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Eliminate ‘to be’ (and other tips) to make your SFU News stories sing
Want to improve your writing?
Earlier this year, editor Diane Luckow led a communicators’ storytelling workshop and walked participants through basic newswriting – ledes, headline and the inverted pyramid. She gave pointers on headlines, and on how to hook people with a lede and keep them reading.
A PDF of her workshop is here.
SFU News writing workshop
Her basic advice: Keep stories short and use strong, descriptive verbs. And one tip critical tip – avoid the verb ‘to be’ (is, am, are, was, were). It weakens your writing.
Smith’s report is a most valuable contribution to our understanding of the issue.
Replace the ‘is a’ with a strong verb:
Smith’s report contributes significantly to our understanding of the issue.
One of Luckow’s pet peeves is the zombie noun – a verb transformed into a boring noun using suffixes such as -ion, ity, -ment, -ism, -ary, -is (discussion, clarity, development, commentary, analysis) and usually paired with ‘of’ and ‘to be’. Eliminating zombies will significantly improve your writing style.
The poem is an explosion of energy.
The poem explodes with energy.
As for resources, Luckow recommends bookmarking the SFU Editorial Style Guide (Dr. is not a title at SFU unless the person is a physician, dentist or veterinarian).
Have a great idea for an SFU News story? Please submit your idea through our story submission form and help us tell the university’s stories.