#Writing news – always check and double-check place names

In the rush of daily news, mistakes are bound to slip through – however, you should always check and double-check that you spell and pronounce place names correctly.

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The mistake in this commercial TV news bulletin last night was in the spelling of Beenleigh – not BeenEleigh. (I just glanced at the screen as I was walking out the door and noticed the mistake.) I reckon lots of other viewers​ would have noticed the mistake too.

In my experience, TV news audiences are more likely to excuse certain mistakes and typos – but are less forgiving when it comes to place names.

Mistakes in names may not even get noticed – but viewers will notice if you make a mistake in how you spell or pronounce a ‘local’ place name.

When I consult to newsrooms and in a 2016 stint working back in TV news as a deputy news director, I was very, very careful about place names. In a news bulletin there are lots of things to check – but ALWAYS check and double-check place names.

In newsrooms, many reporters come from different markets and are less familiar with local place names.

When a new reporter moved to our Brisbane newsroom from a different market (e.g. from Melbourne to Brisbane) I tried to make sure they ‘teamed up with’ and learned from someone else who had moved from that area – so they could ‘fast-tracked’ about names that were the greatest challenges.

Also, names with the same spelling are pronounced differently in different markets – for example, Berwick​ in Victoria.

For my first TV job, I moved from Brisbane to Sydney and I was lucky to have bosses who helped warn new reporters from different markets about how to spell and pronounce different names.

We all make mistakes.

My main advice is:
1. some mistakes are more obvious than others – place names
2. it IS possible to reduce mistakes by preparing reporters from different markets.
3. create a ‘problem place names’ resource that people add to and make sure ‘new’ people study it
4 create a newsroom culture where people are not afraid to ask and check how to pronounce/spell a name – usually you can easily find out how to spell a name.

I remember, being very impressed by a new reporter who moved to Brisbane and who would always​ check how to pronounce different place names. I was also impressed by one of his helpful fellow reporters who had great memory devices like – “Always pronounce the ALL in Algester”

A simple #writing trick so you don’t confuse flaunt with flout

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Lots of people get FLOUT and FLAUNT confused. Here’s an easy way to remember which one to use – and when.

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This post was inspired by reading advice from a very smart and experienced international expert who used flaunt when he should have written flout.

“If there is a dress code, you flaunt it”

I think he meant to write FLOUT – as in to not obey – to disobey or ignore.

If you FLAUNT it – you show it off.

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To remember just think:

Flout = FlOUTLAW – someone who doesn’t obey a law or rule.

I know it’s simple – but simple works in remembering what word to use.

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I often help people who are much smart than I am. My “skill” is helping people use simple memory devices to remember to use the correct word.

So, just remember if you disobey a law or corporate command…

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Writing Tip: Who has the rocks? Who is wearing the negligee?

negligee

Can you see/hear what’s wrong with this sentence – a sentence I heard in a TV news bulletin.

“Protesters took on police armed with rocks.”

Now, I reckon it was the protesters not the police who were armed with rocks – but the way the sentence is written, it sounds as if the police were armed with rocks.

Technically, this mistake is called a “misplaced modifier”. The modifier attaches to the closest noun.

It’s so easy to fix – you place the modifying words ‘armed with rocks’ closest to the people who ‘have the rocks’.

So the sentence should read:

Protesters armed with rocks took on police.

OR

Armed with rocks, protesters took on police.

Protestors throw rocks at police during a protest near the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington

I understand the problems reporters face writing under intense time pressure – however it’s so easy to get into good writing habits. It’s about 1. being aware of problems and 2. knowing how to fix the problems.

I always remember the way a writing professor explained misplaced modifiers – with this visual and memorable example:

Mary surprised Bill wearing her new negligee.

Who was wearing the negligee? Mary or Bill?

The way it’s written, the new negligee is ‘attached’ to Bill.

Maybe, it was the case that Bill was indeed the one wearing the new negligee.

However, if Mary was the one wearing the negligee – you need to place the negligee closest to Mary.

For example:

Wearing her new negligee, Mary surprised Bill.

Or

Bill was surprised by Mary wearing her new negligee.

I trust this visual and memorable example will help you remember to put the modifier in its proper place in a sentence.

#writing tip – Alas, pore/pour/poor Yorick…

I respect the tech-savvy of younger workers and writers – but many have pour/pore/poor writing skills when it comes to using the correct words.

poor yorick

This post was inspired by an informative article I was reading about writing effective Instagram captions. I learn from smart younger writers.

