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'Hot 100' News Writing Tips

LEAD 1. Keep leads short. Those with 35 words or less are preferred. 2. Leads limited to one or two sentences are preferred. 3. Avoid starting leads with "when" or "where" unless the time or place is unusual. Most leads start with "who" or "what." 4. Avoid beginning leads with "there" or "this." 5. In leads about future events, the time, day (date) and place usually go at the end of the paragraph. 6. In leads about past events, the day (date) of the event usually appears before or after the verb. Sometimes the day (date) comes at the end of the first sentence or the paragraph if it is a onesentence lead. 7. Use quote and question leads sparingly. 8. The first five to "what happened" makes a better story than the fact it did. BODY 9. Keep paragraphs short. Those limited to 60 words or less or no longer than 10 typeset lines are preferred. 10. Paragraphs limited to one to three sentences are preferred. 11. Each paragraph should contain only one idea. 12. Remember short paragraphs encourage readers to continue reading. EDITING 13. Eliminate the word "that" whenever possible. 14. For past events, report it happened "Friday," NOT "last Friday." Eliminate the word "last." For future events, report it will happen "Monday," NOT "next Monday." Eliminate the word "next." 15. Eliminate the "be" verb. Write "she will resign" instead of "she will be resigning. "Write in future tense (will) instead of future progressive tense (will be "ing").

theirs) in news stories. our. GRAMMAR 24. her." Example: Passive voice . Rewrite. "He'd" can mean both "he had" and "he would. their. 23." 19. him. nor" are used.. Make sure numbers match the items listed. Examples: Neither the coach nor the players are to blame. ONLY GREAT REWRITING. Consult the AP Stylebook or Grammar for Journalists for more information. Use THIRD PERSON (she. 28. has been shot. 26. Edit. ours) or second person (you. hers. he. Only on rare occasions do you use first person (I. Read the story out loud to catch awkward sentence constructions. Edit. may be shot. injured 60 more and forced scores of residents to leap from windows. 18. Shorter titles that precede names should be capitalized. When you use a pronoun to refer to a team or a group. it. The location of "only" can change the meaning of a sentence. Examples: He likes gardening. his. the verb agrees in person with the nearer subject. they." NOT they. Avoid the contractions of he'd and they'd. Revise. Revise. fishing and hunting. The city was . we. Use active voice vs.. A title that follows the name should be lowercased and set off in commas." use a singular verb. Always double-check the spelling of names.16. Rewrite sentences to eliminate the word "by. Write. If "none" means "no one" or "not one. The first version of a story is NOT good enough to go into print. When "either . your. 25. had been shot. The word "by" may also signal the sentence is written in passive voice. 17. 29. Make sure verbs or other phrases are "parallel" or the same in structure when they appear in stories or list. Rewrite. The fire killed at least 12 persons. 22. Make sure "only" is placed properly in a sentence. Example: None was found guilty. mine.. them. will be shot. Eliminate words such as "when asked" and "concluded. 20. Edit. 21. 27. was shot. the proper pronoun to use is "its. Neither the players nor the coach is to blame. Revise. or" and "neither . Just report what was said. A long title should follow the name." and "they'd" can mean both "they had" and "they would." These are weak transitions. its. The passive voice is formed by using some form of the verb "be" with the past participle of an action verb: is shot. passive voice. yours) in news stories. Example: The team wants to improve its record.. Someone once said THERE IS NO GREAT WRITING.

...........ordered by the judge to make the payment........... sizable..... make a drawing of it........ man-sized ............................... 34..... racial and ethnic stereotypes................. staff.. NO mankind ............. manufactured.......... The judge ordered the city to make the payment............. of human origin workers............ requiring exceptional ability pioneers.......... incomplete information and information the writer does not have a clear understanding of. 31............................. gentleman's agreement ... Avoid racial identification except when it's essential to communication.......................... advertising man .................. colonists...... NONAGEIST....... When something isn't clear......... 33....... NONDISCRIMINATORY COMMUNICATION 32...... Active voice ........ This has to do with questionable information that may be libelous...... large.......... NONSEXIST................................ founding fathers .......... patriots.... MISCELLANEOUS 30.... forebears informational agreement or contract for the person or executive on his or her way up for the homemaker or consumer or head of the household anchor advertising man-made ........... Substitute asexual words for "man" words or sexist words............. ................................ personnel work hours husky................ for the lady of the house .... Putting it on paper can clarify the situation........................... WHEN IN DOUBT...... manpower ..... LEAVE IT OUT.... Avoid words that reinforce ageist................... artificial. for the man on the way up ........................... YES people..... human beings. human race synthetic.... anchorman . work force.... humanity..... man-hours ..............

