Journalistic techniques: how to report more, with fewer characters
There are some features that can be used in various types of texts to make the message even clearer, more objective and more explanatory. So in this post, we will present some journalistic writing techniques that are valid for all people who produce texts.
In addition, we want to help writers who, for the most part, encounter challenges such as: delimiting the space of text on some platforms (ads, Twitter, WhatsApp message, among others) and scarce time to write.
Journalistic techniques in the construction of news
The news is considered as the basic information unit of journalism. Traditionally, it is written in inverted pyramid form and begins with a lead. In the inverted pyramid technique, the news is written in descending order of importance. That is, the most important information is in the first paragraph.
The lead (or “lead”) corresponds to the first paragraph of the news, in which essential information of the reported fact must be present. In this way, the excerpt should answer the basic questions: what, when, where, how and why. The indication is that the writer goes straight to the subject, without introductions or excessive details.
So with reading the first paragraph, the reader is already basically informed about the subject. There are several reasons for this choice: many, because of lack of time or habit of reading, only read the beginning of each story.
Also, in the newspaper layout, it is common for the end of a text to be cut out for space – it is thus guaranteed that the main information will be published. In addition, it is a way of capturing the attention, informing and impacting the reader already at the beginning of the text.
Some journalistic writing techniques
The writing routine is frantic. Once the agenda has been approved and the information cleared, it is time to write the text. The space that matter will occupy on the page is usually predetermined, so you must exercise the conciseness and pass as much information as possible, using as few characters as possible. The requirement is that the text be ready at the time combined with the editor, who reviews hours before the newspaper closes.
For this reason, when the subject is textual production, journalists – masters at cutting words, which run daily against the minutes to turn news into news – can bring precious contributions.
Characteristics of the journalistic text
The journalistic text has its own peculiarities, according to the function of journalism, to promote the understanding of the present time. According to Muniz Sodré and Maria Helena Ferrari, in the book The Text in the Media: Techniques of Writing, the qualities of the journalistic text are:
- density (make each word meaningful);
- variety (significant diversification);
In addition to such characteristics, narration is done in the third person (except for rare exceptions, such as when the reporter is a witness or participant in the fact). Thus, the scope of objectivity is facilitated.
For the same reason, the writer also chooses nouns and verbs, avoiding vague or subjective adjectives and expressions. For example, instead of writing, “It’s a tall building,” the text becomes more accurate when it says, “It’s a 33-story building.”
By replacing adjectives with objective information, the text becomes more accurate and informative. In addition, the receiver is allowed to make his own assessment. Thus, the phrase “The senator receives a rich salary” is better when it is rewritten as follows: “The senator receives the gross salary of R $ 33,763.00.”
The statement should be as referential as possible, listing such items as, for example, the exact time of the hit, the license plate, the name of the perpetrator or the victim. The more concrete data, the greater the reality effect and the verisimilitude of the story.
Affordable language and clarity
Whoever writes should always be attentive to their audience. In general, newspaper readers constitute a heterogeneous audience. This makes the writer have to write accessible to different levels of understanding, without giving way to dubious interpretations.
In other words, the language of journalism is between the cultured and the colloquial. Thus, one should avoid fancy words, slang, jargon, and expressions that are rarely used in everyday language.
Another suggestion to increase the clarity of the news, much recommended by journalistic writing manuals, is to use the verb in the active voice and construct the sentence in direct order: subject + verb + complement.
For example, the headline: “In online crime reports, a 1,600% increase is registered in US” should be edited as follows: “US records a 1,600% increase in online crime reports”, as it was published in the site Canaltech.
It is also important to be careful to cut redundancies and thus gain space. For this, the combinatorial economy is very used, that is, it replaces extensive expressions with more effective words, giving the maximum with the minimum of characters. For example, replace “young people who have applied for the profession of lawyer” by “young people who have practiced law”, or even better, “the young people who have advocated”.
Another point addressed in the manuals is the understanding of measures, the numerical evaluations. The parameter should always be within the reach of the public, as, for example, in this headline of the G1 site: “Fire destroys an area equivalent to 100 MT soccer fields”. Journalism uses this kind of comparison a lot, because in hectares the reader would hardly have the extent of the damage caused by the fire.
If you would like to deepen your knowledge about the richness of the journalistic text and the techniques of writing, we recommend reading the books: The Text in the Media: Techniques of Writing, by Muniz Sodré and Maria Helena Ferrari, and Linguagem Jornalística, by Nilson Lage.
Did you notice the nuances and importance of building text that tells you more, with fewer characters? If you need help, we have a team specializing in textual production and review. Click here to know our work.