Monday, May 14, 2007

Choose a specific word over a general or vague one

Harbrace Chapter 20: Exactness begins with the heading, "Choose words that are exact, idiomatic and fresh."

Rule 20a (3) reads:
Choose a specific and concrete word rather than a general and abstract one.

General // Specific / More Specific / Even More Specific
food // fast food // pizza // //Papa John's
prose // fiction // short stories // The O Henry Reader
place // city // Knoxville // on Bearden Hill

The two pages under Rule 20a(3) are well worth reviewing, and they will serve any writer well as he or she strives to liven up and hone a story, article or paper.

In a daily newspaper, many stories are written on such tight deadlines that reporters may not have time to fill in many specific facts. Nevertheless, if you are reporting a story, make it a habit to ask for specifics, even when they seem unimportant.

Often your editor will ask these same questions, and it's best to know the answers. An athlete was injured. What injury? Which knee, left or right? A person was driving a car-- what model? year? what color? Someone played in a band. What was the name of the band? Who else was in it? What songs/type of music did they play?

If you're writing a feature or profile, these specifics often lead to revealing or illuminating information or anecdotes.

No comments: