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Repetitive, repetitious problems of repetition

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by slappy4428, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Am trying to cure myself of some of the formulaic writing I do. Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks.
    Not going to mention mine in public, because I know what they are. OK, there is an inability to spell coincedence correctly. Oh, I do have a tendency to use em dashes in every other sentence for clauses that drives a copy guy nuts.
    Anyone have any to share? Writers who do the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again, no matter how many time you tell them to stop.
  2. Brad Guire

    Brad Guire Member

    I'm sure I do some of these things when I'm just phoning it in.

    I also feel like I'm doing the same stories year after year, especially around holidays or other annual events. After all, what can I write into a fireworks safety story that we didn't write in last year's story? Memorial Day? Yep, we run almost the same story we ran the year before and the year before that. Thanksgiving? Yeah, we'll go to yet another place serving a free meal to the less fortunate.

    Maybe that's why the years are just running together for me.
  3. secretariat

    secretariat Active Member

    A few years ago we had this dipshit stringer who would write things like:

    "Joey JoJo Junior Shabadoo, the league's top pitcher, starts Wednesday for Bumfuck U. against Asshole Tech's John Doe. First pitch is at 7:30 p.m."

    No matter how many times I tried to pound it into this guy's head, he always wrote it as two sentences. Drove me batshit.
  4. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Yeah, that's the kind of crisp copy I want in my clip...
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Horsey... did your stringer write about kickoff, tipoff, first splash, first nutsack grabbed... et al, too or was it just first pitch?
  6. secretariat

    secretariat Active Member

    No, he was a worthless hack across multiple sports.
  7. Made me laugh out loud this morning.

    One of our long time part-timers likes to refer to the team's as the Bumblefuck Countians and street-address-of-the-school gang.
  8. holy bull

    holy bull Active Member

    It's bad enough when writers descend into formula. It's another when the formula just sucks to begin with.

    This drives me crazy: a guy who writes a shit-ton of gamers, and always in this format:

    Graf 1: Broad declarative about how the game went, reader can probably guess how the end result went down

    Graf 2: Reaction quote from coach (before you've been told the actual game result). Invariably, "Blah, blah, blah," said Coach Whistledick, after his team beat Loser High, 42-10.

    The score of the game is assigned second-class citizenship by burying it in a qualifer to the quote attribution.

    Graf 3: Nut graf, with detail/stats about how Kickassville High beat Loser High.

    Another guy used to do the same thing, and when he noticed once that I had edited it by simply flip-flopping Graf 2 and Graf 3, I told him why, and he said, "Oh. That makes sense." Next time to the plate, he did the exact same thing again.
  9. dkphxf

    dkphxf Member

    And we wonder why newspapers are dying...

    Anyway, a potential cure for formulaic writing, or at least using dashes: Are dashes always the pause you hope to elicit in the reader's mind? What about a colon or comma? Maybe a sentence fragment. This will break up the monotony of your copy, which I'm sure your readers will appreciate.

    But in more general cases of repetition, maybe that's what you have to do, if it's the simplest way to express what you want to say. I feel I repeat the subject of sentences too often -- "Doe was drunk. He then punched someone. Doe was happy. He started a bar fight."

    How do you cure this? One, get better material to work with. Two, ask yourself what you're wanting from each sentence. I might rewrite that material "Doe, drunk after 11 shots, punched Smith. Another patron wobbled toward him, and Doe smiled. A bar fight began." The first sentence combines two sentences, the second shows Doe was happy and more specifics of the fight, and the third puts the focus where it should be -- on the bar fight -- not Doe, because that's the more exciting element. Maybe the focus of the sentence is Doe, maybe it's not. But what element do you want to highlight?

    If you feel the stories you tell are formulaic, try to find a new way to tell the story. Does it lend itself to an audio slideshow? Maybe the story isn't about how well the kicker has performed this season but about the pressure of being a kicker.

    Without knowing what you feel is formulaic, it's a little difficult to offer advice. But hopefully there was something helpful in my rambling.
  10. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I've noticed myself doing this exact thing, particularly in feature stories. When you're talking mainly about one person it's easy to fall into that trap.
    Sadly, I haven't figured out a consistent way out of it. If I try to expound on the subject it feels like I'm either rambling or coming across in a hackneyed manner. If I break it down into sentence fragments or combine sentences I still end up coming back to the alternating Joe Blow/he/his usage.
    It's frustrating. The story reads OK, it's not necessarily bad, but I know it can be better. Almost makes me feel like I'm letting myself down.
  11. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    There are times when I'm typing a story and I can see myself resorting to formula. And I'm the entire sports department and many times everyone else has left as I'm typing, I've got no one there to try and bounce a new idea off of. Sometimes, I can swap some stuff around and make it sound better. Sometimes, though, it's 10 minutes to deadline because the game went double overtime/14 innings and there's nothing I can do but plow through and get it done.

    A lot of my problem is trying to get in 100 facts in the first paragraph when it's usually OK to go ahead and break that stuff up.
  12. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    In my first year in the business -- not full-time, I was still in college -- I was working at the Wisconsin State Journal and it was time for the holiday, four-team basketball tournament in Milwaukee. At that time, Wisconsin and Marquette always played in it, and they usually won and played each other in the final.

    So I'm working the desk, and the Wisconsin beat guy had the final, but the lovable old sports editor -- who later tried to recruit me as a scab during a strike and didn't seem so lovable -- always covered the third-place game.

    And one of the desk veterans said, "When his lead comes in, it will be 'The team that lost to Wisconsin beat the team that lost to Marquette on Saturday night for third place in the Milwaukee Classic.'"

    So I said, well, it won't be that word-for-word, and he said, "Watch."

    Soon after, the Qwip machine fired up, and here came his lead: "The team that lost to Wisconsin beat the team that lost to Marquette on Saturday night for third place in the Milwaukee Classic."
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