Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Word choice

Roy Peter Clark has an article at Poynter that I enjoyed about choosing words carefully. He says, "Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands." Good advice for memorable headlines.


At 7:24 PM, May 18, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, not "headlines as poetry" again.
He especially likes the first example, "Jubilant mob mauls four dead Americans," because of "julilant." Of course, we have no way of knowing what the mob was feeling, but I would bet that "angry" would be just as accurate. Best to leave out the adjective, despite Roy's enthusiasm for wordplay.
If there's one place you don't want to play with words, it's in a war story.

At 10:22 PM, May 18, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

Phil, is that you?

I think our job is to convey what the story describes. If the story describes a happy crowd, why should the head not say "jubilant"? One always hears of angry mobs. If this one had a different qualiy to set it off, that could belong in the head.

And it's not as if there were word play in the head. There are no bad puns to wretch at. It's simply a well-placed adjective and descriptive verb. I'd argue that "Mob mauls four dead Americans" is not better than "Jubilant mob mauls four dead Americans."

I don't advocate exaggerating to make the head sing. But headline writers should use what reporters have given them.

And although it wouldn't be appropriate on a war story per se, headlines don't always have to summarize a story. They can often tease and be even more effective. Hence, the (too-often used) hammer heads.

At 6:34 PM, May 19, 2004, Blogger Phillip Blanchard said...

(Yes, it's me. I checked the wrong button)

I would query a reporter and/or his desk hard before I would let "jubiliant" describe such a crowd in the story.


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