The writer seemed very helpful and smart – and then I read this… (the main problem words in CAPS, using X and Y to conceal identity):

X manages Y company’s Publishing team and is the editor of this blog. When he’s not POURING over copy, you might find him POURING a coffee. Or riding a bike. He has many interests.

The correct word should be PORING over copy.

This PORE (as a verb)  means:

  1. to read or study attentively —usually used with over

  2. to reflect or meditate steadily

Or as The Bard writes:

BB quote-to-pore-upon-a-book-to-seek-the-light-of-truth-william-shakespeare-113-85-25

If words are said rather than read – the mistake wouldn’t matter as it would sound the same.

But mistakes that appear in writing make the reporter or reader (if the written words appear with the reader) and the news organisation look dumb and unreliable. POUR sods!

In a stint subbing the scripts of younger TV news reporters, I’d POUR over scripts to pick up mistakes in written in graphics and supers/straps.

I argue that using the correct word is important – so I:
1. collected a list of lots of problem words mistakes many young writers make

2. teach easy-to-remember ways to use the right word.

For example, to remember to use PORE correctly – when you PORE over documents etc, you READ them – hence PORE has the RE part of Read in it – poRE.

word nerd CU

I like helping younger writers improve their PORE word mistakes and helping busy news organisations reduce credibility-eroding errors.

Yes, alas, I’m a word nerd and POOR forth my Shakespeare nerdiness – but that nerdiness can help young writers remember how to avoid common mistakes.

#Writing Tip: How to use SCALD and SCOLD correctly

 

 

 

A TV news story about a child being burnt in a bath of hot water had a ‘super’ (words written on the screen) saying a child had been SCOLDED.

hot and cold

The proper word should have been SCALDED.

To be SCOLDED is to be angrily criticized or reprimanded.

I imagine the person who confused SCALDED with SCOLDED was scolded for their mistake. In this case, where the words are written on the screen, the mistake is obvious.

I think obvious mistakes make news organisations look unreliable. A large portion of people who still get their news from television are ‘more mature’ and they were probably taught the difference between SCOLD and SCALD.

 

word nerd CU

When I help newsrooms (broadcast and print) avoid common word confusion mistakes, I use simple memory devices  – because spell check will not pick up words that are proper words – just not the RIGHT word you need – like the SCOLD/SCALD confusion.

We work through commonly confused words in news stories – and simple (often visual) memory devices.

Here are easy ways to remember SCOLD/SCALD.

scOLDed is when you are ‘tOLD off’ (criticised)

SCALD – is ‘the other use’ – when something or someone is burned in hot water.

if someone is sCALded you better CALL the ambulance.

There’s the audio CALL reminder.

I also encourage writers to remember a picture (a visual reminder) of an ambulance with a big A on it – so they remember to use scAld with an A.  Simple (even child-like) memory devices help you choose the right word when you are writing under deadline pressure.

 

 

scald BBN quote-thou-art-a-soul-in-bliss-but-i-am-bound-upon-a-wheel-of-fire-that-mine-own-tears-do-william-shakespeare-77-59-48

 

From my Italian lessons at school, I remember CALDO means hot.

So,  you are sCALDed in HOT (Caldo) water.

…and just a word of warning when traveling in Italy. Many English speaking tourists have been SCALDED by turning on the hot tap (Caldo marked with a ‘C’) thinking it’s the Cold tap.

 

I hope that helps you remember when to use SCOLD and when to use SCALD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summoned or summonsed?

I recently heard an Australian reporter say on air in a story about an expected royal announcement that palace staff had been ‘summonsed’ to the Palace for the ‘big announcement’ about the royals.

 

To my knowledge, the correct word is summoned – not summonsed.

To summon means to order (someone) to be present OR to make some quality present in yourself – e.g. to summon up the courage.

 

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Who cares?

Now, I understand that TV ratings are NOT won by correct word choice – however, I  argue that certain mistakes like this one (summoned/summonsed) are  ‘jarring’ to members of the more mature demographic who still get their news from TV news.

It’s not that hard to alert newsroom staff about commonly confused and misused words.

With cutbacks to newsrooms – reporters now often need to ‘sub’ (edit and check ) copy and write their own headlines. I argue mistakes appear even worse when written – in print or on supers and straplines in TV news.  As  a young reporter, I made plenty of mistakes (and I still do) – but more senior colleagues let me know of my mistakes so I didn’t repeat them.

 

Usually, you should use summoned – not summonSed.

 

 

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However, a fellow ‘word nerd’ informed me that summonSed is technically correct when a summons has been issued. So, SummonSed is correct when you mean

(1) “to cite to appear before a court, judge, or magistrate,” or

(2) “to request (information) by summons.”

When I help organisations, including media organisations, use the right words – I encourage them to avoid using ‘problem words’ like summoned/summonsed.

Even if you are technically correct – it can ‘sound wrong’ to viewers/lsteners – especially more mature viewers/listeners who were probably taught the difference between summoned and summonsed.

So, I encourage you to summon forth another word like ‘called’ or ‘ordered’ to the palace.

 

In news you better learn how to spell – fiery not firey

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

In news you’ll write lots of stories about fires – so it’s important to learn how to spell ‘fiery’.

This post was inspired by a mistake in the lead story this morning in my local paper. The spelling was correct in the on-line version but not in the version I access via the app.

fiery-16707447_10210110785819295_8309516780907030006_o

Media-savvy friends asked me why fiery is not spelled more logically – firey.

In older English, there were two spellings of fire – fire and fier and fiery came from the fier spelling.

bb-quote-gallop-apace-you-fiery-footed-steeds-toward-phoebus-lodging-william-shakespeare-310248

Interestingly, in Australia, we also use ‘firey’ in a different way as a common abbreviation for fireman or fire-person. This can also be spelled ‘firie’.

So my advice to you: because news writers will often write about fires you should remember that the spelling of fiery is not logical and is based on an older alternative spelling of fire.

English can be a confusing…

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How to reduce ‘dangerous’ errors in TV news

efangelist

The reality of modern television news is that more mistakes will go to air. TV newsrooms must pump out more and more content with fewer people on staff, more pressure to be first to air, and less time for quality control.

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From a recent stint as Deputy News Director in an Australian commercial TV newsroom, I know first-hand the pressure to prevent errors in a news bulletin – and the embarrassment of letting mistakes slip through and go to air. It feels like being like a soccer goalkeeper trying to stop dozens of balls coming at you at the same time. While you’re busy preventing one error – another slips through.

By ‘dangerous’ errors – I mean errors that your viewers care about and may cause them to not trust and not watch your bulletin. There is a ‘spectrum of errors’ – many errors viewers will excuse – but…

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Don’t confuse wrath with wraith – and how do you pronounce wrath?

This post was inspired by a news story where the writer got wraith confused with wrath.

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I think the writer meant to write wrath (meaning anger or fury) – not wraith.

wraith

A wraith is a spirit or ghost. (from old Scottish). It’s also a car and a movie.

Another danger with the word wrath (especially for broadcast news where the word is said not read) is pronouncing it correctly.

I’ve heard Australian reporters pronounce it was Wr-AH-th (like raft) – when in British English it’s pronounced Wr-oth. An Australian speech expert  friend who teaches TV reporters has the useful memory device – ‘Wrath rhymes with Goth’

In North America, it’s common to pronounce Wrath more like RAT or HAT. Different regions have different vowel sounds. An American TV friend gave me her memory device: “In the US, Wrath rhymes with math.”

(Different regions of the US  have different vowel sounds. The Bostonian AH sound  (pAHk the cAH)  is similar to Australian.)

The word looks like it should be pronounced with ‘A vowel sounds’ like  RAT or RAFT – but the British English pronunciation is like w-ROTH – like the actor Tim Roth.

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So two things for Australian reporters and writers to remember:

  1. it’s wrath not wraith – if you mean anger or fury
  2. In British English, it’s pronounced Wroth.

That should help you avoid the wraith of an angry editor or news boss.

In news you better learn how to spell – fiery not firey

In news you’ll write lots of stories about fires – so it’s important to learn how to spell ‘fiery’.

This post was inspired by a mistake in the lead story this morning in my local paper. The spelling was correct in the on-line version but not in the version I access via the app.

fiery-16707447_10210110785819295_8309516780907030006_o

Media-savvy friends asked me why fiery is not spelled more logically – firey.

In older English, there were two spellings of fire – fire and fier and fiery came from the fier spelling.

bb-quote-gallop-apace-you-fiery-footed-steeds-toward-phoebus-lodging-william-shakespeare-310248

Interestingly, in Australia, we also use ‘firey’ in a different way as a common abbreviation for fireman or fire-person. This can also be spelled ‘firie’.

So my advice to you: because news writers will often write about fires you should remember that the spelling of fiery is not logical and is based on an older alternative spelling of fire.

English can be a confusing and inconsistent language – so it’s important that journalists know the ‘problem’ words like fiery.  Spelling matters when you see the words in ‘print’ and even in TV news when you see the words in graphics or supers or straps.