Herald Journal Columns
Aug. 18, 2003 Herald Journal
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Suggestions for how to submit newspaper items


I thought it might be interesting this week to give a few tips to people who regularly submit items to the newspaper, with appreciation that they do this in the first place.

A few simple tips would likely benefit both the paper and the writer, since many people are not familiar with newspaper style.

In the newspaper world, the first sentence is referred to as the "lead" sentence. It's supposed to reflect the following questions: who, what, when, where, why and how the subject relates to readers.

An example of this is the following: The theater troupe Magic Marvels will perform Thursday at the high school auditorium.

Newspaper staff members are supposed to ask "Why would readers care about this? How does it pertain to them?"

I know news editors who regularly ask "Who cares?" "Why should people read this?" after each item.

My suggestion to help this would be to have writers pretend that they are explaining the subject to a friend they just bumped into on the street who isn't familiar with the subject. I do this myself.

This will keep you from writing something that leaves out most readers or puts the interesting stuff at the end of the article, which few people will pay attention long enough to read.

More suggestions:

· don't use acronyms unless they are widely accepted and known instantly by readers (like the DNR).

In this busy day and age, people don't bother to stop and figure something out if they can't catch it right the first time.

· keep your writing simple. Avoid $10 words that aren't easy to understand. Remember the newspaper is supposed to be geared toward an eighth grade reading level.

· Hang it on a timely event, if you can.

· Keep it local. Iif it's not local or does not have local people in it, it probably won't get in the newspaper.

Here are more bits of advice from the famous and respected late writer Mark Twain:

"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences.

That is the way to write English ­ it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.

When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them ­ then the rest will be valuable.

They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.

An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice."

- Mark Twain's letter to D. W. Bowser, March 20, 1880.

"You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it.

God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention.

These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by."

- Letter by Mark Twain to Orion Clemens, March 23, 1878.

Adam's underwear

A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages.

Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it.

What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages.

"Mama, look what I found," the boy called out."

"What have you got there, dear?" With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered, "I think it's Adam's underwear!"

Good stewardship

Good stewardship of the earth is a no-brainer, and so I thought I'd pass along the following information.

Free recycling for cell phones and printer cartridges.

Minnesota Waste Wise is a private, non-profit, member-supported environmental program that helps Minnesota businesses reduce waste and save money.

Minnesota Waste Wise believes that reducing waste is smart business for a better environment, so it has developed a new program for your organization. Begin your recycling program today by recycling used cell phone and printer cartridges (laser and inkjet).

· Why recycle printer cartridges?

Every year more than 300 million cartridges are thrown away. In terms of weight, this is equivalent to more than 30,500 African Elephants.

Stacked end to end, cartridges thrown away in one year would cover a distance of 24,000 miles ­ enough to circle the earth.

· Why recycle cell phones?

A cell phone company in St. Cloud prevents 600 pounds of waste a year by recycling through this free program. About 130 million cell phones, weighing about 5,000 tons, will be discarded annually in the US by 2005.

· How to order? Free pre-paid shipping boxes will be delivered to your door. There are two options to start this free recycling program at your organization:

1. Register online at www.mn wastewise.org.

Click on the "recycle cell phones and printer cartridges here" icon.

2. Contact Minnesota Waste Wise toll free at 800/821-2230.

Once registered, Minnesota Waste Wise will mail your free boxes.

· Fill them up and ship them free.

All you need to do is tape shut the box and send it with your regular UPS service.

Any organization, any size, can participate. You can help to reduce waste in your community by collecting internally as well as from the community and local businesses.

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