Is it fiance or fiancee? Does fiance look ‘wrong’ to you?

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Should you write fiance (with one e) or fiancee (with two e’s)? When I read a headline this morning, fiance looked ‘strange’ to me – and so I wanted to find out the current state of play regarding how to write the word.

Most people will know what you mean regardless of how you spell it. I just advise subs and reporters to be consistent. As you can see in the above image,  there’s one spelling in the headline and a different one in the story. When I train newsrooms I urge writers to be consistent – in broadcast news try to pronounce words in the ‘live’ intro in a similar way to the way a word is pronounced in an ‘already recorded’ package. In print, try to match the headline to the copy spelling in the story.

Anyway, if you are curious about whether it’s fiance or fiancee…


According to the sources I read, the word is borrowed from the French and, before that , Latin – and fiance is for a male and fiancee is for a female.

English is ‘gender-neutral’ – unlike other languages where letters on the end of words show masculine or feminine.


According to, the modern trend is to prefer – fiance.


I was educated to write fiancee – which is technically the ‘correct’ way to refer to a female fiancee.


Well, now you know the difference between fiance and fiancee!


I encourage writers in newsrooms to be aware of different spellings of potential problem ‘borrowed words’ and strive for consistency. When you use a foreign word, just check for consistency between headline and story or in broadcast, intro and package. I bet many readers who were educated to write fiancee (as I was) thought the headline looked incorrect.







Is it Superceed or Supercede or Supersede? An easy way to get it right in writing your news supers

Spelling mistakes in supers and graphics and ‘straps’ and ‘lower thirds’ (or ‘astons’ as they call them in the UK) can make news services look inaccurate and unreliable.

As far as I know, from 2016 experience in a commercial TV newsroom, you don’t have the benefit of spell check in the news computer programs you enter ‘supers’ into.

So, you have to know how to spell and to spot errors when subbing. You have to know how to spell ‘irregular’ words like superceed. Or is that supercede or supersede? Or indeed, superseed!

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When I train newsrooms and businesses in how to avoid embarrassing and credibility-eroding mistakes, I often create a list of common problem words for different industries and give easy-to-remember-and-apply ‘tricks’.


The ‘trick’ I use to remember that supersede is spelled with an S:

Something that supersedes comes AFTER the original.

S comes after C in the alphabet – so supersede is spelled with an S not a C.


I concede that spelling can be confusing – especially when words can be spelled in different ways with different letter combinations to produce similar sounds – succeed, supersede, concede.



Anyway, now you know a simple way to remember how to spell supersede correctly.

Please let me know if you know of improved versions of news writing computer programs that have superseded the 2016 versions – programs where you can spell check SUPERS.  Then you can cede the task of having to know how to spell words like supersede correctly in your supers!



When question headings can be useful. Have I revealed too much?

This post was inspired by a story and a headline and an image that compelled me to read it.


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In an earlier post, I wrote about the use of questions in news writing and I’ve had lots of reaction from media people from many different generations sharing their views on WHEN questions can be valuable in news writing.

The above story reminded me of yet another situation when questions are useful: when you want to be careful in asserting something. You are not asserting the statement – you are merely ‘asking the question’?

It’s an effective technique. It’s useful when you don’t want to say ‘yes or no’ to an issue. You just ask the question.

Revealed/reveal – are proven words that encourage more clicks on stories.

The technique also arouses curiosity. What did she say that could be too revealing?

Plus, there’s the extra compelling ‘human psychology’ trigger – where the reader wants to see if the story matches their view.

Here’s a link to the earlier post where I reveal more on the use of questions in modern news writing:

News Writing: To write questions or not to write questions – that is the question



#Writing broadcast news: trimming court stories with confidence

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Journalists are naturally cautious when writing or subbing court stories – and they should be.


This week I needed to trim lengthy copy for a court story – including this sentence:

It comes after allegations in court that…

First of all, the start of the story and the vision sets up that the allegations are in court – so you can cut those words – in court.

Also, you can have a simpler form of allegations:


It’s alleged…


 X allegedly…..

Both much shorter and punchier than: It comes after allegations in court that…

You don’t need the words: it comes after

So, while I encourage caution – I also encourage confidence in trimming excess words in court stories.

Does ‘allegedly’ protect you?

As boss in the US instructed all of us in the newsroom to use the word allege preceded by the official source that does the alleging.

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Better News writing – let go of OF!

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Have you noticed that the pace OF news is speeding up?  It’s the job OF subs to trim copy OF excess words.

Intros are shorter. Packages are shorter. Live crosses are shorter.

Every second and syllable matters- so I encourage you to let go  of OF


An easy technique is to focus on the words around the word OF.

Here are two quick and simple examples from subbing a commercial TV news bulletin.

A jury is in the process OF considering….


the jury asked a number OF questions…

When I see OF, I think:  what’s a simpler, more economical way OF ‘saying’ this?

A jury is in the process OF considering….


A jury is considering….


the jury asked a number OF questions…


the jury asked several questions…


the pace OF news is speeding up  can become the news pace is speeding up or…

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News Writing: To write questions or not to write questions – that is the question

My old news bosses taught me to not write questions in news stories. “News is about answering questions – not asking them!”




