for grabs to every Joe Schmoe reporter and the story will be subject to change. Print journalists also have to get their article together in time for printing, otherwise it’ll cost the news outlet money and potentially cost them their job.
Working under such strict deadlines will make you a very timely writer, but it can burn you out. Next time you’re putting off an essay or manuscript, take a page out of the reporter’s paper and hold yourself to you a routine, goals, or personal deadline.
Edit, Edit, Edit
Although it may seem like there’s no time for editing in a journalist’s world, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to editing their own work, colleagues will read over it and editors will tear apart their article with a mighty red pen (or font).
Editing over and over again is the biggest favor you can do for yourself as a writer. Read it in your head, read it out loud, read it to your spouse or your cat. Read and re-write as many times as you can, then send it to a friend or a colleague for an additional perspective. Another set of eyes could spot something that completely went over your head!
Learning to think and write like a journalist will make you a more efficient, factual, punctual writer, regardless of your specialty. Even just adapting a loose approach to AP-style will help you cultivate more effective and compelling language.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, Burgundy Bug is the founder and editor of The Burgundy Zine, a theme-driven blog and bi-monthly digital magazine.
Entangled in a web of curiosity, Burgundy Bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics.
As far as credentials go, Burgundy Bug has 12 years of web design experience, she has been a content writer for three years, and she was an established journalist at her college’s newspaper.
Recently, Burgundy Bug graduated with Associate’s Degrees in Journalism and Liberal Arts. She intends on pursuing her graduate degrees in Science Journalism and Neuroscience next.
Website: Burgundy Bug