Mama, that man talks funny
One of the things that may well have driven younger readers from newspapers is the stilted and artificial language that clutters so many news stories. Bruce DeSilva of the Associated Press parodies these conventions in a Facebook post, “If real people spoke the way the typical journalist writes,” about plans for a family vacation.
In a series of informational meetings convened to introduce the proposal, I met with varying responses. The matter sparked an optimistic reaction in Ted, 7, who offered me a vote of confidence and pledged his support. I met behind closed doors with Kristin, 9, who took the matter under advisement and promised to keep an open mind. Bruce, 17, who was recently remanded to a juvenile facility for his drug-related activities, could not be reached for comment.
Another well-known writing coach, Paula LaRocque, is the author of a similar parody of news jargon.
It is a hard habit to break, but newspaper reporters and editors have been struggling in recent years to achieve a more conversational style.
My estimable colleague Bill Walsh comments on Mr. DeSilva’s post, “Funny, yes, but imagine if journalists wrote as real people speak.”
One can: “Uh, like, these dudes, back in the day, like, you know, old guys, got together to get out from under this other dude that was hassling them. …”
Not quite Mr. Lincoln’s cadences there.
What we are looking for in that conversational language is a middle style, neither formal and excessively abstract, nor slangy and colloquial — not pompous, but not vulgar. It would be the language of an educated person speaking directly to you about a subject of common interest.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.