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Title: The Writing of News - A Handbook with Chapters on Newspaper Correspondence and Copy Reading
Author: Ross, Charles G.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    COPYRIGHT, 1911,


    _Published November, 1911_




In preparing this volume the author has had in mind the needs not only
of students in schools of journalism, but of others who may desire a
concise statement of the principles that govern the art of news writing
as practiced by the American newspaper. It is hoped the book will prove
helpful either as a laboratory guide in the school room or as a text
book for home use.

As the title indicates, the book deals with one phase of journalism,
the presentation of the news story, more especially with the writing
of the story--the reporter’s part in the day’s work. No attempt has
been made to go into other aspects of journalism--the writing of
editorials, the administrative features of the work, the delicate
adjustment that every newspaper must make between its business and news
departments--except in so far as they bear directly upon the subject in

The term journalism is broadly used here to mean all branches of
newspaper endeavor. In common with other newspaper men, the author
admits an aversion to the word as restricted to the working field
of the men who get and write the news. They call themselves not
journalists, but reporters or newspaper men. It is for newspaper men
and women in the making that the book is primarily designed.

The nature of newspaper work makes it impossible to formulate an
all-sufficing series of rules by which the news writer shall invariably
be guided. But there are certain well-defined principles, largely
technical, that set apart the news story as a distinct form of
composition, and these the author has tried to put down simply and
concisely--after the fashion of the news story itself. Going beyond
the common practice, there is wide divergence among newspapers in the
details of “office style.” Methods peculiar to the individual paper can
readily be acquired by one grounded in the essentials of the craft;
hence only the more significant points of departure from the generally
accepted practice have been noted.

Practically all the examples in the book are from published news
stories, reproduced in most cases exactly as they appeared in print.
In some, for obvious reasons, fictitious names and addresses have been
substituted for the real. With one or two exceptions the examples
illustrating right methods of news presentation have been chosen not
for special brilliancy, but as fairly showing the everyday output of
the trained news writer.

    University of Missouri,
    July, 1911.


    CHAPTER                                                    PAGE

            Terminology--Directions for Preparing
            Copy                                                  1

            Clearness--Conciseness--Force                         7

            Fairness--Impersonality--Good Taste--Originality     17

            In Observation--In Names--In Street
            Addresses--In Spelling                               30

            The Reporter--What Is News?--The
            Newspaper’s Problem--Kinds of Stories                41

            What the Lead Is--What the Lead Should
            Contain--Observance of Style--Leads to
            Be Avoided--Sentence Structure--Leads
            That Begin With Names--The General
            Rule--Study of 100 Typical Stories                   57

            Compression and Expansion--The Mechanics
            of the Story                                         79

            What the Feature Story Is Not--Stories
            for Entertainment--The Human-Interest
            Story--The Editor’s Problem--Sunday
            Magazine Stories                                     98

            When the Interview Is Incidental--When
            the Interview Is the Story                          113

            Stories of Fires--Deaths--Weddings--Crimes--
            Business--Second-Day Stories--Rewriting             129

            Writing for the Wire--Some Pitfalls to
            Be Avoided--What Not to Send--What
            to Send--Sporting News--How to Send--Handling
            the Big Story--Sending by
            Mail--General Instructions--Payment                 150

            Qualifications for the Work--Organization
            of Copy Readers--Editing the Story--Rules
            About Libel--The Guide Line--Marks
            Used in Editing--Additions and
            Insertions--The Lighter Side--The Copy
            Reader’s Schedule                                   171

            First Requisites of the Head--Definiteness--The
            Question of Tense--The Mechanics
            of the Head--Some Things to Avoid--Symmetry
            and Sense--Special Kinds of
            Heads--Capitalization                               193

     XIV. DON’TS FOR THE NEWS WRITER                            211

      XV. NEWSPAPER BROMIDES                                    224

          INDEX                                                 231


    ... But however great a gift, if news instinct as born were
    turned loose in any newspaper office in New York without the
    control of sound judgment bred by considerable experience
    and training, the results would be much more pleasing to the
    lawyers than to the editor. One of the chief difficulties in
    journalism now is to keep the news from running rampant over
    the restraints of accuracy and conscience. And if a “nose for
    news” is born in the cradle, does not the instinct, like other
    great qualities, need development by teaching, by training, by
    practical object-lessons illustrating the good and the bad, the
    right and the wrong, the popular and the unpopular, the things
    that succeed and the things that fail, and above all the things
    that deserve to succeed, and the things that do not--not the
    things only that make circulation for to-day, but the things
    that make character and influence and public confidence?--From
    an article by JOSEPH PULITZER in the _North American Review_.




    This is the age of the reporter--the age of news, not views.
    We are influencing our public through the presentation of
    facts; and the gathering, the assembling and the presentation
    of these facts is the work of the reporter. There are two
    ideals of news. The first is to give the news colorless, the
    absolute truth. The second is to take the best attitude for
    the perpetuation of our democracy. The first would be all
    right if there were such a thing as absolute truth. When
    jesting Pilate asked, “What is truth?” he expressed the eternal
    question of modern journals. The best we can do is to follow
    the second ideal, which is to point out the truth as seen from
    the broadest, the most human and the most interesting point
    of view.--From an address by WILL IRWIN at the University of


All manuscript for the press is _copy_. _Clean copy_ is manuscript
that requires little or no editing. The various steps in the gathering
and writing of news that precede printing are indicated briefly in the
following explanation of newspaper terms:

=Story.=--Any article prepared for a newspaper. A three-line item
and a three-column account of a convention are both, in the newspaper
sense, _stories_. The term is applied also to the happening with which
the story deals. Thus a reporter sent to get the facts about a fire is
said to be _covering_ a fire story. A happening of unusual importance
makes a _big_ news story. Reporters are _assigned_ or _detailed_ by
the city editor to cover certain stories, and the task given each is
his _assignment_. A reporter assigned to visit certain definite places
which are covered regularly in the search for news (as police stations,
hospitals, courts, fire headquarters, city hall, etc.) is said to have
a _run_ or a _beat_. A reporter _scoops_ competing news gatherers when
he gets an exclusive story. The story is called a _scoop_ or a _beat_.

=Stickful.=--A term frequently used in defining the length of a
story. A _stickful_ is about two inches of type--the amount held by a
composing _stick_, a metal frame used by the printer in setting type by

=Lead.=--Loosely used to indicate the introduction, usually the first
paragraph, of the story. In the ordinary sense the news story has no
such thing as an introduction. The _lead_ goes straight to the point
without preliminaries. Do not confuse this word, pronounced “leed,”
with the word of the same spelling pronounced “led.” The latter word
_lead_, as a verb, is an order to the printer to put thin strips of
metal (_leads_) between the lines of the story in type, thus giving
additional white space and making the story stand out more prominently
on the printed page. Editorials are usually _leaded_.

=Copy Reader.=--A sub-editor who puts the copy into shape for the
printer and writes the headlines. Sometimes called _copy editor_. Do
not confuse _copy reading_ with _proofreading_ (the correction of proof
sheets), which is done in another department.

=Slug.=--A solid line of machine-set type. As used by the copy
reader, the term usually means the identifying name given a story, as
“wedding,” “fire,” “wreck.” A story is _slugged_ when it is so named
for convenience in keeping tab on it.

=Head.=--Abbreviation for _headlines_. A copy reader is said to _build
a head_ on a certain feature of the story.

=Feature.=--Noun: The most interesting part of a story is the
_feature_. Verb: A story is _featured_ or _played up_ when it is
prominently displayed. Adjective: A _feature story_ usually depends for
its interest on some other element than that of immediate news value.

=Make up.=--Verb: To arrange the type in forms for printing. Noun
(_make-up_): The process of arranging the type or the result as
seen in the printed page. A newspaper is said to have an effective
_make-up_ when the disposition of the stories on a page and the general
typographical appearance of the whole contribute toward making the
desired impression on the reader. The _make-up editor_ supervises the
work of making up. A page may be _made over_ to insert late news.


Most newspapers insist on typewritten copy; all prefer it. It can
be prepared more quickly than long-hand copy after one has mastered
the use of the machine; it makes for accuracy; it is easier to edit,
and, because of its uniform legibility, it saves time and expense in

Adjust your typewriter to leave two or three spaces between lines, so
that legible interlining in long-hand will be possible. Closely written
copy is the abomination of the copy reader, compelling him to cut and
paste in order to make corrections.

Never write on both sides of the paper. Never fasten sheets of copy

Write your name in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Number
each page.