........ postman ......................... stewardess ......................................... libber or women's lib ........................... the girls (for women over 18) ....................................................................................................... policeman ............................. the ladies and the men ............. weatherman ............. in an economic sense................... the ladies and the gentlemen............. well-mannered homemaker (for a housewife ......... person who manages a home).................................................... staff the exhibit writer reporter letter carrier police officer salesperson flight attendant self-made person meteorologist worker the women wife secretary... customer or shopper refer to the woman's career girl or career woman . right hand feminist...................... foreman .. Englishmen ................................... you and your wife .................................................. custodian the English firefighter supervisor someone who run the exhibit. student ladylike .................................chairman ..................................................................... the girls and the boys (Note the parallelism in structures............................................................. consumer..........................) husband and wife you and your spouse ........ newsman .................................................................... workman ................. profession or professional or practitioner chairperson housekeeper...................................................... a man who ............................................................................... self-made man ... salesman .. man the exhibit ......... man and wife .................................................... fireman ...... the better half ...................................................... cleaning woman ..................................................... man of letters ................. women's movement the women and the men................................. the little lady................................................. girl Friday ..................... coed (for female students at a coeducational school) ................................. assistant.......... liberationist....................................................

.. Be respectful of persons with handicaps. The parents...... deaf mute ..seals...... 36..easter....... go to www.... The handicapped parents met to exchange ideas. had no trouble trouble doing her job. The deaf accountant spotted the error.org/resources/press/tips. epilepsy fits.. disabled or be specific paraplegic NO deaf and dumb. For more information.. crippled ..........asp YES impaired.. retarded ... welder 35... NO YES Mary. doing her job......... hearing and/or speech impaired mentally ill.... Separate the person from the handicap.......asp..............easter..... an epileptic.. limited. slow learner seizures.seals.vocation ... For more information. deaf.... go to www. developmentally disadvantaged. who had epilepsy.......... The accountant spotted the error...............org/resources/press/tips. ... spells ..... half-witted. dull. or be specific .... insane........ Professor Jane Jones.......... disabled or limited..... had no Mary... met to exchange ideas.emotionally disturbed. crazy... each with some handicap.... Kathy Smith.......

Avoid using "like" for "as. 46.m. leave it out. Most adjectives are unnecessary.37. Most adverbs are unnecessary." 43." Example: The Fountain of Youth. The one-time millionaire now works from dawn to dusk. Choose verbs that suggest what they mean. Use adjectives sparingly." Example: ." If using "he or she" or "him or her" becomes cumbersome. . Instead of "tightly clenched teeth.. ." "them. Avoid "be" verbs. "they. All aspects of a story should usually be introduced or outlined in the first few paragraphs. According to John Jones. The concept is oftentimes already in the noun." "their" or "theirs. phrase. Examples: It tastes like a peach. "As" is a subordinate conjunction that introduces dependent clauses. as he did in his youth. 40. Transitions are necessary to show the reader that the writer has a sense of direction. date and place. Avoid comma splices and comma blunders. ORGANIZATION 38. are weaker than singular ones. however. ." write "the radio blared. Use "he or she" or "she or he" for "he. There is no comma between time. 44. it's called a "comma splice." Example: The Fountain of Youth is not in Florida. Avoid introducing new information at the end of a story.) If two independent clauses are joined by a comma. Use a comma with "according to. Example: The accident occurred at 4:32 a. clarity and vigor to writing." "Like" is a preposition and takes a noun or pronoun object. Make sure information introduced or outlined in the lead is covered in the same order in the body of the story.. 47. A word. is not in Florida. it's in ." Instead of "the radio blared loudly.." write "clinched teeth.. "Active" verbs add pace. PARTS OF SPEECH 41. (The comma is NOT needed. If a comma is placed between the subject (noun) and predicate (verb). consider using a plural pronoun . 48. PUNCTUATION 45. 42. 39. Monday one-half block north of Central Dairy on Third Street South. Verbs are a writer's most important tools. Redundant adverbs weaken strong verbs. When in doubt about the use of a comma." Plural pronouns. according to the news release. this is a "comma blunder" or "comma fault. sentence or paragraph can move the reader from one thought to another.

