Monday, February 28, 2005

"I" give you more on personal writing

I asked Roy Peter Clark at Poynter if he could direct me to anything about writing "first-person" pieces, and he sent me to Chip Scanlan, who's a senior faculty member for writing there. He sent me to this piece and this Poynter special report on personal writing (PDF file). Some great stuff. While not exactly about how to write a sports column ripping Ricky Williams, there are still a lot of great tips and things to think about. Poynter's great; I highly recommend those who want to get better to learning their way around the site beyond Romenesko.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I never thought of this, either....

Bill Walsh's The Slot Blog has an item this week from a review from Miss Alli at a place called Television Without Pity that correctly wonders why "stepping up to the plate" has become synonymous with an act of courage:

"In actual baseball," she writes "when you 'step up to the plate,' it's because it's your turn. It's not an act of courage! That guy isn't willingly putting himself in harm's way. He's not ballsy; he's next. So can we stop using 'step up to the plate' as some kind of synonym for 'volunteer'? Because it really, really isn't.

Yeah, Roy Peter Clark again

I'm sorry, his writer's tools are just great stuff. No. 45 involves the use of foreshadowing in a news story. He gives some great examples; he also talks about what I guess you'd call "anti-foreshadowing," or "negative foreshadowing" a bad thing: introducing a seemingly random element into a narrative and then never returning. I suspect this is often done under the guise of injecting "color" into a piece, but I can see where it would leave a reader frustrated. In explaining why foreshadowing is good, he offers this about why it can be bad if misused:

"In dramatic literature, this technique is sometimes referred to as Chekov's Gun. In a letter he penned in 1889, Russian playwright Anton Chekov wrote: 'One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.'"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

APSE picks

The APSE judging is done (at least the preliminaries), and summaries of results can be found here. Congratulation to all the Top 10ers.

Wilbon at Yale

Michael Wilbon spoke at Yale on Wednesday evening, and the Yale Daily News writes about his remarks here. He says despite his TV celebrity, he's still a writer at heart.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Using "I" in a feature

Sorry I've been so slow to update here. Kind of still trying to get into the groove. Today at, one of the discussions is whether it's generally appropriate to use the first person in a feature story. Predictably, there are some who say never, some who say occasionally, etc.

I've come around on "I" columns and features in the past few years. While I think they can be poorly done, I also can think of examples where they work, and I certainly think "I" is better than some of the alternatives some try to get away with ("this writer," "this reporter" are two examples I find to be particularly ponderous).

As usual, I continue to think "rules" that confine sports writing -- a completely unique kind of writing and reporting, despite what some would tell you -- are more dangerous than helpful. And that the people most celebrated in this corner of the business are the ones who dare to break these "rules" all the time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Editors on editing

A couple of top Washington Post editors discuss the copy editing process with readers on an edition of Ask The Post. A lot of basics, but some pretty interesting takes.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A few words about ...

The crew has one of it's regular threads on writing that makes people mad, called Sportswriting pet peeves in 15 words or less. What always surprises me about these threads is the number of things cited that appear everywhere regularly. I wonder if the perpetrators ever learn anything from them. I chime in on my continuing crusade against the unnecessary use of respective and respectively.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Speaking of blogs ...

Here's a Washington Post story about the perils of talking about your workplace on your personal blog. I read it with interest, but fortunately, this space is going to stick to discussing writing and editing, mostly about sports, and will focus on professional/literary (if our biz can be called that) issues. Plus, I happen to like where I work ... and I'm not interested in talking about my place of business here anyway.

By the byline

This isn't sports-centric, but longtime baseball/sports writer Peter Schmuck does get a deserved mention in an L.A. Times story about newspaper bylines. Meanwhile, longtime friend Scott Harris gives Romenesko some more information from what he calls The Schmuck File.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

This site, inactive for a long time, seems to be in the process of resurrection: They had a fairly robust site back during the boom and now have returned to active status. Will be interesting to see what they do with this, but their plans look fairly ambitious. Good luck to them, too.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What length paragraphs?

I hate to keep leaning on Roy Peter Clark for material, but what the heck, he's in the midst of a series of 50 pieces designed to help writers get better, and I'm sure he doesn't mind the link. His latest offering is Writing Tool #42: Paragraphs, and I link it here because paragraph length -- or lack thereof -- is a favorite topic of discussion among the denizens at He discusses, specifically, those short, one-word or one-sentence paragraphs some of you hate, and gives a couple of examples of those that work.