Begin the story about the middle of the first page, the space at the
top being left for writing in the headlines.

Don’t crowd the page with writing. Leave a margin of an inch to an
inch and a half at each side. Leave an inch at top and bottom for
convenience in pasting sheets together.

Avoid dividing words. Never divide a word from one page to another.

In writing a story in short “takes,” or installments, make each page
end with a sentence.

Indent for a paragraph about a third the width of the page.

In making corrections it is usually safer to cross out and rewrite. Be
particularly careful about names and figures.

Letter inserted pages. For example, between pages 3 and 4, the inserted
pages should be designated 3a, 3b, etc.

Use an end-mark to show the story has been completed. The figures 30 in
a circle may be used.

Use every effort to make long-hand copy easily legible. Overscore
n and o and underscore u and a when there is any possibility of
confusion. Print proper names and unusual words. Draw a small circle
around periods or use a small cross instead.

Draw a circle around an abbreviation to show it is to be spelled out.
To make sure a letter will be set as a capital draw three lines under

If there is a chance that a word intentionally misspelled, as in
dialect, will be changed by the printer or the proofreader, draw a
circle around the word, run a line to the margin and there write
“Follow copy.”

Unless you are pressed for time, read over your story carefully before
turning it in.

Accuracy is the first essential of news writing. Above all, _watch



    Of the three generally recognized qualities of good
    style--clarity, force and grace--it is the last and the
    last alone in which critics of newspaper English find their
    material. It would be ludicrously superfluous to illustrate
    here the prevailing clearness of what one reads in the daily
    press. To it everything else is sacrificed. He who runs through
    the pages of his paper at a speed that keeps even pace with
    that of his car or train, and yet understands what he reads,
    without difficulty and without delay, would give short hearing
    to a complaint on this score. The same assertion may safely
    be made of the second of the trio of good qualities. Whenever
    and wherever force is needed, the reporter, no matter what his
    limitations of time and distracting circumstances, manages to
    put it into his writing.

    The result is plain--and inevitable. Beauty, grace, suggestion
    of that final touch which confers upon its object the
    immortality of perfect art, are nearly always conspicuously
    absent. We know at a glance what has happened and we get
    the force of whatever significance the writer has wished
    to impress, but it is all hurled at our heads in the same
    wholesale fashion, with the same neglect of “form,” that the
    genuine American is accustomed to in his quick-lunch resort,
    and, in his heart, really likes.... Without intending to
    be dogmatic about it, we are inclined to say that, if a
    newspaper’s English makes a fair approach to the level of an
    educated, intelligent man’s serious conversation, it will
    be doing about all that can justly be expected. Whatever
    it accomplishes more than this is to its credit.--From an
    editorial in the New York _Evening Post_.

“Newspaper English” has often been used as a term of reproach, as if
the newspapers, by concerted action, had been guilty of creating an
inferior, trademarked brand of English for their own purposes. The term
has been hurled indiscriminately at all newspapers, the good as well as
the bad, and young writers have been warned in a vague, general way to
beware of the reporter’s style. As applied to loosely edited newspapers
the criticism is just. It is not true, however, that “newspaper
English” constitutes a special variety of language, to be shunned by
all who would attain purity in writing. There are good books and bad
books, just as there are good newspapers and bad newspapers, and it
would be as reasonable to condemn all books because they are written in
a “bookish” style as it is to include all news writing in a sweeping

No defense is needed of the style of writing in the well-edited modern
newspaper. Free from pedantry and obsolete expressions, the English of
the best newspapers fulfills its purpose of telling the news of the day
in language that all can understand. Newspaper English has not been
created by the newspapers alone. It is the language of the people,
clarified and simplified in the writing, as opposed to the language
of an earlier day which obscured the writer’s thought in a maze of
high-sounding words. Newspaper English, at its best, is nothing more
nor less than good English employed in the setting forth of news. At
its worst it embodies the common faults of writing.

The reporter writes his story for readers of all degrees of
intelligence--for the man whose only reading is newspapers and for the
man of cultivated taste. Simplicity is the keynote. This does not mean
crudity or slovenliness, for while the good news story is written with
the limitations of the least intelligent reader in mind, it should not
offend the educated reader. In this respect the Bible, the simplest of
all books, is an excellent model for the news writer.

In keeping with its essential simplicity of style, the good news story
is clear, concise and forceful.


Simplicity of structure and diction implies clearness. The story
that would appeal to the masses defeats its purpose if not readily
intelligible. The average newspaper reader has neither time nor
inclination to puzzle over an involved sentence or to consult a
glossary for the definition of a technical phrase.

Scientific terms, if not in general use, should be translated into
everyday English. This is true also of legal phraseology and other
words and expressions of purely technical meaning. Let your story
explain itself. If Mrs. Jones got a divorce, say so; don’t confuse the
reader with the verbiage of the courts. Get as close to the speech
of the people as good taste and correctness will allow. Vulgar and
silly slang is not tolerated by the good newspaper, but an expressive
colloquialism may be used to avoid pedantry.

In striving for simplicity and clarity beware of dullness. “Fine
writing”--the kind that speaks of a barber shop as a “tonsorial
parlor”--has no place in the modern newspaper office, but there is
a demand for the writer who can infuse freshness and vigor into his
story. The style of your story should be simple, its meaning clear and
its diction pure. Try also to give it that element of originality and
charm that distinguishes the best writing from merely good writing.
Newspaper English, as used by skillful writers, displays often, in its
well-turned phrases, its quick description and its “featuring” of the
leading facts, the touch of the true artist. For all this the story is
none the less, in the manner of its telling, simple and clear.


“Boil it down” is an injunction frequently heard in the newspaper
office. The requirements both of the public and of the newspaper demand
that the story be concisely told. The hurried reader has no time for
the story clogged with unnecessary words and trivial detail; the
newspaper has no space for it.

Daily there comes to the newspaper a stream of copy from various
sources. The local room contributes its share, while the telegraph
editor receives scores of dispatches from special correspondents,
besides the regular service of one of the great news gathering
organizations. It would be neither possible nor desirable to print all
of the immense amount of news matter received. The paper as the reader
sees it is the result of a process of careful selection. Many stories
have been omitted, some of them having been “killed” after progressing
as far as the type forms, and others have been “boiled down” to a few

The news writer, then, should study to be terse. Verbosity merely makes
work for the copy reader’s pencil. Try to say in one word what the
writer who strains after effect might put into half a dozen. Don’t say
“devouring element” when you mean “fire.” “Fire” is a good Anglo-Saxon
word that everybody understands and uses--and it is twelve letters
shorter. “A house is building” is simpler, shorter and more effective
than “A house is in process of construction.” “The society met last
night and elected officers for the year” is the simple, natural
equivalent of “At a meeting held last night the society perfected its
organization for the year by the election of officers.”

Wordiness, like bad spelling, is a sign of mental laziness, and the
newspaper office has no room for the lazy.


Force grows out of simplicity, clearness, terseness of style. The story
told in plain, curt phrase is more effective than the story which shows
a conscious striving after effect. Diction is important. A strong word
lends strength to an entire sentence, while a weak word may spoil the
vividness of an impression. As a rule the words that are deeply rooted
in everyday speech are stronger than their synonyms of foreign origin.
Words derived from the Anglo-Saxon are the bone and sinew of the
language. The writer who neglects them for the longer and often more
euphonious words from the Latin may add elegance to his style, but he
takes away from its power to impress. The reader feels the difference,
though he may not be able to explain it.

Brevity as well as force favors the Anglo-Saxon. “Begin” is shorter
than “commence.” It is a better word for the news writer. Likewise
it is better to say “A movement was begun” than “A movement was
inaugurated.” The latter is a word in good standing--presidents are
inaugurated--but let it be confined to its proper use. “Build” is
preferable to “construct” when the words may be used interchangeably.
Examples might be multiplied, but in the end the writer must rely on
his own judgment of word-values, sharpened by a study of good writing.

This rule may be formulated: _In seeking force, choose the Anglo-Saxon
word instead of its foreign equivalent unless clearness demands the

The active voice is usually more forcible than the passive. “Jones
succeeds Smith” and “A house is building” are better news sentences
for this reason than “Smith is succeeded by Jones” and “A house is
being built.”

Short sentences, unless they become monotonous, are preferable to long.
The speed with which stories are put together in the newspaper office,
especially when the writer is working to “catch an edition,” is one
factor that makes news writing forcible. Working under pressure, the
reporter writes with a nervous, hurried energy that makes for short
sentences and quick, telling phrases. He has no time for involved
construction and prettiness of language. His aim is to “feature” the
big facts of the story--to put what he calls a “punch” into the lead.
What such a story lacks in elegance it makes up in force.