especially oranges.") and periods (. Example: Magazines such as these should be thrown in the trash. There should be a space before and after the dash. 59. 53." said John Jones. Let the reader decide if the content is humorous or exciting on his or her own. 58. Attribution is NOT needed when facts are commonplace and not subject to dispute or when they are accepted and historically true. A period or a semicolon should replace the comma. Exclamation points are "graphic tantrums" and sometimes demonstrate a lack of control on the writer's part. 50.." Example: red. The dash should be used before words and sentences run as lists. A comma should precede "such as. personalized and first-person. 52. It may be verb + noun when the source's title follows his or her name. when opinions are expressed or when "professional" opinions from physicians. chairman of the department of English. Quotation marks go outside commas (. such as laundry. 57. Use attribution only once per paragraph. If a period is used. 51.or . ). Write "frequently misused words. Examples: The advertised price of the tour does not cover some personal expenses. narrative.) and colons (":)." "especially" and "including" when these words introduce examples. white and blue. The dash is a long mark (-."). the comma is omitted. including the inverted pyramid. Don't hyphenate adverbs ending in "ly" with adjectives. The order of the words in a sentence should be arranged in such a way that they make the desired impression. entertainment and tips. a comma is NOT needed before the "and. (This is known as a run-on sentence.) and is used to divide words or to link hyphenated adjectives. scientists. They go inside semicolons (". Use an exclamation point in only the rarest of situations and only after brief interjections. In newswriting. Attribution is usually noun + verb. Example: . The hyphen is a short mark ( . Attribution is also needed with direct quotations and indirect quotations (paraphrased information)." NOT "frequently-misused words. the "i" on "it's" also needs to be capitalized. . Attribution is needed when policy change statements are made. engineers and others are used.. students study various approaches to writing. .) 49. When "such as" is used with a restrictive application. He likes fruit. 56. chronological. QUOTES AND ATTRIBUTION 55. Example: Jones said." 54.Russia. In a series. Attribution should be placed at the end of the first sentence when the quote is made up of two or more sentences.

"Said" is the best word for attribution.) 75. SENTENCE STRUCTURE 66. between. Show them off. 69. 65. The average reader cannot comprehend a sentence with more than 40 words. When one quote follows another but the second one is from a different source. 70. under. during. Don't have more than three consecutive prepositional phrases in a sentence. on. down. Avoid using the same word twice in a sentence. . Consult a dictionary. The optimum number of words to use in a sentence is 14 to 16. turn one long sentence into two or three shorter ones. with . says) for attribution in news stories. upon. SPELLING 73. 68. Let quotes begin the paragraph. from. Use them to encourage the reader to continue reading. When writing becomes cumbersome. at. toward. Ask for help. but they should accurately represent how something is said. 67. 61. through. Use past tense verbs (said vs.. until. start a new paragraph. like. 72. Avoid the use of partial quotes. This helps the reader know immediately that a different person is speaking. 62.60." Start the sentence and then work "however" into it as soon as possible. for. Don't mix the two. 64. Quote marks attract the reader's eye. Other words can be used. 71. 63. Each time a different source is cited. to. Sentence length should vary. Don't start or end a sentence with "however. attribution for the second quote should be placed at the beginning of it. Quote or paraphrase material. over. Don't call university libraries for assistance.. Prepositional phrases start with about. Use "Spell Check" on the computer. up. in. above. place a short sentence before and after it. (Webster New World Dictionary is the preferred reference. Count the words in a story's sentences. by. Public library information desk personnel can be resourceful and helpful. This word is intended to cause an interruption in thought. 74. If a long sentence must be used. against. Stories become dull when sentences are all the same length.