Yesterday in my job as a university tutor in Broadcast Journalism I had to address the question of whether you can use questions in news writing.

…and what was my answer to this question?

Questions can be engaging and can draw in a reader or viewer and  questions are commonly used in writing headlines and news ‘teasers’ and ‘breakers’ (to keep TV viewers tuned in across commercial breaks)


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Technically, questions often  ‘trigger’ a compulsion to answer a question and then to check how your view compares to the views expressed in a story.


Questions can be very effective in compelling a scroller to click on a story – or to wait through an ad break to see how they view matches the views in a news story.

I warn students that many ‘more mature’ (i.e. older)  news bosses and subs were probably trained to not use questions and they may dislike questions. They may question the use of questions.

I also recommend that if questions are used, you use them in ‘lighter’ stories and not the serious stories about murders and death and destruction.


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What’s your view about the using questions in news writing?

I’m asking seriously – to hear different opinions – and not just asking the question as an engagement technique.








Why you should pause momentarily to understand the different meanings of ‘momentarily’

This post was inspired by seeing a sign in California that hooked my attention – as a writing coach/trainer and word nerd.



I’m from a British English background and I thought (momentarily) they used the word momentarily incorrectly.


But further word nerd investigation revealed the different meanings of momentarily in British English and North American English.

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To sum up, momentarily can mean:

  1. For a short time (British English)
  2. In a short time (North American English)

I just thought I’d explain that difference in meaning. One of the many differences between British English and North American English.

word nerd CU

It’s interesting that knowing different meanings can be valuable when helping companies that have workers from different backgrounds of English.


One of the most dramatic examples of difference was when the same expression ‘pulled the pin’ had opposite meanings.


If you are interested you can read about the difference here:

Dangerous different meanings – pulled the pin




The no. 1 thing to avoid when teasing stories or grouping stories together -#News #writing

This post was inspired by seeing stories grouped together.

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You’ll note the repeated ‘No. 1 thing’ technique that often hooks readers into wanting to read the story.


Now that IS an effective heading or headline technique that can draw in readers. However, in my professional opinion, grouping stories with the same type of headline too close together draws attention to the ‘device’ and lessens its effectiveness.

You’ll also note (above)  the repetition of the ‘cheap’ angle – which, once again, is effective in itself but too obvious when you see the two stories being places alongside each other.



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The same principle applies when using ‘hooking’ techniques when writing ‘breakers’ or ‘teasers’ in commercial TV news. Effective techniques keep viewers across commercial breaks.

An old trick is to show dramatic vision then write ‘what happens next?’ or ‘you won’t believe what happens next.” The viewer is often compelled to stay tuned through the commercial break to see what happens next.

This can work well – however,  if the same technique is repeated in a teasing more than one stories leading into a commercial break, the technique becomes obvious. Once again, try to avoid bunching together and repeating similar teasing techniques.

If you obviously repeat teasing or headline techniques you won’t believe what happens next…. You’ll annoy your readers or viewers because:  It’s the no. 1 thing viewers hate!


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When I teach writing techniques in newsrooms and at Journalism schools, I stress the importance of writing effective teasers and breakers and engaging and compelling headlines.

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I also stress the potential problems – like grouping similar techniques too close together.


News #writing tip – be extra careful with ‘war stories’ – in 2018 part 2/2

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

News organisations need to take special care when reporting about ‘war stories’ – especially news stories about major battles.  TV audiences are often more ’emotionally connected’ to these stories and they will judge you harshly if you make errors.

long_tan_action_by_bruce_fletcher_awm_art40758(The Battle of Long Tan)

As Deputy News Director and sub for a major Australian commercial channel in 2016, one of my biggest  ‘saves’ was correcting a battle name for a story about the 50-th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam.

It almost went to air in an update as the battle of Lone Pine – another major battle for Australians  – but from a different war (WWI at Gallipoli).

Now, it’s a sub’s job to catch mistakes before they go to air. No big deal there.

My point to you is that all news organisations should have a heightened awareness when it comes to war stories. Whenever…

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News Writing – Don’t be found guilty of ‘possession’ in the Magistrate’s Court

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News stories from the Magistrates Court are such staples for news services.

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Reporters often cross live from outside a Magistrates Court and often the location is written on the screen.

Yet, the supers often say Magistrate’s Court rather than Magistrates Court. The sign actually clearly says – it’s Magistrates Court (without the apostrophe of possession)


I understand that this error is a very minor infraction. Dramatic vision of unhappy people attacking the cameras or trying to avoid the cameras is far more exciting than getting words correct in ‘supers’ or graphics or ‘straps’ or ‘astons’.

Still, it’s so easy to fix – just remind court reporters or people who write and check the graphics and supers that there is no apostrophe in Magistrates Court.

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word nerd CU

To ‘get technical’ the word Magistrates is descriptive not possessive.

The word describes what sort of court it is. It’s a Magistrates Court.

It’s NOT possessive…

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