I.--A good news story, illustrating especially the virtue of

    CHICAGO, Nov. 5.--“It is hard to give away money,” declared
    James A. Patten, retired Board of Trade operator, at a Y. M. C.
    A. meeting last night at Evanston. “A person must acquire the
    habit,” he added. “After that it comes easy.”

    Then he gave the Evanston association $25,000, with the
    condition that it raise an additional $75,000 within the next
    ten days. The meeting opened a campaign for raising a fund of

(Note in the foregoing the effective use of direct quotation.)

II.--Simplicity of form and diction adds to the force of the following
news dispatch:

    LONDON, Nov. 5.--Dr. Hawley H. Crippen, convicted of the murder
    of his wife, Belle Elmore, the actress, to-day played his last
    card and lost. He will be hanged on November 8.

    Changed as he was physically, Crippen maintained his composure
    even in the trying moment when he heard his doom pronounced.
    At once the Court’s decision was announced, a warden touched
    the prisoner on the shoulder and the latter, without a word or
    gesture, turned and left the dock. He was conducted at once to
    Pentonville Prison.

    Those who have seen Crippen during his imprisonment say that
    his bearing has never changed from the moment of his arrest.
    He sleeps throughout the night soundly and eats heartily. He
    spends much time in reading. Miss Leneve has visited him in the
    prison three times.

(All the salient facts of the story are summed up in the opening
paragraph. Note the use of metaphor--“played his last card and lost.”
Touches such as this lift a story above the commonplace. Note, too,
that no attempt is made at so-called “fine writing.”)

III.--Rewrite the following:

    Within three hours after a “ten spot” had been deposited with
    Chief of Police William Smith as a reward to the patrolman
    arresting one Fred Wilson, charged with the larceny of a coat
    and a pair of shoes from J. W. Morris at a South street rooming
    house, said Fred Wilson was resting his tired body within the
    confines of the city bastile.

    Morris left the reward and a description of the man who, he
    said, had taken the articles. Each policeman was given the
    description and told to look out for the man. It fell to
    Officer John Haden at the Frisco Depot to garner the loose
    change by collaring Wilson and taking him to headquarters. He
    had the shoes and coat in his possession at the time and told
    Haden that he had merely put them on to wear for a little while.

    It is believed that he was preparing to leave Smithton for
    another haven when arrested.

(The foregoing is a sample of “fine writing.” Why not say $10 or “a
ten-dollar bill” instead of “ten spot”? “Charged with stealing” is
shorter and more to the point than the technical expression, “charged
with the larceny of.” “Within the confines of the city bastile”
evidently means “in the city jail.” Other violations of good news style
will be apparent after a moment’s thought. When in doubt ask yourself:
How would I say this if I were relating the incident in conversation?
Then write it that way. Be natural.)



    Newspaper work is an exacting profession, because things a
    journalist has done do not count. Like a hen he must lay an
    entirely new egg every day.--From an address by ARTHUR BRISBANE
    at Columbia University, New York.

    As many changes have come in recent years in country journalism
    as in any other line of human endeavor.... The pronoun “we”
    has been banished from the editorial and news columns, and
    the “slop” and “hog wash” known as “puffs”--that is, fulsome
    compliment and paid-for flattery--has become obsolete.--From an
    editorial in the Fulton (Mo.) _Gazette_.

    The three notes of modern reporting are clarity, terseness,
    objectivity. The news writer of to-day aims to tell a story
    that shall be absolutely intelligible, even to minds below
    the average--since everybody reads; to economize space to the
    last degree, and to keep himself, his prejudices, preferences,
    opinions, out of the story altogether.--From an editorial in
    the St. Louis _Republic_.

The news writer is the agent of the paper that employs him. As such,
in a wider sense he is the agent of the public, which relies on the
newspaper to keep it informed of the day’s happenings. The story is the
all-important thing; the reader as a rule cares nothing about who wrote
it or what the writer thinks of it. The viewpoint of the news writer
must be that of the unprejudiced, but alert, observer. He must approach
his story with a mind open to the facts and he must record the facts
unvarnished by his own preferences and opinions. Comment on the news
of the day is the function of the editorial columns. It has no place
in the news story. The writer who willfully injects his own likes and
dislikes into the story breaks faith with his employer, whose space he
is using, and with the public that buys the paper.

The ideal news story, apart from questions of style, has these

1. It is written without prejudice. It is fair, both in spirit and in

2. It is written from an impersonal, objective viewpoint.

3. It is written in good taste.

4. It has originality.


In writing your story remember always that it will be read not merely
by a circle of men and women of your own tastes and opinions, but by
persons of all classes, of all races, of dozens of different shades
of religious and political belief. The daily press is the popular
university. Protestant, Catholic and Jew look to it for information;
it sets the standard of English for the masses; for many it is the only
reading. The tremendous influence of the press imposes an obligation on
the news writer. His story must be simple and direct, so that all can
understand; more important still, it must be fair.

Approach every story in a spirit of open-mindedness, remembering that
nearly every question has two or more sides. Tell the facts and let
the reader draw his own conclusions. Tell all the facts essential to a
clear understanding of the story. A story may be true in detail and yet
work an injustice by omission. Let your story be fair in detail and in
the impression it leaves.

Even aside from the ethical obligation, business reasons demand
fairness. No paper can afford to offend a large group of readers by a
slighting reference to a race or a religious sect. Call the races by
their right names. Words such as “Dago” are forbidden by fairness, by
good taste and by business policy.

Before making a damaging statement about a person, be sure you have
legal evidence in which there is no loophole. Hesitate even then--go to
the city editor for instruction. If you are a correspondent, let your
office know the facts--all the facts. Bear in mind that homicide is not
necessarily murder. There is grave danger, no matter how convincing the
evidence may appear to be, in calling a person a murderer before he has
been so branded by the courts. If he is acquitted he has ground for a
libel suit against the newspaper that has charged him with crime.


News writing is objective to the last degree, in the sense that the
writer is not allowed to “editorialize.” He must leave himself out of
the story. True, he may give it, in his way of telling the facts, a
certain individuality and power, but he is not permitted to cross the
border line between the strict presentation of news and the editorial.
Only writers whose stories are signed are allowed to use the capital I.
They are the exceptions in modern newspaper making. The average news
writer, however brilliant his work, receives only the commendation of
his fellows. It is for this he strives, and the satisfaction that comes
of work well done, rather than for public recognition. Always in the
middle of things, close to history in the making,--and that is one of
the fascinations of the “game”--the newspaper man must yet remain in
the background. The story is the big, the vital thing. In it, for the
time being, he is willing to sink his personality.

The age of personal journalism in its old sense has passed. In the
new era the writer’s personality counts for just as much, or more,
but he must use it wholly as an instrument belonging to his newspaper
and the public. It is not meant by this that he must work always by
rule and line, but that he must refrain from coloring his story with
his personal prejudices and opinions. Even the “we” of the editorial
columns is fast being discarded for a more impersonal form. Most city
newspapers now avoid it altogether and the same tendency is seen in the
more enterprising country journals. It is still used in a large number
of papers published in the rural districts, both editorially and in the
news sections, but these are gossipy neighborhood chronicles rather
than newspapers in the modern understanding of the word.

Impersonal writing does not consist alone in the omission of “we”
and “I.” Avoid generalities that are likely to imply approval or
disapproval on the part of the writer. If Smith was killed by a
neighbor, tell when and where and how he was killed. Don’t generalize
by saying, “A dastardly crime was committed.” If your story is
pathetic it is not necessary to tell the reader so. Let him find it out
from the simple, human facts. In describing a pretty girl, don’t stop
with saying she is pretty; tell how she is pretty--tell the color of
her hair and eyes.

Strive always to be specific. With this in mind you are not likely to
stray far from the impersonal.


Cultivate good taste in news writing, as in all kinds of writing. Your
story is read by the woman in the home as well as by the man on the
street. Leave out all revolting details and think twice before you use
a word or an expression of doubtful propriety. Good taste distinguishes
the story written carefully, with its possible effect on the reader’s
sensibilities in mind, from the story that runs recklessly into paths
avoided in conversation.

Never use cheap slang. One kind of slang, that which is clean-cut
and expressive, without taint of vulgarity, may afford a legitimate
short-cut in news writing as in speech. An expression of this type,
if it persists in the language, ultimately finds a place in the
dictionary. It is the other kind of slang, the vulgar or silly,
against which the news writer must be on his guard.

