chapter  5
Learning the language of news
Pages 15

Many young reporters from academic backgrounds where writing essays 2,000 words long may be the norm find writing news difficult. Compose a story of 300 words and every word has to count. The sense of news values has to be sharp, and that comes only with practice. ‘Kiss (keep it short and simple) and tell’ could be the journalist’s motto. Complex sentences overloaded with long subordinate clauses should be avoided. Short, precise sentences are best. As the left-wing novelist and journalist George Orwell (1984 [1957]: 151-2) advised:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?