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Citizen Media Handbook - Chapter 9 - Write it right!

Write it Right - how to use words to tell a story #

[OK - having a go at this!]

The main thing here is not to use vague words and write stuff that is too hard for people to concentrate on, because the sentences are too long and full of so many sub-clauses that by the time you get to the end you can't remember how the sentence began, with a tailing-off clause to finish off with.

The main thing [VAGUE VOCAB} here is not to use [DON't USE NEGATIVE VERB-FORMS] vague words and write stuff [VAGUE - SAY EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN] that is too hard for people to concentrate on [DON't USE PASSIVE VERBS], because the sentences are too long and full of so many sub-clauses that by the time you get to the end you can't remember how the sentence began, with a tailing-off clause to finish off with. [TRAILING PREPOSITION "finish off with"]

Let's try it again.

Don't waffle. Grab people's attention with a firecracker phrase. Keep your sentences short. If you find yourself writing a sub-clause, try dividing the sentence into two.

And again.

Keep your sentences short. Grab people's attention with a firecracker phrase. If you find yourself writing a sub-clause, try dividing the sentence into two. But most of all, don't waffle.

1. Write in headlines.

2. Look for a punchy or surprising phrase or two.

3. Be accurate.

4. Be precise in your choice of words.

5. Say when you're estimating.

6. Avoid "weasel words" like "community".

7. With each sentence, put your most important point at the end.

8. Sign off with your name and organization so that viewers can trust you.

This takes a bit of practice, and the more you do it the easier it becomes.

Here are some facts for a sample story:

On September 1st 2012 squatting in a residential property became a criminal offence in the UK.

3. Be accurate.

If you don't know, don't speculate. "We've heard rumours that..." isn't journalism.

7. Always put your most important point at the end of the sentence:

NOT We ask is the government making life worse for the homeless, on the day that  squatting becomes a criminal offence"

BUT "On the day that squatting becomes a criminal offence, we ask is the government making life worse for the homeless?"

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