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=170. Accuracy and Interest
For words, as for sentences and stories,
the same law holds,--accuracy and interest. If one's words are accurate
and stimulate interest in the reader, they are good.

=171. Accuracy
Accuracy comes first. It is necessary always to write
with a nice regard for exact shades of meaning. As Flaubert declared,
"Whatever one wishes to say, there is only one noun to express it, only
one verb to give it life, only one adjective to qualify it. Search then
till that noun, that verb, that adjective is discovered. Never be
content with very nearly; never have recourse to tricks, however happy,
or to buffoonery of language to avoid a difficulty. This is the way to
become original." An accurate writer avoids looseness of thinking and
inexactness of expression as he avoids libel. The adjective lurid is
an illustration of a word over which careless reporters have stumbled
for generations. When the casualties of the war against inaccuracy are
recorded, lurid will be among the missing. As used by ignorant
scribblers, the word means something like bright or brilliant, or
perhaps towering; yet its precise meaning is pale yellow, wan, ghastly.
Journalists of the last quarter of the nineteenth century will remember
a long list of such sins against precision, recorded by Charles A. Dana,
editor of the New York Sun. A few additions have been made to his
list, and the whole is given below. The reader should distinguish keenly
between each pair of words and should be careful never to misuse one of
them. Do not use:

above or over for more than
administered for dealt
affect for effect
aggravate for irritate
allude for refer
and for to
audience for spectators
avocation for vocation
awfully for very or exceedingly
balance for remainder
banquet for dinner
beside for besides
call attention for direct attention
can for may
claim for assert
conscious for aware
couple for two
date back to for date from
deceased for died
dock for pier or wharf
dove for dived
emigrate for immigrate
endorse for approve
exposition for exhibition
farther for further
favor for resemble
groom for bridegroom
happen for occur
hung for hanged
infinite for great, vast
in our midst for among us
in spite of for despite
last for latest
less for fewer
like for as if
materially for largely
notice for observe
murderous for dangerous
onto for on or upon
partially for partly
pants for trousers
past two years for last two years
perform for play
posted for informed
practically for virtually
prior to for before
propose for purpose
proven for proved
raise for rear
quite for very
section for region
spend for pass
standpoint for point of view
suicide as a verb
suspicion for suspect
sustain for receive
transpire for occur
universal for general
vest for waistcoat
vicinity for neighborhood
viewpoint for point of view
witness for see
would seem for seems

=172. Clearness
To secure interest, a word must be clear and
forceful. It should not be technical or big, but simple. The biggest
words in the average newspapers are the handiwork and pride of the cub
reporters. Yet clearness, force, brevity all demand little
words,--simplicity. And the simplest words are those of everyday
speech,--Anglo-Saxon words generally,--such as home rather than
residence, begin rather than commence, coffin rather than
casket. The reporter who uses ornate, technical, or little-known words
does so at his own peril and to the injury of his story; for the average
newspaper reader, without the benefits of a college education and having
a limited vocabulary of one to two thousand words, does not know and has
no time to look up the meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases. This is
why many city editors prefer to employ high-school students and break
them in as cubs rather than take college graduates who, proud of their
education and vocabularies, attempt to display their learning in every
story they write. Simple, familiar, everyday words, those that every
reader knows, are always the most forceful and clear, and hence the most
fitting. The following is a list of words which young writers are most
commonly tempted to use:

accord for give
aggregate for total
appertains for pertains
apprehend for arrest
calculate for think, expect
canine for dog
casket for coffin
commence for begin
conflagration for fire
construction for building
contribute for give
cortege for procession
destroyed by fire for burned
donate for give
elicit for draw
hymeneal altar for chancel
inaugurate for begin
individual for person
obsequies for funeral
participate for take part
per diem for a day
perform for play
purchase for buy
recuperate for recover
remains for body, corpse
render for sing
reside for live
retire for go to bed
rodent for rat
subsequently for later
tonsorial artist for barber
via for by way of

=173. Force
Force demands that one's words be emphatic. Unfortunately
a reporter cannot have readers always eager to read what he writes. If
he had, his readers would be satisfied with having his words merely
accurate and clear. Instead, they demand that their attention be
attracted, compelled. The words must be fitting, apt, fresh,
unhackneyed, specific rather than general. The spectators gathered in
the field must not be a vast concourse, but ten thousand persons.
Nor must it be about ten thousand. The about should be omitted. A
specific ten thousand persons present is much more effective and,
being a round number, is a sufficient indication that no actual count
has been made. In all cases where there is a choice between a specific
and a general term, the specific one should be used.

