There are certain words you should be wary of. Two common problem words are vicious and violent.


As a sub for a TV news bulletin, I would always double-check stories using these words:  vicious or violent.

I am from the generation familiar with Sid Vicious (not his real name!) – and I learned how to spell VICIOUS. Many people spell it as it sounds – VISCOUS or VISIOUS or VISCIOUS –   writers put an extra S in the word. Many times I’ve had to correct print articles or written content in TV news (straps or supers). So I’ve learned to be wary of this vicious problem word.

Every industry has it’s own problem words that writers often confuse.(bare and bear in insurance/law)  Businesses are often aware of the importance of error-free copy on web pages or ‘printed collateral’.

Because the news reports on so many topics there are more ‘opportunities for error’. There is also the deadline pressure and rush. That’s why being aware and paying attention of problem words can help reduce error. I’ve made so many mistakes over the years (or have seen others make them) I’ve learned how to reduce errors and stop them slipping through.


Another problem word confusion is: violent/violet.

From my experience in helping organisations cut down on problem words, writing violent is more a problem of ‘meaning to write Violet’ – but ‘thinking’ violent and writing vioLent.

This Violent story was about a person called Violet.


Violet Bailey was the young survivor from what police believe was a crime where her mother and uncle were allegedly violently murdered – so I understand the writer meaning to write Violet but thinking and writing violent.

I’ll have to find the proper term (the equivalent of a ‘Freudian slip’) of meaning to write one word but thinking of a different word and that different word ‘slips through’.

An added problem with Vicious/Viscous and violent/violet – is that because the ‘misspelt and incorrect’ words – viscous and violent –  are also an actual words – spell check will  not pick  up this mistake and these words  will often slip through – unless of course you are aware of and correct  these two problem words – vicious and violent.


Hi, if you are interesting in writing – you’ll probably enjoy this blog. I’m a self-confessed and proud word nerd and big fan of Shakespeare – and other writers such as Hemingway.


One of the most satisfying parts of my recent job as a Deputy News Director at a major commercial TV network in Australia was helping younger writers.

I understand that the name Bard of Breaking News can seem outrageously arrogant – yet I strategically use it for ‘memorable branding’ and for the comic effect of the outrageous link and contrast between the lasting and deep grandeur or Shakespeare’s writing and the disposable speed of modern breaking news.

I do firmly believe that we can all learn from Shakespeare’s techniques to improve our writing – whether it’s for business or political speeches or even writing breaking news.


One thought on “Beware the #vicious and the #violent! – News #writing tip

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