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.

long_tan_action_by_bruce_fletcher_awm_art40758

(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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News #writing – AMBER alerts and Backronyms

If you work in the media, you’ve probably heard of AMBER alerts when people, especially children, go missing.

 

amber-alert-3ac8e02958ab1facd7e57608ec277e34

 

Did you know those letters A M B E R stand for the words – America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response?

 

I reckon lots of my media colleagues write AMBER alerts without knowing how AMBER alerts got their name. I’m the sort of word nerd who likes to know the background behind expressions – especially what letters stand for.

 

The expression started in the United States – named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996.

In Australia, the media follow the US practice and issues AMBER alerts swiftly – to help find missing children. Details go out on radio, TV, on-line and on highway signs.

The most effective notification is usually by radio or those highway signs so motorists can contact authorities if they see any vehicle suspected to be carrying missing children.

 

 

amber-alert-010

 

 

 

AMBER is an acronym – where you pronounce the word not the individual letters.

 

When the acronym (like AMBER) comes first and then you later create the words the individual letters stand for to match the acronym – a the catchy expression for this device is called…a BACK-RONYM. (sometimes called a bacronym)

 

I hope this post explained a few things you didn’t already know about AMBER alerts and back-ronyms.

—————

You like news writing tips? I’ve got plenty of them – accumulated over years of bosses improving my broadcast scripts.

————–

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.

tb-media-mosaic

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.

News #writing tip – be extra careful with ‘war stories’ – in 2017 part 1/2

Australian news audiences will judge you harshly if you are incorrect when you report ‘war stories’.

By ‘war stories’ – I mean the news stories about Australia’s involvement in wars  – often battle ‘anniversary stories’. 2016 was a big year for stories remembering great battles from  1916 (100 year commemorations) and Australia’s Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966 (50 year commemoration). 2017 and 2018  will also be  big years for 100 year commemorations of World War I battles Australians fought and died in.

From my experience in a stint as Deputy News Director at a major Australian commercial television network –  I know first-hand how Australian news audiences know and care about ‘war stories’.

Many Australian families (including mine) have ‘personal family connection’ to the great battles.  My grandfather’s brother survived Gallipoli in 1915 – and was killed at  Passchendaele in 1916. So many Australian families have similar ‘connections’ and this history is passed down through generations. The most ‘complaint calls’ to the newsroom I have heard related to inaccuracies in these ‘war stories’.

anzac-sydney-king

I urge all newsrooms to take special care when covering ‘war stories’.

  1. Check the spelling of the names of battles (usually named after where the battles took place).
  2. Make sure you pronounce the names correctly.
  3. Be aware and be careful that young reporters may get facts or descriptions incorrect. More mature media people (over 40) grew up learning about Australia’s military history.  Younger reporters and production staff may not have the same knowledge. Subs must take special care in supervising these stories.

FOR EXAMPLE: Casualties = dead and wounded – not just the number killed. So it’s inaccurate to take the number of casualties and report it as ‘how many died in a battle’.

The Australian War Memorial often has resources to help the media report these stories correctly. I encourage newsrooms to use these resources.

Newsrooms are under increasing pressure to pump more and more bulletins and updates to air. More and more mistakes can happen in this rush.

As mentioned, 2017 and 2018 will be big years for 100-th anniversary stories of battles from World War One.

I urge you to be careful with ‘war stories’ as your audience can be very unforgiving if you make mistakes. These stories are more than  ‘news content’ – many people are emotionally connected to these stories.

News #writing tip about Ice or Cat or LSD

This post was actually prompted by a question on how to write the word ‘ice’ – ICE? or ice?

If you need to write about ice or LSD (or other drugs) – these tips will help.

lsd

In a recent stint as Deputy News Director at  a major Australian commercial channel, I’d recommend staff acquaint themselves with drugs – well, how to correctly write the names of drugs anyway. Many news stories (crime stories, court stories, even political stories on legislation) involve drugs – and news organisations need to report about these drugs.

