Re: Reporter style writing versus technical writing

Subject: Re: Reporter style writing versus technical writing
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2012 06:56:41 -0400

On Mon, 24 Sep 2012 06:09:27 -0400, Debbie Hemstreet <D_Hemstreet -at- rambam -dot- health -dot- gov -dot- il> wrote:

I am looking at a style of writing in a "press release" that is written with "have been" "had done" and it is driving me mad. For example:

"The families have recently spent time with"

Instead of "The families recently spent time with..."

Is there a right or wrong here?

I personally think it makes everything verbose and heavy, also, throughout, children are referred to as "kids"... I hate calling children kids like they are a bunch of goats to be herded...

What do you think?

Press releases are often written by amateurs who are attempting to mimic the style of newswriting. The press release's purpose is publicity for a product, person or idea. The attempt is get the publicity for free, by making a story that is interesting enough that a newspaper publisher will insert it, verbatim, into an otherwise blank spot in the newspaper.

Otherwise blank spot? Yes. Sometimes a tremendously important story or a big advertisement comes in just after deadline. Because of the way newspapers are printed, adding an extra page requires the sudden preparation of one, three or seven additional pages! SOMETHING goes there, NOW. If the creator of the press release is lucky, that release is one of the fillers chosen for the empty space, regardless of its poor quality.

Why the style? Newswriting itself is sudden. It is a learned technique for turning a jumble of facts into a coherent and interesting story in about ten minutes. As the late Dick Pothier said when teaching Journalism 101 at Northeastern University about 35 years ago, "Your homework is most of your grade for this course. There's no excuse for not doing it. If your homework takes more than ten minutes you're doing it wrong."

Press releases, especially those from politicians, are bad newswriting.

Now about those kids...

Anyone who has dealt with small children AND with baby goats can see the resemblance. Both kinds of kids have boundless, bouncing energy, go everywhere, and get into trouble with hardly any effort. They (both kinds) are unhappy when separated from mommy, making noises that are remarkably similar. The spectrum from easy-to-herd up to difficult-to-herd includes sheep, horses, children, goats, cats, and software developers in roughly that order.

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Reporter style writing versus technical writing: From: Debbie Hemstreet

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