Following on from my last post where I looked at the style to write my academic paper in, today I will look into style guides for my journalistic article. I have only wrote a journalistic article once before, in my first year and I didn’t look through guides for that project. So like the academic paper, this style is new to me and I think i will get a lot of value by going through guides which will outline the conventional language and format of a journalistic article. The below article, ‘How Journalists Write’ by Peter Cole of ‘theguradian.com’ talks through the essential demands of journalism.
He states that “Journalism is basically a simple game. It is about finding things out and telling other people about them” and “Ultimately there is only one purpose: to make the reader read the story”. (Cole 2008). Cole talks about the difference between story reading, newspaper reading and how journalism is different to creative writing. His passionate account of journalism is very thorough but at the same time simple and obvious. It is a very to the point read and explains the motivations, intentions and opportunities of journalism.
I also looked at these two articles below which are guides to the basics of writing engaging news online, covering language, style, visual appeal – and how to avoid making mistakes.
The first talks more through avoiding mistakes and techniques in doing so, it preaches strongly on multiple proof reading. It states that
“When writing for the web, tell the story upfront. For it to work across all possible platforms and devices, it needs to be told in essence in the first four paragraphs, around 70 words:
- Make sure the crux of the story is in the introduction – not in paragraph four
- Check that paragraphs are clear, balanced, provide context, and are effectively self-standing
- Double-check that the headline matches the story.” (BBC n.d).
The first part is important as it considers platform accessibility and this is something that is extremely important now considering journalism is viewed across multiple devices and so it is essential it is effective in all situations. This is subtle but effective.
It also places emphasis on titles and headings, claiming that the summary is the single sentence which follows the headline and should expand on the headline and should encapsulate what the story is about. Also, these individual items of interest I think are helpful to consider,
- Subheadings (cross-heads) should be interesting/intriguing phrases that refer to something that is definitely in the copy below it – something that has not been subbed out
- Quote boxes should sit higher on the page than the actual quote appears in the text
- The promotion of stories requires strong images and text, but do not over sell
- Poor links are frustrating for the user; if they do not work or take people to the wrong place. Test them out.
The second of those links starts by identifying the inverted triangle (figure 1) as a general rule when beginning journalistic writing.
It also places emphasis on the ‘hook’ and the ‘lead’ which is the first sentence or two and the first paragraph respectively. These two features spark the readers attention and provide a clear and concise overview of the main points – the who, what, when, where, why and how. The article also says to write in shorter paragraphs as this reflects screen readability and break up the story into sections with subheadings and make use of bullet points or lists if beneficial to making a point clear. I think the following extract is also very important and useful.
Search engines don’t get humor. Unfortunately, even the most sophisticated algorithm won’t get that pun, no matter how clever you think it is. That means your headline must be direct and must say exactly what it is you’re trying to convey. Keyword is king, so your cleverly titled ”Ctrl + Z broken code,“ may show better results with the headline of “How to fix broken code.”” (http://themetaq.com/articles/how-to-write-an-article-for-the-web).
To develop on from this I also looked at the following which is written by Allan Little, a former BBC special correspondent and presenter – http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/article/art20130702112133594
He places emphasis on simplicity and says this is the key to understanding. Shorter words in shorter sentences present the reader with fewer obstacles to overcome which therefore increases comprehension rates and reading speed. Little says that the writer should start with a clear understanding of the information they are trying to convey and regardless of style, clarity and simplicity is at the heart of good communication.
This lead me to think about Fog indexing and using this to identify the score of my writing in accordance to my readers. According to both, ‘Using English.com’ and the ‘Gunning fog Index’ the index for students aged 18 years old is 12. Technical documentation typically has a an index between 10 and 15 and professional prose almost never exceeds 18. Whilst texts for a wide audience generally need a fog index lower than 12 and the requirements for universal understanding generally need an index less than 8.
I thought it would be a good idea to look at the Fog index of some existing journalistic articles which have a similar topic to my project.
Doyin Richards. ‘Critical Thinking vs. Social Media’. askmen. Index Score – 11.5 (http://uk.askmen.com/dating/single_fathers/critical-thinking-in-the-internet-age.html)
Nicholas Carr. ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid’ – The Atlantic. Index score: 13.7 (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/)
John Naughton. ‘I Google, therefore I am losing the ability to think’ – theguradian. Index Score – 9.3 (http://www.theguardian.com/media/2008/jun/22/googlethemedia.internet)
John Naughton. ‘ The Internet: is it chnaging the way we think?’ – theguradian. Index Score – 13.1 (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/aug/15/internet-brain-neuroscience-debate)
Cory Doctorow. ‘The Internet is the answer to all the questions of our time’. – theguradian. Index Score – 13.5 (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/15/internet-answer-questions-of-our-time)
Therefore based on the above information I would say I should aim my article to be around 12 – 13. By keeping it below 12 it will be more suitable for a much wider audience than that of 13. However I feel that this is a topic which is quite intellectual. Therefore it would be a bad decision to try and aim it at ‘everyone’, and I think there is certainly a required level of intelligence in order to process the ideas that are being discussed. As my project is split into three texts, this one was intended to be suitable for a more generic and wider audience in such a way that I could spread awareness of the topic. The other two items I produce are then there to approach the topic in much more analytical detail. Based on this factor I would say that it is best to produce this article to have an Fog index score of 13.
Finally, I looked at ‘The Guardian and Observer style guide’ (below) which is the guide to writing, editing and English usage followed by journalists at the Guardian, Observer and theguardian.com. The guide is sorted alphabetically and is extremely in depth as it goes through a multitude or words and phrases by each letter, explaining their proper use. Whilst this list is very useful, realistically I do not have the time to ensure my article adheres to every word or phrase it lists. However I can still look through aspects which I am unaware of and use it as much as is beneficial.
Figure 1. Image available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Inverted_pyramid_2.svg/400px-Inverted_pyramid_2.svg.png [Accessed on 10/07/15]
Figure 2. Image obtained from: http://gunning-fog-index.com/index.html [Accessed on 10/07/15]
Cole, P. (2008) How Journalists Write’. theguardian [online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/sep/25/writing.journalism [Accessed on 10/07/15]
McComb, L. (2011) ‘Meta Q how to: writing a web article’.
[online] Available at: http://themetaq.com/articles/how-to-write-an-article-for-the-web [Accessed on 10/07/15]
BBC. (n.d) ‘Writing for the Web’. BBC Academy. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/article/art20130702112133610 [Accessed on 10/07/15]
theguradian.com (2015) ‘The Guardian and Observer style guide’. [online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/info/series/guardian-and-observer-style-guide [Accessed on 10/07/15]
Gunning Fog Index. (n.d). [online] Available at: http://gunning-fog-index.com/ [Accessed on 10/07/15]
Using English. (n.d) ‘Term: Fog Index’. [online] Available at: http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/fog-index.html [Accessed on 10/07/15]