for a strong, fast pick-me-up
If you are a writer or journalism student or even one of those rare creatures (a journalist still working in the media) – these tips are meant to help.
I’m a former journalist and a still a news junkie.
As I consume news – I see and hear shocking writing mistakes.
As a young journalist I made plenty of mistakes too – and I was lucky to have great bosses and colleagues who would discreetly help me be aware of my mistakes – and show me how to correct the mistakes.
I always appreciated their encouraging correction. Now I am one of those “news veterans”, I plan to share examples of common news mistakes I see.
What is a CARE-mudgeon?
From what I’m told by my colleagues who haven’t left the media – media organisations have culled the subs and “supervisors” who were the ones who caught the errors and helped their colleagues improve their writing.
I still have wonderful former colleagues who privately contact me to let me know of a mistake that slips through in my blogs or other writing.
These are experienced writers who KNOW how to write. They CARE about good writing and he CARE about discreetly helping others correct their mistakes.
I call these people: CAREmudgeons – not those cranky, grumpy know-it-alls who like to complain about “the kids of today” – but wise “elders” who CARE about good writing.
As a young reporter I would often get “advised” to curb my compulsion to PUN in serious stories.
As you can see I still like creative wordplay and puns!
Anyway, that’s the set-up for WHY I do this and how I write – not to embarrass the writers who provide the examples of incorrect writing – or the media organisations that let the mistakes slip through
I won’t disclose the sources of the writing. The aim is not to embarrass.
The aim is to help other reporters and journalism students and writers be aware of these common mistakes and improve their writing.
Here’s the tip.
A commercial television news bulletin last night contained a story about a “Good Samaritan” who tried to help teenagers being robbed on a train. When the Good Samaritan tried to intervene, he was set upon by the “thugs”.
Here’s the offending sentence:
Laying on the ground, the thugs stomped on his head.
Can you see the problems?
1. It should be lying not laying. (a common mistake)
2, The “dangler” (dangling modifier) says the THUGS were the ones “laying on the ground”.
So here’s how you can correct.
1. Learn when to use Lie or Lay (it’s confusing and this post is getting long – so I’ll explain in a future caremudgeon post
2. Be careful with danglers – and be aware that a dangler (a dangling modifier*) modifies the first noun or pronoun that follows it. One way to fix is to state who is lying on the ground.
As X was lying on the ground, the thugs stomped on his head.
The thugs knocked X to the ground – then stomped on his head.
From experience I know how busy it is reporting on the road and putting a story together under deadline pressure.
That’s why it’s important to have subs or editors check the stories for errors.
It’s not enough just to catch and correct errors – it’s important to go further and to help those who make the mistakes learn how to fix their “errors”.
If you are reading this you are probably a writer or editor or journalist or journalism student.
You probably have lots of examples to share. Please feel free to add to the comments section.
Also, please let me know if you have any questions on usage – especially acceptable usage for broadcast journalism.
(As a news junkie, I get to note so many journalism writing mistakes I see. I use the COMMON MISTAKES as examples for when I run writing sessions on Writing for TV and Radio.
I share lots of the tips my media bosses and colleagues taught me that helped me correct the many mistakes I made!)
And feel free to contact me (discreetly) to let me know if I have any errors in my copy! I still have that reporter urge to write and “publish” with a sense of urgency!
If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:
If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.
I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.
I’ve disciplined my self to check ALL my different communication platforms twice a day – as part of my Check-in Ritual.
* another real-life media dangler here: