Why write shorter sentences

Why write shorter sentences By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Short, punchy sentences are dynamite.Clear and understandable, too.Long sentences will lull you to sleepHere’s an example of what I mean:If a person lives in a democracy, which thus far we do, you soon learn that politics is not an orderly business...

A warning to all journalists

A warning to all journalists By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Words of caution often come from unlikely places.These words come from Anne Applebaum, a former British and now American journalist.Applebaum is also  an historian who won the Pulitzer Prize 20 years ago for Gulag: A History. The gulag, as most...

Protect your precious credibility

Protect your precious credibility By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach What if your police chief came out with what sounds like a controversial statement?What if he said that illegal immigrants, criminals and rapists had invaded your community? Strong charge but is it true? Would you publish this without asking for evidence to...

Why – and why not – record interviews

Why - and why not - record interviews By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Well-known reporter Gay Talese shares my distaste for what we once called tape recorders. Today you can record interviews with your cell phone, even transcribe and edit them electronically.But do you need to?Talese called recorders a “benumbing literary...

Fuzzy reporting confuses your readers

Fuzzy reporting confuses your readers By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Be specific, my first city editor drummed into my poor rookie brain.I've not forgotten it.Someone needed to remind this reporter. In an international newspaper, he wrote: Hamas released some hostages held in the Gaza Strip and Israel freed some Palestinian prisoners...

Give readers what they’re interested in

Give readers what they’re interested in By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach NewYorker.com editor Michael Luo pays close attention to his readers’ habits. He measured the most popular New Yorker stories of 2023 by “engaged minutes” – the time readers spent reading them.He says he was surprised by what was missing. No...

Your active listening skills

Your active listening skills By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach The best acting advice I ever heard was to really listen to the actor talking to you instead of waiting to deliver your lines. Your attention will show in your eyes.Career coach Jennifer Herrity advises that active listening  helps you  focus.It...

Tune up your eyes & ears

Tune up your eyes & ears By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach I used to assign rookie reporters to interview mayors and police chiefs and others who might be newsworthy. Before they left, we discussed issues that might make a news story and their questions that needed answers.When they returned, I asked...

Write your stories in your head

Write your stories in your head By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach I’ve spent much of my life writing about people caught up in perilous and life-threatening situations. Driving to the office from an accident, fire, court house or other location, I would write a provocative, short, five- or six-word headline...

Interviewing

How to interview anybody By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Your guidelines for interviewing anybody are thankfully similar.Your subject may be the President of the United States or the woman who just won best arrangement at the local flower show.1. Do your research, even if it’s only talking with those who...

Touch your readers with sensory words

Touch your readers with sensory words By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach You may remember onomatopoeic words from the 10th grade.These words express sounds such as to squeal or whoosh.There’s a different, more subtle category of words, says writing coach Henneke Duistermaat. Visual words for sight allow you to paint vibrant (or...

Read like a writer

Read like a writer By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Sounds simple, doesn’t it. You are already a writer.But think about it. Whenever you read – and it should be daily – think like a writer.Pay attention to what the writers are doing, how they hold your attention and keep you reading....

Keep it simple in sports writing

Keep it simple in sports writing By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Writing about a sport for those who don’t understand the sport is a challenge. Most writers figure they are writing for fans as familiar with the game as they are.John McPhee, author of A Sense of Where You Are and...

Yes, we need white space

Yes, we need white space By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach In a black and white movie, you want shadow and light.In a color movie, you want vibrant colors.Without these, they would be unwatchable movies.The same is true of your own writing – and reading.You want short words, short sentences, short...

Stories within your stories

Stories within your stories By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Anecdotes are a vital part of compelling storytelling. These are small stories that may open or close your larger story.They also can appear almost anywhere in the middle.John McPhee used an anecdote in a New Yorker article about environmentalist Edward Abbey.In his book, Abbey wrote...

Writing life stories

Writing life stories By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach To their families, obituaries are final chapters in the lives of those they love.For many, obituaries mark their loved ones’ release from pain.For others, it is the winding down of long and fruitful lives.For the unfortunate, they are wrenching, unwelcome nightmares, whether...