Horrible details are not wanted by the well-edited newspaper. Leave
out the three buckets of blood. The word “blood” in itself brings an
unpleasant picture before the reader and may shock a person of delicate
sensibilities. Most newspapers caution their writers against its

Certain things are glossed over in our daily speech. This is true in
ever greater degree of the newspapers. Horace Greeley said that what
Providence permitted to happen he wasn’t too proud to report. That
is not the working principle of the modern newspaper, which omits
some things and edits others. The moral obligation of the newspaper
to its readers, as well as good taste, demands the pruning down of
some classes of news. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” implies this

It is poor taste to attempt facetiousness in reporting a death. Never
call a body a “stiff.” Puns on the names of persons, unless they
are peculiarly apt or are justified by special circumstances, are
to be avoided. The same rule applies to exaggerated dialect put in
an offensive manner and to nicknames of the races. These instances
further illustrate the need of fairness and sanity in the writer’s
viewpoint. Common sense is an excellent guide in many of the delicate
little problems of this kind that crop up daily in every newspaper


Originality is the quality that gives a news story distinction. Rules
may aid, but the power to make a story original must come largely from
the writer himself. Many writers can put facts together into a coherent
whole. The highest rewards are reserved for those who can tell old
facts in a new way.

The main secret of original news writing lies in keeping the impression
fresh. Everything interests the new reporter. As he gains familiarity
with the work, there is danger that his viewpoint will become jaded.
Especially if he is covering the same run of news day after day must he
fight against this tendency to fall into a rut. The newspaper has no
use for the man in a rut. The reporter who becomes cynical loses the
news writer’s best asset, the power to feel the pathos or the injustice
or the humor of the thing he is writing about. If he himself cannot
feel his story he is not likely to impress the reader with it.

The newspaper workshop, unlike any other, must create something
different every day, although human nature, from which it gets its raw
materials, remains the same through the ages. There is no variation
from one day to another in the basic themes of the news, but there is
an endless variation in the local color, in the shadings of motive, in
all the details that go to make one story different from all others.
Take the story of death in a tenement house fire. There is the outline,
the basic fact, of stories without number; yet each story, told with
its wealth of human, moving detail, has the power to affect the reader
as if the theme itself were absolutely new. A dozen houses in the same
block look alike from the outside; yet the life that each conceals is
different from the life in all the others.

Here, then, is need for originality in the writing of news. If the
reporter’s outlook is cynical he is likely to overlook the human side
of the story for the lifeless skeleton of commonplace facts. His story
may be mechanically correct, but it has no power of appeal. Without
distorting a single fact, in plain, everyday words, the news writer may
tell a story of human suffering that will rouse his readers to generous
response. This he may do, not by editorial comment, but by putting the
facts in the most effective, which is usually the simplest, manner.
Editorial comment in such a story would weaken the effect. The facts,
properly told, are enough.

One word of caution perhaps should be given: In looking for the feature
do not descend to the trivial. To return to an illustration just used,
don’t write the lead of your fire story on the rescue of the family cat
and overlook the fact that human lives were lost. Originality does not
consist in straining after a feature at the expense of the vital things
in a story. Triviality comes with cynicism. The power to be truly
original, to put life into a story based on a commonplace theme, comes
with the broad, human sympathy that results from keeping the impression
ever fresh.


I.--The following story, adapted from a newspaper, violates practically
every rule that can be laid down for the writing of news. Apart from
its errors of style, it is written with prejudice and in bad taste.
Rewrite the facts in half the present space, remembering (1) to be
fair; (2) to leave yourself out of the story; (3) to omit revolting
details; (4) to avoid “fine writing” and cheap slang.

    Tom Jones, one of Smithton’s worthless citizens, tried to
    shuffle off this mortal coil last Friday afternoon by cutting
    his throat with a pocket knife.

    It seems Jones had filed complaint against John Smith and
    Susie Williams for stealing. They were brought up in Justice
    Wagner’s court on Friday afternoon for trial, Jones being the
    prosecuting witness. When he was put upon the witness stand he
    flatly contradicted himself in statements made in his complaint
    to the Prosecuting Attorney. When he did this Mr. Brown at once
    dismissed the case against John Smith and Susie Williams and
    filed complaint against Jones for perjury, and put him under
    arrest. Constable Walker at once took him in charge and was
    preparing commitment papers, when Jones expressed a wish to
    go into the hall for a drink of water, which permission was
    given him by the constable. Soon after he had left the room
    an unusual noise was heard like the rushing of water and on
    investigation the man was found lying on the floor with his
    throat cut and the blood spurting like water from a fountain.
    He stuck the blade of an ordinary pocket knife into his throat
    and severed some of the arteries, and would probably have bled
    to death, except for the unfortunate arrival of a physician who
    stopped the blood, and he is now in a fair way to recover and
    may yet go over the road.

(“It seems” is unnecessary at the beginning of the second paragraph.
Instead of “tried to shuffle off this mortal coil” say simply that he
“tried to kill himself.” Cut out the grandiloquent phrases.)

II.--Note the stereotyped form of the following story, in which the
feature is obscured by a mass of routine detail. The story is as
lifeless as if it had been constructed by filling in blank spaces in
a set form. Although it has certain unusual elements, it is totally
lacking in originality of treatment:

    After he had been arrested on complaint of Henry Flannigan, 56
    years old, who conducts a repair shop at 1000 Center street,
    on a charge of stealing two revolvers from the shop Sunday
    afternoon, William Weaver, 18 years old, of 3445 Broadway,
    turned on the man and accused him of being a second Fagin, of
    running a fence and of having several small boys employed to
    steal goods for him.

    The police arrested Flannigan and his sons, Henry, Jr., aged
    15, and Fred, 14, at their home, 841 Division street, and Alex.
    Jones, 19, 1043 West avenue. Flannigan denied he was running a
    “fence” but admitted buying a lot of goods from the boys. They
    were locked up at the Fifteenth District Police Station.

(Query: Does the average reader understand what “running a fence”
means? Why not make this clear? It may be noted that some newspapers
insist that police stations be identified for the reader, not by their
numbers, but by the names of the streets on which they are situated.
Thus, in St. Louis, the Fourth District Station is called the Carr
Street Station; the Ninth, the Dayton Street Station, and so on. The
number, as a rule, means nothing to the reader, while the street name
gives him at once an idea of the locality.)

III.--In the following short feature story the writer has got away from
set forms and produced a readable story. Little stories of this type
are highly esteemed by newspapers with a leaning toward human-interest
news--especially if they are accompanied with pictures:

    CHICAGO, Nov. 7.--Stephen Rheim hit into a double play,
    although he didn’t know it for several days, when his safe
    hit won a game for the West Chicago High School baseball team
    over the Wheaton nine last June. In the grand stand was Miss
    Catherine Smith, also of West Chicago, and a loyal fan. “If he
    makes a hit I’ll marry him,” she cried, according to friends,
    as Rheim came to bat at a critical point in the game. After
    Rheim’s hit had won the game friends told him of Miss Smith’s
    remark and introduced him to the blushing young woman, who
    explained that she was “just joking.” But Rheim fell in love
    and remained there.



    The surest guarantee for right-doing in journalism is contained
    in the teaching that right is always right and that it must
    be done for its own sake. This is the great basic truth to be
    taught the students of schools of journalism and impressed
    upon the minds of all newspaper workers. No other “endowment”
    than this of sound principles is to be desired, either for
    newspapers or individuals, because both must work out their own
    salvation in life’s daily battle, which is won for the right
    only by those steadfast souls that fight for the sake of right
    alone.--From an editorial in the St. Louis _Post-Dispatch_.

    The haste and hurry of which so much is made may and does
    prevent polished work in a newspaper office. But it does not
    prevent accurate, careful, painstaking work. The history of
    the world which lay on your doorstep this morning is amazingly
    accurate; the mistakes in it are few and far between ... The
    average high school of to-day turns out a variety of English
    that the best natured city editor consigns to perdition in
    seven tongues, and beats out of the aspiring cub without
    delay or remorse. And in the important matter of brevity and
    directness of saying what you have to say in the curtest and
    plainest phrase of which the language is capable, the newspaper
    is the greatest educator in the world.--From an article by

A first essential of good news writing is accuracy. The word should be
graven in the mind of every reporter and every editor. It is spoken
by the city editor to his reporters almost every hour of his working
day. Placards on the walls may call attention to it, as in some offices
where, with laudable brevity, the motto is urged upon the staff:


If a story is accurate, if it is written with a nice attention to
detail, it is likely to be fair. If a story is not accurate, it is not
news in the best sense.