Correct writing of drug names is important – even in TV news – when writing appears on the screen in graphics or ‘straps’ or supers.

I am a conservative parent – so out of touch with this topic – as were many of my newsroom senior ‘production desk peers’. We’d often do stories about ‘new drugs’ being introduced to our cities. I’d have to go and research drug names and how to correctly write the names.   Did a name stand for an abbreviation of a chemical compound?

We did a story on a drug called ‘cat’ – how should we write it – CAT (if the letters stood for some chemical compound) or cat.

If you are interested in knowing: the name comes from the ‘cat’ inside the chemical name

Methcathinone

So it’s not CAT – it’s cat – or even better ‘cat’.

 

Yes, I’m a nerd for correct writing.

word nerd CU

O.K. – I’ll move into my word nerd mode now – on the difference between:

  1. abbreviations using capitals
  2. acronyms, and
  3. ‘normal words’.

LSD – is an abbreviation (for LySergic acid Diethylamide) using capital letters. you pronounce each letter separately. You write LSD in capitals. It’s also called ‘acid’ as well as many other nicknames.

LSD is not an acronym. An acronym is where the capital letters form a ‘pronounce-able word’. It usually requires well-placed vowels – for example LASER which is the abbreviated form of Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Through common usage, acronyms can become ‘normal words’ in normal lower case – rather than capitals – LASER becomes laser.

LASER is an acronym. L-S-D is an abbreviation using capitals.

ASIO is an acronym as you say it as a word. FBI and CIA are abbreviations using capitals because you say the individual letters.

Ice  and Cat – are ‘normal words’ – the drug ‘ice’ is nicknamed ‘ice’ because it looks like ice.  I’ve explained how ‘Cat’ got its name. Ice  and  Cat are not an acronyms or  abbreviations using capitals.

Ice  and Cat can be written in quotation marks to show they are a nicknames for the drugs – not real ice or a real cat  – although many news organisations dispense with the quotation marks.

If you ever need to write ice on screen – it is not ICE (capitals). The letters don’t stand for some longer chemical name as they do in LSD.

Maybe I’m just a square, studious type – but I like to understand different names/slang – whether it’s police slang or street names for different drugs. Here is a link to a resource (actually to help parents understand the street slang).

https://www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/street-names-for-drugs/

In news writing you’ll usually use the ‘proper chemical names’ (like LSD) or the common name (like ‘ice’). Still, it’s good to know different nicknames – so you know your Tina from your Molly from your Lucy from your Mary Jane.

How “The Christmas Song” can improve your #writing

efangelist

What’s your favourite Christmas lyric – or song?

I get tired of Christmas songs this time of year – yet I never tire of The Christmas Song.

You know… ” Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

Christmas sentiments have been said many times – many ways – but this song really “gets inside me” and is so real because of the power of the sensory language – appealing to many senses.

nat-christmas-song

I live in Australia where it’s summer at Christmas time – yet I fondly remember my North American December-January Winter “Christmas” experiences.

This song brings back those memories because the lyrics trigger sense memories – sight and smells and sounds and the feeling of cold.

Just look at how many sensory triggers are packed into the first verse.

The first verse leads with senses and leads with a line that is visual and warm and filled with smell (and…

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News #Writing: how to sound conversational yet correct – avoid ‘none’!

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Writing TV news is a delicate balance – you want to sound conversational but you also want to be correct. TV audiences can include a more mature people who were educated about correct grammar and spelling – and younger people who are  more used to using a ‘less uptight’ and more conversational style.

bbn-quote-let-there-be-no-more-weddings-get-thee-to-a-nunnery-william-shakespeare-322469

Sometimes it’s hard to choose between being correct and being conversational. Write correctly and you sound can old-fashioned and stuffy. Write conversationally and you upset your audience familiar with good grammar. You sound uneducated.

For example: the word NONE can pose problems.

Technically the correct way to use none is: none of the children WAS injured – because NONE means NOT ONE –  so NOT ONE of the children WAS injured.

