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Tips on mechanics. Clear, simple, easy to use. Readers don’t want to have to work Move smoothly from one point/fact to the next Specific , not vague Doesn’t mean boring. Paragraphs and sentences.

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clear simple easy to use
Clear, simple, easy to use
  • Readers don’t want to have to work
  • Move smoothly from one point/fact to the next
  • Specific, not vague
  • Doesn’t mean boring
paragraphs and sentences
Paragraphs and sentences
  • Short paragraphs – one or two sentences. Large blocks of text are difficult to read/intimidating.
  • Make direct quotes their own paragraph.
  • Keep sentences short. If you’ve got a bunch of commas and linking phrases, stop and break into separate sentences.
  • Make sure readers know where information comes from.
  • Things that are commonly known, or direct observations by the reporter, do not require attribution.
  • Just use the word “said.”
  • Other terms that can stand in for said – admitted, claimed, according to, believes, etc. can carry loaded meanings
placing the word said
Placing the word “said”
  • Place it after the name of the speaker. Correct – Jones said. Avoid – said Jones.
  • Exception: when there is a long title. “The wait was long enough,” said Jones, director of interdepartmental immunology for the center.
  • Direct quotations – material between quote marks must be the exact words of the speaker
  • Indirect quotes – summary of what the person says.
  • No need to directly quote simple facts.No: “The play starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Broadway Theater,” Smith said.Instead: Smith said the play is on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Broadway Theater.
attribution in direct quotes
Attribution in direct quotes
  • Make sure reader knows quickly who is speaking. This is easily achieved by setting up a quote:Program director Rex Banner said the festival has attractions for all ages.“We’ve carefully planned things so there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy,” he said.
attribution in direct quotes 2
Attribution in direct quotes, 2
  • When using a direct quote that has more than once sentence, put said at the end of the first sentence, not the end of the quote:“The ball was flying out of here today,” Jackson said. “We knew under those conditions, we had to stay focused because we could come back. And we did.”
first and second reference
First and second reference
  • First reference is the first time a person is mentioned. Spell the name out in full:CMU Director of Public Safety William Yeagley.
  • Second reference is all subsequent mentions:Yeagley said crime across campus dropped significantly.
  • On second reference, use the last name, not the person’s first name.
first second and third person
First, second and third person
  • Persons are first (forms of I), second (you) and third (he or she)
  • Third person is the language of journalism
  • Don’t use first or second person except in direct quotes.Yes: More parking is needed at CMU, Smith said.No: We need more parking at CMU, Smith said.
abbreviations acronyms
Abbreviations, acronyms
  • Check your stylebook. Commonly used acronyms are OK on first reference. For example: NCAA, FBI, PDF
  • Otherwise, use the generic shorter versions on second reference: the Michigan Press Association (first reference). MPA (second reference).
  • Don’t put acronyms in parentheses after the first reference. The Michigan Press Association (MPA).
  • Avoid alphabet soup.
other stuff
Other stuff
  • Random capitalization – only capitalize something if it is specifically spelled out in the stylebook or dictionary.
  • No exclamation points (OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • An apostrophe is not a warning sign that an s is coming.
  • Its/they.
  • Grammar.
how long should my story be
How long should my story be?
  • As long as it takes to completely, clearly cover the issue.
  • Then stop.
  • No word counts in this class.
story checklist
Story checklist
  • Lead
  • Story structure
  • Quotes
  • Pronouns
  • Paragraphs
  • Attribution
  • Third person
  • Sentence structure
  • Is it complete?