Accuracy implies more than mere grammatical correctness. It means more
even than the stating of every fact with precision. A story may be
taken to pieces, fact by fact, and every sentence found to be correct;
yet the whole may give a false impression. Accuracy means the spirit as
well as the letter of the truth.


Truthful, precise writing is the fruit of accurate observation. If one
would write news, he must learn first to see news clearly and without
prejudice. Therein the trained reporter excels the casual observer. The
one has learned to observe keenly; the other, well equipped though
he may be in the rules of rhetoric, has not schooled himself in the
business of seeing things with an eye single to getting the facts in
right proportion. Learn to observe and you will have gone far toward
mastering the art of news getting and news writing. Casual observation
is nearly always faulty. Take for example the conflicting statements
of persons on the witness stand. One man, telling his version of an
automobile accident, swears the car was going fully thirty miles an
hour, another is certain the speed was only eight miles; one heard the
driver sound a warning “honk,” another is equally positive no warning
was given. Each witness is a reputable citizen and each thinks his
version is the truth. The discrepancy in their testimony is due, not to
any effort to deceive, but to the common failure to observe carefully.

It is the business of the newspaper man, whose eyes must serve
thousands of readers each day, to see rightly what others see
imperfectly or not at all. He is subject to the same human limitations
as the others, but he must make it his duty, by training his mind and
his eye, to reduce those limitations to the minimum. Then, and then
only, can he gather and write news with the maximum of efficiency.

In giving names and street addresses there is special need of accuracy.
Watch, too, the spelling of all the words in your copy. Remember the
dictionary is made for use.


The average good citizen likes to see his name in print, but he is
deeply offended at seeing it misspelled. Smythe’s name is a thing
peculiarly his own; he can never cherish any particular regard for
the newspaper that persists in calling him Smith. So with Browne and
Maughs and Willson. Their names are not Brown, Moss, Wilson. A reader
whose name is misspelled feels, unconsciously perhaps, that he has
been robbed of some intimate possession. A blow has been aimed at his
individuality. To paraphrase a great reporter of life, his “good name”
has been stolen, and as a good citizen he resents the theft.

The misplacing of an initial or the careless dropping of a letter from
a name may cost the newspaper a subscriber. Certainly it convicts the
paper of inaccuracy in one man’s eyes. He reasons that if the paper is
mistaken in the spelling of his name, it may be guilty of other grave
inaccuracies in its news. His faith in the paper is shaken. And the
newspaper that loses the faith of its readers is in danger of losing
the good will that is its chief asset.


Care should be taken in the writing of street addresses. The difference
between two street numbers may represent the difference between
respectability and its opposite. A serious injustice may be done a
person by printing his name with the wrong street address. Such a
mistake was made not long ago by a western newspaper, which gave an
address in a neighborhood of doubtful reputation to a citizen of high
standing. As a result of the writer’s carelessness the newspaper was
sued for libel.

The reporter should be constantly on his guard in taking down the
addresses given by unknown persons. Especially is this true with
reference to the data furnished by criminals for the police “blotter.”
It is a common practice of habitual criminals to give as their own the
addresses of reputable citizens.

Learn all you can of the city in which you work. Such knowledge will
be invaluable as a safeguard against many pitfalls. The city directory
is an excellent guide, but sometimes is inaccurate.


Spell correctly. This applies not alone to proper names. Some news
writers are prone to shift the burden of spelling to the man who edits
the copy or to the proofreader. Doubtless there are many brilliant news
gatherers who are deficient in spelling, but, other things being equal,
the man who spells correctly is preferred to him who is slovenly in
this respect. Bad spelling, though not fatal to a writer’s chances, is
often a sign of lazy habits of mind. The precise thinker, as a rule,
has too much regard for the tools of his trade--his words--to abuse
them. The city editor judges the new man largely by his copy. The
story that shows attention to spelling, to all the little niceties of
writing, assuredly has a better chance of a favorable reception than
the story, of equal news value, that betrays carelessness.


If any hard-and-fast first principle relating to accuracy can be laid
down, it is this: _Get the names right._ Once this principle is
grounded in the mind of the reporter, he is fairly sure to strive for
accuracy in all the details of his story.

Persons who know nothing of the inner workings of the newspaper office
may profess to believe that stories are written without regard to
accuracy and are thrown into type haphazard, just as they come from
the writers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A newspaper that
permitted such a condition would be swamped with libel suits within a
week. In every newspaper office, certainly in every newspaper office
worthy the name, there is an unceasing war against inaccuracy of every
kind. The new reporter learns this when he comes in jubilant from an
assignment, only to be sent back to get the middle initial of a name.
The out-of-town correspondent learns it when he is called from his bed
by long-distance telephone to explain a vague statement in a story he
had wired earlier in the night. When one considers the difficulties
under which news is gathered and the limited time at the newspaper’s
command, the wonder is not that errors occasionally creep into the news
columns but that the errors are so few.

The newspaper as it goes to the reader, though it is the product
of many very human persons working under pressure, is remarkably
accurate. A painstaking effort has been made to give the reader a
true picture of the day’s happenings. Copy readers have gone over the
reporters’ copy for errors of fact and of style; proofreaders have
corrected typographical errors after the matter has been set in type;
one or more editors have read the revised proofs with an eye single to
detecting faults.

The newspaper, of all modern institutions, is the most human. It is
written by, for and about men and women. Its failings are the common
failings of humankind. Forewarned thus against himself, it is the duty
of the news writer, even while he works with one eye on the clock,
to be always vigilant in the battle against inaccuracy--to do his
full share, and more, in keeping the columns of his paper free from
misstatement of every kind.


The following stories are presented, not for any specific bearing on
the discussion of accuracy, but as “horrible examples” of bad news
writing in general. Inaccuracy in a news story seldom stands alone as a
fault, because if a story is inaccurate the chances are it is deficient
in other respects. The writer who does not take his work seriously
enough to get his facts correct is not likely to pay attention to
style. The stories here reproduced may serve as a warning against some
of the faults pointed out in the preceding chapters.

I. This and the story under II show the absurdity of attempted “fine

    Shrouded in deep mystery and in spite of the fact that
    strenuous efforts were made to keep the details of the affair
    secret, startling facts regarding the robbery of the Blank
    sorority house came to light yesterday. The house was entered
    by a burglar some time during the Christmas recess and some
    valuable silverware was taken.

    But this is not all. Although when interviewed on the subject
    the members of the sorority refused to give any of the details
    to the public, some unique traits have developed in the burglar
    which may enable an ambitious Sherlock to unravel as deep a
    mystery as has ever puzzled Pinkerton’s band of trained sleuths.

(Query: Isn’t it about time to give the word “strenuous” a needed rest?)

II. The story of a death was told thus in a small newspaper:

    Mrs. Eliza Williams, mother of Mrs. Geo. Brown, was released
    from her physical surroundings Saturday morning at ten o’clock
    and called to occupy a building, a house not made with hands
    eternally in the heavens. She has been in this earth life 87

(Evidently the foregoing means: “Mrs. Eliza Williams, mother of Mrs.
George Brown, died at 10 o’clock Saturday morning. She was 87 years
old.” The simplest style is always the best in writing of death. Say
“body,” not “remains”; “coffin,” not “casket”; “the dead man (or
woman),” not “the deceased” or “the defunct.” “Burial” is better
than “interment.” “The late” is nearly always useless. “Obsequies”
implies that the ceremonies were imposing; in most cases “funeral”
is the proper word. Never use a flippant word in a death story. In
all news writing spell out proper names: e.g., “George,” not “Geo.”
Most newspapers use numerals in giving the hour, as 10 o’clock. It
is usually preferable to place the hour before the day; thus, “at 10
o’clock Saturday morning.” Be careful to refer to the dead in the past
tense; the verb in the last sentence of the story quoted should be “had

III. Note the use of cheap slang in the following story:

    Fred Smith, a young man about 18 or 19 years old, who formerly
    resided in this neighborhood but more recently at Jonesburg,
    had been boozing at the saloon all day and in the evening
    walked out of that burg on the railroad track. He evidently
    fell with his head down on one side of the dump and one foot
    over the rail. The 7 o’clock passenger struck him and mashed
    the foot. He was picked up by the train crew and brought to
    town and received medical attention.

(It is seldom in good taste, nor is it safe, to accuse a person of
drunkenness. Bear in mind the injunction: Tell the facts and let the
reader draw his own conclusions.)



    The newspaper man is compelled, as the price of success in
    his calling, and often through severe experience, to learn
    that only that which is true is “news.” There is a popular
    impression that all is grist that comes to the newspaper mill,
    and that everything brought into the office is published. The
    fact is that the hardest task of newspaper work is to sift the
    truth out of the masses of falsehood offered daily.... Daily
    newspaper workers have neither time nor need to fabricate
    falsehoods for public deception. Their time and their energies
    are too fully engaged in trying to winnow out the truth from
    the ignorant or willful distortions of it with which they have
    to deal daily. Often the falsehoods are unintentional, and
    arise from the fact that few people are gifted with ability
    to tell the exact truth, and nothing else, about what they
    have seen or heard. But they have also to deal with masses
    of downright lies, inspired by interest or malice.--From an
    editorial in the Chicago _Inter-Ocean_.

The foregoing chapters have dealt with news writing in its general
aspects. This and succeeding chapters will be devoted to the more
technical phases of the subject.

It is not the purpose here to discuss in detail methods of gathering
news, but to tell how to write news. The reporter, when he sits down to
his story, is assumed to be in possession of the facts. The problem
then is how to put those facts together most effectively. But since
news writing presupposes news gathering, a general knowledge of the
reporter’s work and of what is implied by the term “news” is essential
to a clear understanding of the technical side of the story.


What the eyes are to the body the reporter is to his paper and to the
public that reads it. His work is the foundation of modern newspaper
making. Editorial comment illuminates the news, make-up and headlines
aid in its attractive presentation but after all the story is the main
thing. It is for the story that all other features of the newspaper

No matter what branch of newspaper work one may eventually enter,
training gained as a reporter will be invaluable. The men who reach
executive positions in a newspaper office without having served a
reporter’s apprenticeship are rare exceptions. Practically all who have
attained high rank in journalism began work as gatherers of news. They
learned first to see news and to estimate its values.

A reporter may be able to see news without being able to write a good
story, but the opposite seldom holds good. Certainly the best news
writers are those who have learned, as reporters, what news is. The
city editor of a metropolitan newspaper holds his position largely by
virtue of his ability to pass quick and accurate judgment on the news
value of a story. He has a “nose for news” that enables him to discard
the trivial in the grist of the day’s happenings for the vital and
interesting. It is this ability that the reporter must cultivate by
every means in his power.


News has been roughly defined as that which interests people. But that
definition is too general. A book or a sermon or a play may interest
people, but in themselves they are not news. The fact, however, that
a book has been published or a sermon preached or a play produced, is
news, if that fact has an element of public interest.

The importance of a story in the eyes of the editor depends on one
or more of several considerations--on the property involved, as in
a fire or an earthquake; on the number and the prominence of the
persons concerned; on the distance of the happening from the place
of publication; on the timeliness of the story; on the element of
human interest. This list is not exhaustive; local and temporary
reasons often have weight in the editor’s judgment of a given story.
To illustrate, suppose a newspaper is waging a crusade against
grade crossings in its city. The story of a grade crossing accident
immediately assumes an importance for that newspaper beyond its
ordinary news value. Before the crusade was started the story might
have been told in a paragraph; now it is allowed to run at length.


Remember, in forming your estimate of the news value of a story, that
the newspaper is read by men and women of all classes--by the banker
and his stenographer, the day laborer and the college professor. A
story is valuable as news in proportion to the number of persons it
interests. The account of a great disaster, like the San Francisco
earthquake and fire, appeals to all readers. It is the big news of
the day, taking precedence over all other stories in the make-up of
the paper. News of an increase in the cost of some necessary article
of food is valuable because of the vast number of persons it affects.
So with the story of a national election, a great labor strike or a
declaration of war. These are the exceptional stories whose importance
as news is as obvious to one unskilled in newspaper making as to the
trained editor.

But what of the more commonplace happenings of the day? The problem
that confronts the editor daily is to make a paper that will appeal to
as many readers as possible. The man who asks a newspaper to print, as
news, a long dissertation on recent discoveries in Asia Minor mistakes
the purpose of daily journalism. Such an article might interest other
men engaged in making similar discoveries, but it would be passed over
by the vast majority of readers.

Newspapers are often charged with pandering to the sensational. Why,
it is asked, do they print the story of a murder on the first page,
while general religious news is published in a separate department, if
published at all? The shop window of the merchant furnishes the answer:
the merchant, like the newspaper, puts his most alluring wares in
front. The display in both cases is based on a sound knowledge of human
nature. What do people talk about in the evening? On his answer to that
question the editor’s choice of stories largely depends. Mrs. Jones,
talking to Mrs. Smith, tells first about the elopement of a neighbor’s
daughter. Not until that is disposed of does she comment on last
Sunday’s sermon.

Newspapers formerly were made on the assumption that men were the only
readers. Now they are made with the tastes of women ever in mind. The
evening newspaper, especially, is edited for the women, on the theory
that it is taken home in the evening, while the morning newspaper is
taken out of the home by the man going to work.

The newspaper is a business enterprise. In order to live it must
get advertising. To get advertising it must have circulation and to
get circulation it must interest its readers. It can not do this by
shooting continually over the heads of its readers. But, while the
newspaper reflects public taste, it is generally a little better than
public taste. Certain classes of news are suppressed and others are
carefully edited. What is done with news on the border line depends on
the individual policy of the paper.


While the variety of news is infinite and no hard-and-fast
classification can be attempted, news stories may be roughly grouped in
three large divisions:

1. The story based on a recent happening of more or less importance
in itself, as a fire or a business transaction, told without attempt
at embellishment. This may be called the plain news story. It is the
primary form of news writing. Clearness and conciseness are its first

2. The story called by the newspaper man a feature or a human-interest
story. Into this class falls practically all news writing--except that
set aside in departments--which does not fit in the preceding group.
Some writers perhaps would make a distinction between “feature” and
“human-interest” as applied to news, but since the terms are often
used interchangeably, it has seemed simpler to include them under one
head. A feature story, then, adopting this as a general term, is a
story based on something odd or unusual, humorous or pathetic. Such
a story often depends more on the manner of the telling than on what
is told. “Human-interest” narrows the definition to the story that
appeals to the emotions by its humor or pathos. Stripped to the bare
facts, a human-interest story may be without news value; but told with
the keen sympathy that comes of accurate observation and a knowledge
of human nature it may have an even greater value, that of giving the
reader a clearer insight into the real life about him. Feature stories
concerning odd or unusual or grotesque things, such as the man with
the longest beard in the world or the boy who builds an airship in his
back yard, may be only a few lines in length or they may be developed
into page Sunday articles. A study of the magazine and feature pages of
any metropolitan daily paper will show the possibilities of this kind
of story. Almost any subject may be made into a feature story if the
writer has the gift of originality.

3. Department or classified news. Under this head come stories that
are grouped by the newspaper in separate departments, as sporting
news, market reports and society notes. The extent to which news is
classified varies widely with different newspapers. Some include only
a few broad departments, while others classify news on many subjects,
as schools and colleges, genealogy, women’s clubs, etc. When, however,
a department story becomes of general interest, it is taken out of its
department and placed in the general news columns. This may be done,
for example, with the story of a world’s championship baseball game or
of a sudden break in the stock market.

It must be understood that this grouping is subject to many variations.
There is often an overlapping of the three kinds of stories described.
The nature of news, based as it is on the doings of people, makes it
impossible for one to put a finger on a story and say: This falls under
Section A and is written according to Rule Blank. The classification is
suggested only as a guide in the study of news writing.

The interview, one of the most important features of the modern
newspaper, is not here listed as a distinct kind of story. It may
either form an essential part of a story or be itself a news story of
any of the types mentioned.


I. Tell how the following plain news story could be developed into a
feature story of a column or more:

    BOSTON, Nov. 12.--The third new star to be discovered at the
    Harvard College Observatory in the last six weeks was announced
    to-night by Professor Edward C. Pickering. Miss A. J. Gannon of
    the observatory staff found the star in an examination of old
    photographic plates taken August 10, 1899. It appears in the
    constellation sagittarius from that date until October, 1901.

II. Concise, well-told story of a humorous incident, used by the St.
Louis _Post-Dispatch_ as a “filler” on Page 1. Note that the story is
not clogged with irrelevant police data:

    Two burglars enjoyed a laugh, and a saloon keeper’s money
    was saved by the wit of Joe Johnson, a negro porter, early
    Wednesday. The burglars entered Edward Krenninghaus’ saloon at
    3948 Easton avenue, and finding the porter asleep in the back
    room awakened him.

    “Where’s the boss’ money?” asked one of the burglars as he
    held a revolver to Johnson’s head. “Sakes alive,” the porter
    stuttered. “If the boss kept his money here he wouldn’t let me
    sleep in the place.” The burglars laughed heartily and departed.

III. The following story--a mother’s account of the death of her
son--is a fine example of the best type of human-interest story. It was
published in the New York _Sun_ (morning), often referred to as the
“newspaper man’s newspaper” because of the high standard of writing
that it maintains. “Study the _Sun’s_ style” is the advice given to
reporters in many newspaper offices. The story here reproduced is by
Frank Ward O’Malley. It was reprinted in the _Outlook_ of November 9,

    Mrs. Catherine Sheehan stood in the darkened parlor of her home
    at 361 West Fifteenth street late yesterday afternoon, and
    told her version of the murder of her son Gene, the youthful
    policeman whom a thug named Billy Morley shot in the forehead,
    down under the Chatham Square elevated station early yesterday
    morning. Gene’s mother was thankful that her boy hadn’t killed
    Billy Morley before he died, “because,” she said, “I can say
    honestly, even now, that I’d rather have Gene’s dead body
    brought home to me, as it will be to-night, than to have him
    come to me and say, ‘Mother, I had to kill a man this morning.’

    “God comfort the poor wretch that killed the boy,” the mother
    went on, “because he is more unhappy to-night than we are here.
    Maybe he was weak-minded through drink. He couldn’t have known
    Gene or he wouldn’t have killed him. Did they tell you at the
    Oak Street Station that the other policemen called Gene Happy
    Sheehan? Anything they told you about him is true, because no
    one would lie about him. He was always happy, and he was a
    fine-looking young man, and he always had to duck his helmet
    when he walked under the gas fixture in the hall, as he went
    out the door.

    “He was doing dance steps on the floor of the basement, after
    his dinner yesterday noon, for the girls--his sisters, I
    mean--and he stopped of a sudden when he saw the clock and
    picked up his helmet. Out on the street he made pretend to
    arrest a little boy he knows, who was standing there--to see
    Gene come out, I suppose--and when the little lad ran away
    laughing, I called out, ‘You couldn’t catch Willie, Gene;
    you’re getting fat.’

    “‘Yes, and old, mammy,’ he said, him who is--who was--only
    twenty-six--‘so fat,’ he said, ‘that I’m getting a new dress
    coat that’ll make you proud when you see me in it, mammy.’ And
    he went over Fifteenth street whistling a tune and slapping his
    leg with a folded newspaper. And he hasn’t come back again.

    “But I saw him once after that, thank God, before he was shot.
    It’s strange, isn’t it, that I hunted him up on his beat late
    yesterday afternoon for the first time in my life? I never go
    around where my children are working or studying--one I sent
    through college with what I earned at dressmaking, and some
    other little money I had, and he’s now a teacher; and the
    youngest I have at college now. I don’t mean that their father
    wouldn’t send them if he could, but he’s an invalid, although
    he’s got a position lately that isn’t too hard for him. I got
    Gene prepared for college, too, but he wanted to go right into
    an office in Wall street. I got him in there, but it was too
    quiet and tame for him, Lord have mercy on his soul; and then,
    two years ago, he wanted to go on the police force, and he went.

    “After he went down the street yesterday I found a little book
    on a chair, a little list of the streets or something, that
    Gene had forgot. I knew how particular they are about such
    things, and I didn’t want the boy to get in trouble, and so I
    threw on a shawl and walked over through Chambers street toward
    the river to find him. He was standing on a corner some place
    down there near the bridge clapping time with his hands for a
    little newsy that was dancing; but he stopped clapping, struck,
    Gene did, when he saw me. He laughed when I handed him the
    little book and told that was why I’d searched for him, patting
    me on the shoulder when he laughed--patting me on the shoulder.

    “‘It’s a bad place for you here, Gene,’ I said. ‘Then it must
    be bad for you, too, mammy,’ said he; and as he walked to the
    end of his beat with me--it was dark then--he said, ‘They’re
    lots of crooks here, mother, and they know and hate me and
    they’re afraid of me’--proud, he said it--‘but maybe they’ll
    get me some night.’ He patted me on the back and turned and
    walked east toward his death. Wasn’t it strange that Gene said

    “You know how he was killed, of course, and how--Now let me
    talk about it, children, if I want to. I promised you, didn’t
    I, that I wouldn’t cry any more or carry on? Well, it was five
    o’clock this morning when a boy rang the bell here at the house
    and I looked out the window and said, ‘Is Gene dead?’ ‘No,
    ma’am,’ answered the lad, ‘but they told me to tell you he was
    hurt in a fire and is in the hospital.’ Jerry, my other boy,
    had opened the door for the lad and was talking to him while
    I dressed a bit. And then I walked down stairs and saw Jerry
    standing silent under the gaslight, and I said again, ‘Jerry,
    is Gene dead?’ And he said ‘Yes,’ and he went out.

    “After a while I went down to the Oak Street Station myself,
    because I couldn’t wait for Jerry to come back. The policemen
    all stopped talking when I came in, and then one of them told
    me it was against the rules to show me Gene at that time. But I
    knew the policeman only thought I’d break down, but I promised
    him I wouldn’t carry on, and he took me into a room to let me
    see Gene. It was Gene.

    “I know to-day how they killed him. The poor boy that shot him
    was standing in Chatham Square arguing with another man when
    Gene told him to move on. When the young man wouldn’t, but only
    answered back, Gene shoved him, and the young man pulled a
    revolver and shot Gene in the face, and he died before Father
    Rafferty, of St. James’s, got to him. God rest his soul. A lot
    of policemen heard the shot, and they all came running with
    their pistols and clubs in their hands. Policeman Laux--I’ll
    never forget his name or any of the others that ran to help
    Gene--came down the Bowery and ran out into the middle of the
    square where Gene lay.

    “When the man that shot Gene saw the policemen coming, he
    crouched down and shot at Policeman Laux, but, thank God, he
    missed him. Then policemen named Harrington and Rourke and
    Moran and Kehoe chased the man all around the streets there,
    some heading him off when he tried to run into that street that
    goes off at an angle--East Broadway, is it?--a big crowd had
    come out of Chinatown now and was chasing the man, too, until
    Policemen Rourke and Kehoe got him backed up against a wall.
    When Policeman Kehoe came up close, the man shot his pistol
    right at Kehoe and the bullet grazed Kehoe’s helmet.

    “All the policemen jumped at the man then, and one of them
    knocked the pistol out of his hand with a blow of a club.
    They beat him, this Billy Morley, so Jerry says his name is,
    but they had to because he fought so hard. They told me this
    evening that it will go hard with the unfortunate murderer,
    because Jerry says that when a man named Frank O’Hare, who was
    arrested this evening charged with stealing cloth or something,
    was being taken into headquarters, he told Detective Gegan
    that he and a one-armed man who answered to the description of
    Morley, the young man who killed Gene, had a drink last night
    in a saloon at Twenty-second street and Avenue A and that when
    the one-armed man was leaving the saloon he turned and said,
    ‘Boys, I’m going out now to bang a guy with buttons.’

    “They haven’t brought me Gene’s body yet. Coroner Shrady, so my
    Jerry says, held Billy Morley, the murderer, without letting
    him get out on bail, and I suppose that in a case like this
    they have to do a lot of things before they can let me have the
    body here. If Gene only hadn’t died before Father Rafferty got
    to him, I’d be happier. He didn’t need to make his confession,
    you know, but it would have been better, wouldn’t it? He wasn’t
    bad, and he went to mass on Sunday without being told; and
    even in Lent, when we always say the rosary out loud in the
    dining-room every night, Gene himself said to me the day after
    Ash Wednesday, ‘If you want to say the rosary at noon, mammy,
    before I go out, instead of at night when I can’t be here,
    we’ll do it.’

    “God will see that Gene’s happy to-night, won’t he, after
    Gene said that?” the mother asked as she walked out into the
    hallway with her black-robed daughters grouped behind her. “I
    know he will,” she said, “and I’ll--” She stopped with an arm
    resting on the banister to support her. “I--I know I promised
    you, girls,” said Gene’s mother, “that I’d try not to cry any
    more, but I can’t help it.” And she turned toward the wall and
    covered her face with her apron.