However, it sounds wrong. NONE were injured sounds more conversational but it’s incorrect. Not one were injured.

I recommend you have none of none!

Out…

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

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.                                                                                                                                                                            I’m a big fan of the paramedic technique of bringing dead writing back to life.  The essence of the technique is: (1) turn nouns into verbs/release the verb and (2) start the sentence with the actor/s performing the action.

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

release-the-verb

 

RELEASE THE VERB:

There were celebrations becomes ARE celebrating.

Who is celebrating?

Hundreds of volunteers.

So the sentence becomes:

Hundreds of volunteers are celebrating tonight after they helped find a missing girl.

And the words THERE WERE or THERE ARE – are easy warning signs of an opportunity to release the verb and make your writing punchier and livelier and more present.

 

 

—————

You like news writing tips? I’ve got plenty of them – accumulated over years of bosses improving my broadcast scripts.

————–

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.

tb-media-mosaic

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with your audience through weather ‘problems and poetry’ – #writing tip 1/3

 

Where I live is currently in the grip of a heatwave – and so my mind turns to the weather.

 

bbn-weather76593e6b-4779-4cbf-87f1-c088cd2e8303

It’s one of those days when too hot the eye of heaven shines –  so I’ve found the coolest spot in the house, poured a cool drink (the ice clinking like rigging against a mast) and I write…

 

One of the best ways to attract and connect with your broadcast audience is through strong weather coverage that really connects with your audience. I’m not just talking numbers – I’m talking weather words and description (the poetry) and showing you relate to how the weather affects different people’s lives (the problems).

Shakespeare was so eloquent and effective in describing the weather. When I was fortunate to run writing classes for The Weather Channel in Sydney, I’d encourage writers to  add ‘problems’ and  ‘poetic devices’  to help their weather updates connect with their audience.

During a recent stint with Channel Seven News in Brisbane I’d also encourage well timed weather reports. (I’ll write about good timing in part 3)

Just think about it – how often is weather a popular topic of conversation? How many songs are written about the weather? Why are we so interested in knowing what’s happening with the weather?

 

The reason is – we are bodies and our bodies are affected by the weather – we feel heat, cold, rain….all sort of variations in temperature and different types of precipitation.

We look out our window we see weather.

 

We wonder how to dress for the day, we think about weather.

 

We plan an event, we worry about the weather.

 

The problems

I encourage weather writers and reporters who have to report on weather to be aware of how the weather affects different people’s lives – the problems it can cause.

I encourage writers to be aware of what they experience as they move around their city.

 

Look around. Talk to people in different jobs about how the weather affects their lives.

Look at the parched lawns thirsting for rain

Look at the potholes in the road made worse by extremes in weather.

Think of problems the weather causes you.

For example,this time of year I hang out clothes to dry and they DO dry but get drenched again in an afternoon storm.

It’s often the little things that connect with your audience.

 

One of the best radio weather  reports I’ve heard was so accurate in describing a particular problem for the target audience – parents of school kids. It was about a time of year when it was cool in the morning (when kids need to dress warmly) but then  as the day warmed up kids would take off their warm clothes. The kids would often leave their jackets and jumpers at school and then be cold the next morning. Parents were frustrated. I remember  listening to this report as I drove my kids to school thinking ‘this show really knows my problems’.

 

So I encourage you to go beyond the numbers of temperatures etc. and add specific problems the weather may cause – and even better add solutions (in the case of kids leaving jackets at school tips to have clothes clearly labelled and to encourage kids to put their jackets in their bags and remember to bring them home.) Simple stuff. Obvious to some but showing an understanding of the problems of your audience.

The weather is also a great topic for connecting and engaging on social media – with the audience contributing photos of weather events (storm clouds/lightning) and for audience involvement is adding to tips on how to keep cool/keep warm etc.

In closing, I encourage you to add your audience problems (and suggested solutions) to your weather numbers because so long as men can breathe or eyes can see, the weather connects us all.

—————

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.

TB headline technique

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.