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#1 2010-03-15 08:43:29

Elvira Leleka

Домашнее задание референтам 2 курса

Journalese and slang

Do not be too free with slang (eg, He really hit the big time in 1994). Slang, like metaphors, should be used only occasionally if it is to have effect. Avoid expressions used only by journalists, such as giving people the thumbs up, the thumbs down or the green light. Stay clear of gravy trains and salami tactics. Do not use the likes of. And avoid words and expressions that are ugly or overused, such as the bottom line, high profile, caring (as an adjective), carers, guesstimate (use guess), schizophrenic (unless the context is medical), crisis, key, major (unless something else nearby is minor), massive (as in massive inflation), meaningful, perceptions, prestigious and significant.

Politicians are often said to be highly visible, when conspicuous would be more appropriate. Regulations are sometimes said to be designed to create transparency, which presumably means openness. Governance usually means government. Elections described as too close to call are usually just close.

Try not to be predictable, especially predictably jocular. Spare your readers any mention of mandarins when writing about the civil service, of their lordships when discussing the House of Lords, and of comrades when analysing communist parties. Must all lawns be manicured? Are drug traffickers inevitably barons?

In general, try to make your writing fresh. It will seem stale if it reads like hackneyed journalese. One weakness of journalists, who on daily newspapers may plead that they have little time to search for the apposite word, is a love of the ready-made, seventh-hand phrase. Lazy journalists are always at home in oil-rich country A, ruled by ailing President B, the long-serving strongman, who is, according to the chattering classes, a wily political operator—hence the present uneasy peace—but, after his recent watershed (or landmark or sea-change) decision to arrest his prime minister (the honeymoon is over), will soon face a bloody uprising in the breakaway south. Similarly, lazy business journalists always enjoy describing the problems of troubled company C, a victim of the revolution in the gimbal-pin industry (change is always revolutionary in such industries), which, well-placed insiders predict, will be riven by a make-or-break strike unless one of the major players makes an 11th-hour (or last-ditch) intervention in a marathon negotiating session.

Prose such as this is freighted with codewords (respected is applied to someone the writer approves of, militant someone he disapproves of, prestigious something you won't have heard of). The story can usually start with the words, First the good news, inevitably to be followed in due course by Now the bad news. A quote will then be inserted, attributed to one (never an) industry analyst, and often the words If, and it's a big if... Towards the end, after an admission that the author has no idea what is going on, there is always room for One thing is certain, before rounding off the article with As one wag put it...

Perhaps even more wearying for the reader is the trendy journalist's fondness of vogue words and expressions. Some of these are deliberately chosen (bridges too far; empires striking back; kinder, gentler; F-words; flavours of the month; Generation X; hearts and minds;$64,000 questions; southern discomfort; back to the future; thirty-somethings; windows of opportunity; where's the beef?), usually from a film or television, or perhaps a politician. Others come into use less wittingly, often from social scientists. If you find yourself using any of the following words, you should stop and ask yourself whether (a) it is the best word for the job (b) you would have used it in the same context five or ten years ago, and if not why not:

address (questions can be answered, issues discussed, problems solved, difficulties dealt with)

care for and all caring expressions (how about look after?)

community (see above, under Unnecessary Words)

environment (in a writing environment you may want to make use of your Tipp-Ex, rubber or delete button)

famously (usually redundant, nearly always irritating)

focus (all the world's a stage, not a lens)

individual (fine in some contexts, but increasingly used as a longer synonym for man, woman or person)

overseas (increasingly used, and often wrongly, to mean abroad or foreign)

participate in (take part in—more words but fewer syllables)

partner (“Take your partners for the Gay Gordons!” by all means, but dancing together does not necessarily mean sleeping together—just as a sleeping partner is not necessarily a lover)

process (a word properly applied to the Arab-Israeli peace affair, because it was meant to be evolutionary, but now often used in place of talks)

relationship (relations can nearly always do the job)

resources (especially human resources, which may be personnel, staff or just people)

skills (these are turning up all over the place—in learning skills, thinking skills, teaching skills—instead of the ability to. He has the skills probably means He can)

supportive (helpful?)

target (if you are tempted to target your efforts, try to direct them instead)

transparency (openness?)

Such words are not wrong, but if you find yourself using them only because you hear others using them, not because they are the most appropriate ones in the context, you should avoid them. Overused words and off-the-shelf expressions make for stale prose.




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