Tighten and Lighten

15 Tips for Trimming Fat in News Stories

From Bob Baker’s Newsthinking.com, an excellent resource for journalists.

1. Test your quotes. If you can do a better job communicating in your own syntax, do it. We must fight against obligatory-sounding quotes.

2. Read your story aloud. If you have true courage, have someone read it aloud to you.

3. Check your sentences that precede a quote. You can often find redundancy. Kill these “echoes.”

4. Try to avoid passive voice.

5. Edit on a print-out, not the screen.

6. Read your print-out with the margin tightened to resemble the published column-width version.

7. Pretend you are a subscriber.

8. Use shorter words.

9. Try to avoid parenthetical sentences.

10. “Of” is a sentence-stretcher you can often lose.

11. Value periods over commas, which can create extraneous phrases.

12. Squeeze the “background” elements of your story.

13. Can you read your first paragraph with one breath?

14. Kill jargon.

15. Too much of the word “that” can slow down the story.


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