Friday, 13 July 2007

The single simplest and most effective technique known to improve fiction writing and journalism

Remove adjectives.

I'm serious about this. Often the single most destructive thing to do to a piece of writing is to litter it with adjectives. Nouns, verbs, the occasional adverb, all necessary. But adjectives are put on this earth to make life easy for writers who have no talent or for readers who have no imagination.

Consider the following tag line, as presented to me this morning by the Courier Mail's news feeds: "The drug ice is killing innocent babies". Now, the first thing you will notice is that this sentence screams of supermarket tabloid trash sensationalist "Today Tonight" journalism. (Okay, I will admit that superfluous adjectives are sometimes fun to use).

Now consider this alternative, made with one simple deletion: "The drug ice is killing babies."

Still a bit sensationalist, but this time it's to the point and allows room for less emotive journalism to follow. The actual article states that amphetamine-using mothers are delivering pre-term, stillborn and frequently nonviable foetuses.

Now, there could be many reasons for this, including poor health related more to behaviour connected to drug usage than to the actual drug, or abuse by other individuals in the drug-using woman's life, and so the headline is still poor journalism and sensationalism. But I'd be much more likely to take this particular rag seriously if they had used headline 2.

1 comment:

phil said...

Do you really wish to put hundreds of thousands of public servants out of work? "Significant." "Strong." "Strategic." "Critical."

etc etc - you get the point...

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