Writing tips from my former newspaper editors

You know the people you’re trying to pitch—the reporters? This is the advice they’re getting from their editors. Pay attention.

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1. Don’t use “over” when referring to an amount. Instead of saying, “Over 10,000 people are expected to attend the event,” use, “More than 10,000 people are expected to attend. “Over” is a spatial indicator, not a numerical one. An editor pounded that into our heads. Now, I cringe when I see it in print.

2. “Both” is frequently unnecessary. You don’t need to say “Both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will attend.” The word “both” is implied when you list them. An exception would be when it is shorthand for an already identified twosome: “Shall I bring ice cream or cake?” “Bring both, please.”

3. “We didn’t hire you to write clichés.” In one story, I used the phrase “as the cliché goes …” and the editor made me rewrite it. His point was that if you have to say that something is a cliché, don’t use it.

4. This is the only time it’s acceptable to begin a story with a quote:

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