Sunday, November 21

Punching Up the Lead

Add Bob Baker's Newsthinking to the growing collection of free advice on the art of the lede:
"I want stories with voice," your editor is saying. "And discipline. And detail. I want stories that evoke a sense of place." And here's the kicker: Your editor wants all those qualities in the same story.

Yes, he does. But more to the point for our humble little rag are the don'ts, epitomized by the following:

In an effort to create a debate on a significant grammatical issue that appears to bedevil many newspaper writers, I would like to undertake a discussion of overwritten dependent clauses.

Succumbing to sloth and time pressure, I let a lot of those through, the rote "Although X is verbing Y, Z is bucking-furthering trend T by verbing AA"--the crude Toulmin schema lede. Note to self: Produce style guide, add lede vigilance to New Year's resolutions along with quitting smoking.

And a little horn-tootling on my own behalf. Compare today's head in the WSJ:

Bears (Take Interest) in China's Shop

with mine from an Oct. issue:

The China Bulls

Clearly I thought of the "bull in the china shop" angle first, though the WSJ editor puts a twist on it. However, in my book, using punctuation other than 'single quotes' in a headline is bogus, especially if you need to insert a parenthetical to make a pun work. Yah!


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