On second and all other references. Be careful how the word "held" is used. Odds are the reader won't bother looking up the definition. 78. Avoid using words that qualify how someone feels. much.." These words are confusing to readers. On first reference. 81. Use the day of the week for six days before or after a specific day. be sure to explain each term used. Never say "yesterday" or "tomorrow. quite. 77. Mrs. somewhat. "Little qualifiers" include the following: a bit. rather. The meeting will be at noon Monday in . 87. 89. bosses and executives. Avoid using them. Learn the difference between "affect" (usually a verb) and "effect" (usually a noun). 86. The order for writing when and where is time. 80. Examples: The dog has a thorn in its (possessive pronoun) paw. in a very real sense. "Today" may be used. The meeting will be held at noon Monday in Anthony Administration Building. identify a person by his or her first and last names.") 84. Use the day of the week. sort of. refer to the person by his or her last name only. Use simple words. Never send the reader to the dictionary.. Avoid technical jargon unless 95 percent or more of the readers will understand it. . Better . 83. pretty. thinks or sees. Make sure the object can be "held" physically. unless it's an obituary. kind of. or Mr. 79. (Note the correct spelling of "a lot. day (date) and place. Consult the AP Stylebook and Libel Manual. 85. you don't need Miss. around. If the answer cannot be found in the AP Stylebook. consult a dictionary or a grammar book. very. VOCABULARY 82. If technical jargon is used and it won't be understood by the majority of readers.STYLE 76.. 88. Use the date when it is seven or more days before or after a specific day. Room 125. Ms. Example: Weak . Words such as "thing" and "a lot" annoy some readers. On second reference. It's (contraction) time to go. Know the difference between its (no apostrophe for possessive pronoun) and it's (the contraction for it is). Consult the AP Stylebook or a dictionary for more information. a little.

90. Know when to use "their" (possessive pronoun)." "following or after an operation" or "of a disease. 91. Know the difference between whose (possessive pronoun) and who's (the contraction for who is). Examples: Whose (possessive pronoun) coat is this? Who's (contraction) going on the trip? 92." If a vehicle runs into a parked one or an object. In connection with suicides." It should not be reported that a victim was murdered until someone is convicted of the crime." NOT completely destroyed. The public relations group wants to go. 95." A fire may "gut" or "destroy" the interior of a building. To raze a building is to level it to the ground. Some members are not going on the trip because it will take too (adverb) much time from their schedules. Sometimes information cannot be verified." "of injuries suffered or sustained. too (adverb). If doubt exists regarding a person's name. 99." NOT unnamed. The project is over there (adverb)." 100." If a confession is involved but the confession has not been admitted as evidence in court." "sought in connection with. report only that the prisoner "has made a statement. When suicide is reported. it may be said the victim was "killed" or "slain. say the vehicle "struck" the stationary one. committed suicide. Remember two objects must be moving to "collide.html. . go to www. "there" (adverb) and "they're" (the contraction for they are). a building is "destroyed. "too" (adverb) and "two" (adjective).org/media/7. Injuries are "suffered or sustained. arrests are made "in connection with the death of." "apparently of a heart attack. For more guidelines on reporting and writing about suicide. 97. Know when to use "to" (preposition)." "charged with" or "arrested on charges of. Buildings also are damaged "lightly. report "address not given" or "address unknown.suicidology." NOT received. it is best to say the person was "found dead" or "fell or plunged to his or her death" until the coroner completes his or her investigation." 96. With fires. write "arrested in connection with. The two (adjective) groups will go to Indianapolis." "after a long illness. In obituaries." 94. They're (contraction) working together on the project. If there are questions about where a person lives. used died by suicide vs." "moderately" or "heavily." If a person is dead or unconscious and there is no identification. he or she is "unidentified." 98. report the person "was listed by police as John Smith" or he "gave his name as John Smith. A person dies "unexpectedly. In connection with arrests. Examples: It is their (possessive pronoun) project." "after a brief illness. Examples: The advertising group is going to (preposition) Indianapolis. 93. With murder.