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Avoiding "Smith thinks...", "Jones thinks..."

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sirvaliantbrown, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. When I'm writing pieces like tournament/season/playoff previews, I find it easy to lapse into this boring-as-heck form:

    Smith thinks such and such.

    "Smith quote."

    Jones, however, says such and such.

    "Jones quote."

    Johnson, who had eight tackles in the loss, agrees.

    "Johnson quote."

    I don't know if this is an answerable question -- if the answer is "just don't effin do it", that's cool with me. But I'm wondering if there's a good way to avoid it. Is it fair to just write the pre-quote sentence without attribution? As in...

    The weekend off will help.

    "We just need some rest," Jones says. "We've been going hard for five straight days."
    Instead of:

    Jones thinks the weekend off will help.

    "We just need some rest," he says. "We've been going hard for five straight days."

    Thanks for the help.
  2. Well, yeah. But I couldn't finish the piece...when I started asking him critical questions, he shook his head in disgust, yelled "I write for goddamn ESQUIRE, asshole," and sped away in his Mercedes.

    Seemed like a really good guy until then, though.
  3. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    Unless you're an effin mindreader, skip the so-and-so thinks stuff.

    Journalism 101.
  4. It's seriously bad and boring writing. Why would you need to be a mindreader, though? Jones would tell you, "I really believe the weekend off will help. We just need some rest. We've been going hard for five days."

    And then you could write, Jones thinks the weekend off will help. "We just need some rest," he says. "..."
  5. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    Because, sirvaliant, just because somebody tells you something doesn't mean that's what he thinks. He might be blowing smoke up your ass.

    "He just need some rest,'' he said (while thinking, "We're so shitty, a year's rest wouldn't help us.")

    A sure sign of hacksmanship is to read a writer who keeps saying, "Bumfuck coach Jo Bob thinks ...''

    But hey, knock yourself out writing that way. That's just one less person who will be a threat to take up any of the good writing jobs.
  6. Appgrad05

    Appgrad05 Active Member

    Ask the obvious question. Why are they tired? Who is tired?
    They've been going hard for five straight days. Why are they going so hard then?
  7. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Sirs, Madames,

    Bringing back sad memories of Alias Smith and Jones.

    YHS, etc
  8. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Um, Sixty-nine, I think sirvaliant is thinking this way as well, and was looking for guidance, so I don't know that little rip is warranted. But whatever ...
  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    The editing guru Kenn Finkel says it is impossible to get into someone's mind (paging Gary Smith!) and tell readers what he thinks, we can honestly report only what that person says. And we all know that what a person thinks and says could be two different things. Another way to indicate a person's stance would be maintains.
  10. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Ridgeway,

    As per the other thread, Smith's stream of consciousness is one of the reasons I described his work as novelistic. I would take issue with your "honestly." I have no doubt that Smith aims for honesty, i.e. he's being honest. Accurately or certainly are other issues for sportspsychologists.com.

    YHS, etc
  11. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    Kenn Finkel's my hero. An old editor of mine gave me a bunch of handouts from a Finkel workshop at an APSE thing one year, and they were the best learning tools I ever had.

    And I'd go with transitions that avoid saying what the quote says. I hate reading:

    Jones said he thinks the team needs some rest.
    "We just need some rest," Jones said. "We've been going hard for five straight days."

    Either go without the "Jones said" transition, or simply paraphrase the whole thing. In fact, most of the time that's the way to go. If you want to avoid a lot of the stuff you had in your first post, just paraphrase a lot more so you don't fall into the quote-transition-quote-transition trap. Don't use a quote unless it's a great quote or you can't say it better and more efficiently. The above quote could just be, "Jones said his team needs rest after five hard days of practice." Maybe even leave out hard. Saves three or four words. And you'll want to save three or four words wherever you can.
  12. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    One of the most valuable pieces of writing advice ever dispensed to me: always use said for attribution. No thinks, laughs, chortles, muses, postulates, opines, or even maintains (that's a loaded word -- it sounds like you think the speaker is a liar). Anyway, if those are the quality of your quotes, eliminate the quotes and paraphrase. Save the quotes for things people are saying (or thinking, laughing, chortling, musing, postulating, opining or even maintaining) that give some window to their personalities or that you couldn't write better yourself.

    That will eliminate lame quotes and the intro graf-quote-intro graf-quote montony.
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