Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Trends (Part III)

Recently I’ve noticed that some reporters are ditching more formal writing styles for “guy/gal on the street” vernacular. I call it:

The “Let’s Chat Over a Beer” Trend

From a crime report on a local news website:

“Another officer went to make contact with the guy.”

“Guy” should only be used if it’s part of a quote from someone the reporter has interviewed. Otherwise, just say “man” or “suspect,” or whatever term applies.

From a weather-related story by a national news outlet and republished on a local news website:

Rigs jackknifed and passenger cars slid into rigs, causing chain-reaction crashes and an enormous backup…”

Not only is this usage of “rigs” repetitive, it’s slang. The AP Stylebook, which is the guiding standard for most journalistic publications, recommends that writers avoid slang, which it calls “highly informal language…outside of conventional or standard language.”

Just like the first example, unless it’s part of a quote, other common terms should be used, e.g. “semis” or “tractor-trailers.”

Keep in mind that these are examples from actual news stories, not the comments sections!

I can only speculate that this informality trend is an attempt to appeal to a younger demographic that a) is not as attached to formal news reporting as some of us who have been around awhile; b) is bombarded by information from all directions, and thus suffers from a short attention span.

The problem is that people of all ages and backgrounds read this stuff.

While informality may be acceptable for publications that have intentionally adopted such a style, I personally don’t like seeing it in journalism. Yes, styles change over the years – just Google old issues of any newspaper or magazine and see how they differ from modern writing. I believe, however, that a writer can be readable and relevant without stooping to excessive informality.

Click here to see Trends (Part I)
Click here to see Trends (Part II)

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