#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.

 

summon BBN quote-then-imitate-the-action-of-the-tiger-stiffen-the-sinews-summon-up-the-blood-william-shakespeare-91-11-72

 

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.

wrath-1104257734-william-shakespeare-quotes-king-lear

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.

tim-roth-419kpy0cmtl-_sy445_

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.

News #writing tip – tweak sentences starting with ‘there were’.

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

A quick way to make news bulletins sound more ‘lively’ is to tweak sentences starting with ‘There were’ or ‘there was’.

For example:

There were celebrations today after hundreds of volunteers helped find a missing girl.

I encourage you to tweak for two reasons.

  1. You can ‘release the verb’ in  there were celebrations.Releasing the verb’ usually makes the writing shorter, snappier, and more active.
  2.  There WERE sounds ‘past. If appropriate and accurate, ask yourself if the action is still going on.                                                                                                                                    …

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News #writing tip – be extra careful with ‘war stories’ – in 2017 part 2/2

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.

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(The Battle of Long Tan)

In a recent stint as Deputy News Director and sub for a major Australian commercial channel, one of the 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 I’d see a story about a ‘war story’ I would give it extra time and attention. Whenever it was a news day including a war story – I’d pay special attention to the updates.

In part 1/2 on this topic, I mentioned how and why  ‘war stories’ are so important to Australian audiences.

From my experience in the United States, war stories are very important to Americans too. Many families (including many of my US friends) have special connections to US war stories.

From my experience, ‘war stories’ pose special problems to news organisations.

  1. the audience’s heightened sensitivity to any errors
  2. younger reporters and producers may make mistakes because these stories may seem like ‘ancient history’ to them and they may have as much knowledge about  or care for these stories as their audience does
  3. many battles happen in ‘foreign fields'(like France or Turkey or Vietnam – and more recently Afghanistan and Iraq) – so you have to be careful with spellings and pronunciation.

I was very lucky in my reporting days to train as an Accredited Correspondent with the Australian Defence Force (at a time of peace for Australia). I befriended and learned from journalists and ‘real’ war correspondents who are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in stories about war.

war-correspondent-training

I understand the pressure on modern news organisations to pump out an ever-increasing volume of news bulletins and updates. I also understand the importance of paying attention to avoiding mistakes in covering war stories.

As mentioned in Part 1 on this topic, 2016 was a big year for war stories.

2017 and 2018 will be big years too.

Because this is an area I am particularly interested in and passionate about, with the help of my ‘Australian battles expert’ colleagues –  I’ve developed quick training sessions and resources to help newsrooms prepare to cover the big war stories coming up in 2017 and 2018.

Newsrooms are busy places and are usually focussed on the news of the day. My colleagues and I have done the heavy work – carefully studying the various military/Anzac Day style guides to help the media and distilling the most common errors for reporters and subs and producers to avoid.

Here’s a link to part 1:

War stories – part 1/2

Beware the #vicious and the #violent! – News #writing tip

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

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

sid-vicious

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…

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