Skills for journalists in print and digital media

Writing stuff: Say what is, versus is not

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“Writing stuff” is a collection of small but enduring points on how to improve writing. Pick one. Give it a try. Pick another. Carry on.

For some reason many reporters tend to first write what something is not, instead of what it is.

She was not happy.

OK. What was she? Think of the possibilities. Think of the best word. Then convert the “negative” to the “positive.”

She was furious. She was elated. She was stunned.

Using the positive construction is more direct and takes fewer words. The positive construction is also a golden opportunity to reach for a great word, something surprising, evocative.

Take the next piece of copy you write or edit and read it once just to look for negative constructions that can be converted to positive. You will be surprised at how often we quickly settle for the negative expression and miss chance to really write.


Written by mroberts8

03/08/2010 at 10:49 pm

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