=174. Trite Phrases
Interest requires one also to seek originality of
expression, to avoid trite phrases and hackneyed words. Embalmed meats
and kyanized sentences are never good. Yet one of the most difficult
acquirements in reporting is the ability to find day after day a new way
to tell of some obscure person dying of pneumonia or heart disease. Only
reporters who have fought and overcome the arctic drowsiness of trite
phraseology know the difficulty of fighting on day after day, seeking a
new, a different way to tell the same old story of suicide or marriage
or theft or drowning. Yet one is no longer permitted to say that the
bridegroom wore the conventional black, or the bride was elegantly
gowned, or the bride's mother presided at the punch bowl, or the
assembled guests tripped the light fantastic. The reporter must find new
words for everything and must tell all with the same zest and the same
sparkling freshness of expression with which he wrote on his first day
in the news office.

=175. Figures of Speech
In his search for freshness, variety of
expression, the reporter often may avail himself of figures of speech.
These add suggestiveness to writing and increase its meaning by
interpretation in a figurative rather than a literal sense. To say,
"Oldfield flew round the bowl like a ruined soul on the rim of Hades,"
is more effective than "Oldfield ran his car round the course at a
110-mile rate of speed." But the writer must be careful not to mix his
figures, or he may easily make himself ridiculous. An apt illustration
of such mixing of figures is the following:

It seemed as if the governor were hurling his glove
into the teeth of the advancing wave that was
sounding the clarion call of equal suffrage.

In particular, one must not personify names of ships, cities, states,
and countries. Note, for example, the incongruity in the following:

Especially does the man of discriminating taste
appreciate her when he compares her with the
ordinary tubs sailing the Great Lakes.

=176. Elegance
Force also requires that one heed what may sometimes
seem trivialities of good usage. For instance, a minister may not be
referred to as Rev. Anderson, but as the Rev. Mr. Anderson. Coinage
of titles, too, is not permitted: as Railway Inspector Brown for John
Brown, a railway inspector. And the overused "editorial we" has now
passed entirely from the news article. In an unsigned story, even the
pronoun I should not be used, nor such circumlocutions as the
writer, the reporter, or the correspondent. In a signed story,
however, the pronoun I is used somewhat freely, while such stilted
phrases as the scribe, your humble servant, etc., are absolutely

=177. Slang
Finally, mention must be made of slang, the uncouth
relative in every respectable household. It is used freely on the
sporting page, but is barred from other columns, its debarment being due
to its lack of elegance and clearness. On the sporting page slang has
been accepted because there one is writing to a narrow circle of
masculine Goths who understand the patois of the gridiron, the diamond,
and the padded ropes and prefer it to the language of civilization. But
such diction is always limited in its range of acquaintances and
followers. A current bit of slang in Memphis may be unintelligible in
Pittsburg. A colloquial ephemeralism in a city may be undecipherable in
the country districts twenty-five miles away. A large percentage of the
athletic jargon of the sporting club and field is enigmatical to the
uninitiated. And since a newspaper man writes for the world at large
rather than for any specific class or group, he cannot afford to take
chances on muddying his sentences by the use of slang. The best test of
a good journalist is the instinct for writing for heterogeneous masses
of people. That word is not a good one which is clear only to select
readers, whether select in ignorance or select in intelligence. The news
story permits no such selection. It is written, not for the few, not for
the many as distinct from the few, but for all. No other kind of reading
matter is so cosmopolitan in its freedom from class or provincial
limitations as is the news story, and none is more unwavering in its
elimination of slang. Newly coined words, it is true, are admitted more
readily into news stories than into magazine articles, but slang itself
is barred. One may not write of the "glad rags" of the debutante, or the
"bagging" of the criminal, or the "swiping" of the messenger boy's
"bike." One may not even employ such colloquialisms as "enthuse,"
"swell" (delightful), "bunch" (group). But one may use such new coinages
as burglarize, home-run, and diner rather freely. When in doubt
about the reputability of a word, however, one should consult a standard
dictionary, which should be kept continually on one's desk.

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