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According to a person ...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Bristol Whipped, May 28, 2013.

  1. Somewhere along the way, I was taught to never attribute information to a person using the phrase "according to" because it created a tone that could be interpreted as doubting the source.

    For example, it's OK to say, "According to court documents," or "According to a Podunk Times article," but writing, "The players will all be ineligible for next season, according to Coach Smith" is incorrect because it sounds somewhat sarcastic and should be changed to "Coach Smith said."

    Now I'm trying to convince someone else of this and can't find anything to back me up. Has anyone ever heard this? Is it correct? Does it matter? I'm curious what the general consensus is ...
  2. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    That's ridiculous.

    Is "according to Coach Smith" any different than "Coach Smith said"? You could make the same argument for "Coach Smith said" if you were so obsessive-compulsive inclined.
  3. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Active Member

    Short answer: "coach Smith said" is all you need. It's shorter, simpler, and it has a more active-voice feel to it.

    "According to" a person is just a case of trying to be all officially official-like, utilizing for the sake of utilizing, which I may have said prior to this, and thus would be repeating myself, about keeping it simple rather than using 25-cent words. Ironically, interestingly enough.

    Irregardless of any negative connotations, I claim, "coach Smith said" is just better, amongst all the options for puffing up a piece in the aforementioned manner. This is my initial reaction towards your interrogative.
  4. Did Coach Smith say it or write it?
  5. I'm referring to instances where Coach Smith says it. I'd have no problem with "... according to an email from Coach Smith."
  6. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    In accordance with the aforementioned notation, I would like to bring to the forum one additional sentiment: There is nothing wrong with "according to," when it better fits the tone.
  7. dirtybird

    dirtybird Active Member

    Neither correct or incorrect, mostly a matter of style/taste.

    It's never wrong, though as Mr. Dangerously pointed out, can be preferable. I personally tend to shy away from it the vast majority of the time, though very occasionally, I find a reason to use it in that context.
  8. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Yeah, seems like semantics.

    As for emails and other communications, I always wondered "so what"? Had one editor that wanted us to include the phrase "in a phone interview" everytime we quoted (directly or indirectly) someone we talked to on the phone. I asked what difference it made whether it was a phone interview or face to face. Never got a real answer. I just felt that including the phrase served no real purpose and almost undermined us as if to say "we can't spend the money to be there in person, but, hey, we got Mr. Important to talk to us on the phone."

    Never have used that phrase in print again.
  9. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Although if you never use any other verbs, you wind up with "said" 50 times in a story, which gets sort of bland.
  10. Probably shouldn't use so many quotes, then. There are other ways to write a story besides paraphrase quote-quote-rinse-repeat.
  11. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    The content of your story is supposed to be interesting. If your story is boring unless you use exclaimed, pronounced, stated, believed or whatever else, then your story is boring.
  12. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    I got the same lesson early in my career, and I follow it for the same reasons.

    "According to ..." can be misconstrued by readers -- and often is, especially with readers who are certain there's some kind of bias in every story.

    Journalists are better off being direct and precise about attribution, without shade or nuance in their language, real or perceived. Don't leave your writing open for misinterpretation -- whether intentional or not.

    "According to ..." can work if you're intentionally trying to cast doubt, or show that a statement/detail is only someone's side of the story. Otherwise, it's best to keep it simple.

    (Frankly, almost every time I see the phrase "according to ..." in print, I imagine the writer was rolling his/her eyes as he/she wrote it. "According to Smith, Jones is a good athlete." That's not a good thing ... and I'm IN the business.)
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