This story was reprinted in the _Outlook_, under the title, “The Death
of Happy Gene Sheehan,” with the following editorial preface:

“The ‘stories’ of the reporter on a daily paper are written under such
trying conditions of hurry and confusion that they seldom have, in
the very nature of the case, what is called the ‘literary touch.’ But
occasionally a news writer produces a story which has real qualities
of vividness, pathos and power. The following account of the death of
Happy Gene Sheehan, which we reprint by special permission from the New
York _Sun_, belongs to this class. On the morning when it appeared, a
group of business men, one of whom has related the incident to us, were
riding from Peekskill to New York in a commuters’ club car. Several
games of cards were in progress, and the rest of the passengers were
busy with their newspapers or in conversation. Suddenly a clergyman,
who had been reading the _Sun_, rose and asked permission to read a
story which he had just finished. He had read only a few lines before
the card games were stopped, newspapers were laid down, and every man
in the car was giving earnest attention to the reading. It was the
story of Happy Sheehan; and the effect which it produced upon such a
group of busy men, not easily to be moved by sentiment, and not at all,
except to disgust, by sentimentality, was the best compliment which it
could have received.”



    Newspaper English is the standard. There may be critics, who
    belong to a past generation and who have learned by rule, but
    for flexible, expressive use of the language the newspaper and
    the other publications for the masses cannot be surpassed....
    When scientific or technical terms are employed there is
    sufficient context to make clear the application. There is no
    strained effort or laborious use of words to-day. Nor is there
    a deterioration, as some of the professors of English would
    have us believe. Newspaper style is simple, direct, concise,
    instructive and self-explanatory. This sets the standard
    for the great mass of the public.--From an editorial in the
    Washington _Herald_.

The method of telling the news story is usually the opposite of that
employed by the writer of fiction. Instead of giving the setting of
his story and then working gradually toward the climax, the news
writer, as a rule, puts the climax in the very beginning--in what is
technically called the lead of the story. If three persons were killed
in a train wreck he tells that fact succinctly in the opening sentence.
There is no halting, no preliminary catching of the breath, but a
straightforward plunge into the main facts. Here again news writing is
closely akin to everyday speech. If you were telling, in a hurried
conversation, of a baseball game you had just seen, you would begin by
giving the score--the result of the game. Then, as time permitted, you
would elaborate with details. That is the method of the news story of
immediate importance, whose primary purpose is to inform.

A distinction was made in the preceding chapter between a story of this
kind and a feature story. What is said here of the lead does not apply
to feature writing, which often follows the fictional method of holding
the reader in suspense. Neither does it apply to the news story which
is told so briefly that a summary of the facts in the beginning would
result in immediate and useless repetition in the body of the story.


The straight news lead of the story that is allotted enough space to
warrant the giving of details contains the main facts boiled down in
the opening sentences. The lead should be complete in itself, so that
the reader may grasp the essentials without being compelled to read the
entire story. Remember that your story is not an essay to be read at
leisure. It is written for busy men and women, and its function is to
inform, and inform quickly. The average American reader has no time for
the rambling type of story that describes the “dark and stilly night”
to the extent of a column and then tells in the last paragraph that a
man was murdered. He demands to know about the murder at once. Then, if
he is interested, he will read the details.

Seldom is the lead longer than a paragraph, unless it is broken up
by making each sentence a paragraph. This first paragraph--the most
important in the story, since it tells the facts in a nutshell--should
be made as concise and pithy as possible. Tell all the essential facts,
but avoid cumbersome sentence structure in doing so. Short, simple
sentences are the most forcible. Above all, make the lead easy for the
reader to understand.


Who? What? When? Where? Why? It is a standard rule that the news lead
should answer these questions about the story. Properly interpreted,
the rule is a good one, but it may be applied too literally. The
beginner in news writing is inclined to go to the extreme in trying
to answer each question in the first sentence. The result is often
an involved sentence in which the reader becomes lost in a maze of
participles and qualifying clauses. Here is a sample from a story
turned in by a “cub” reporter:

    While studying last night for an examination, Miss Sallie
    Smith, 18 years old, a student in the Blank Business College,
    fell asleep and overturned a lamp, severely burning her face
    and hands and slightly burning her father, John Smith, a
    plasterer, who came to her rescue when he heard her scream, and
    causing damage amounting to about $300 to their home, 2015 East

Here is material for three or four sentences, crowded together
haphazard. Aside from its other manifest faults, the sentence is too
cumbersome for the newspaper. Don’t write sentences that require the
reader to catch his breath before he gets to the end.

Sometimes, however, the story is of such a nature that the leading
facts can readily be told in a single graphic sentence. For example the
following lead of a published telegraph dispatch:

    More than 100 men are believed to have been killed by a
    terrific explosion in the Blank Mines of the Brown Fuel and
    Iron Company at 4:30 o’clock this afternoon.

This sentence answers all the essential questions. Note that the writer
does not begin with the fact of the explosion and work toward the loss
of life, but tells at once, in the simplest manner possible, that 100
men may have perished. This is the vital fact of the story. No words
are wasted in preliminaries. Without attempt at ornamentation, the
writer goes directly to the heart of the story. It is conceivable that
he might have written, in the conventional fashion of those who have
formed the habit of beginning every story with a participle:

    Struggling vainly to escape from the poisonous gases that
    filled every innermost recess, 100 helpless miners, caught like
    rats in a trap, met death as the result of, etc.

Note the difference in effect between the short, clear statement of
fact and the lead that attempts to gain the reader’s attention by “fine
writing.” Get rid of the idea that because a sentence is simple it is
weak. The Bible says “Jesus wept.” If the average writer were called
upon to put that fact into words, he would probably rack his brain for
descriptive epithets. Yet the Bible tells it all in two words of one
syllable each--a verb and its subject--of more compressed power than a
page of thundering adjectives.

When the lead cannot be told in a single sentence without danger of
clumsiness and confusion, don’t hesitate to divide it into several
sentences. In the first sentence tell the most important thing--the
climax--in order to grip the reader’s attention. Then tell the other
facts needed for a quick understanding of the story and after that
develop the story logically.


Your style of writing the lead will depend somewhat on the custom of
the paper for which you are working. Some newspapers still insist
rigidly on the who-what-when-where-why rule for beginning all except
feature stories and short items. Others are departing more and more
from the rule. The tendency nowadays on a few well-edited newspapers
(notably the Kansas City _Star_ and _Times_) is to tell the story
chronologically from the start, leaving out the lead or introduction
altogether, except perhaps in the case of especially important
happenings such as the mine disaster referred to above. This is
probably the result of the growing importance of the headline in the
modern newspaper. Formerly newspapers were content to use general
headings, such as “Very Important,” “The Latest from Europe” and
“Court News,” but the present-day newspaper aims to tell the story
specifically in the head. Thus the average news story really is put
before the reader three times--once in the head, again in the lead and
finally in the story proper. Doubt of the wisdom in all cases of this
double repetition is responsible for the tendency to drop the lead and
let the headline usurp its place. No invariable rules as to when this
is advisable can be laid down. The writer should study carefully the
style of his paper and be guided by it.


It is a good general rule, and one enforced by nearly all newspapers,
to avoid beginning a story with the time. An exception may be made,
of course, when the time of a happening is the factor that makes the
story. Ordinarily the time is not important enough to be put first in
the sentence, though it should be told well toward the beginning of the
story. Similarly, avoid starting a story with the place. The weakness
of the lead that violates these rules is shown in the following

    At 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, at Sixth and Market streets,
    William Jones was shot and killed, etc.

Avoid the trite lead, such as “caught like rats in a trap” and “never
in the history of.” The newspaper writer unconsciously accumulates a
vast stock of convenient trite phrases, on which he is tempted to draw
when working hurriedly. A moment’s thought, however, will nearly always
suggest a better way of expression.

“At a meeting of” is usually a weak beginning, and some newspapers
never permit it. Better tell at the outset what was done at the
meeting. It is more effective to say, “Three patrolmen were discharged
yesterday by the Police Board” than “At a meeting of the Police Board
yesterday three patrolmen were discharged.” The meeting itself is an
incident. The results of the meeting make the story.

Avoid the lead burdened with police data. For example:

    Frank Smith, 23 years old, residing at 1010 A street, was
    arrested this morning at 10 o’clock by Patrolman Jones of the
    Fifth District on a charge of stabbing and severely wounding
    Arthur Brown, 27 years old, of 2510 B street.

Writing of this kind appears to have been copied from the police
reports. It is forbidden by all well-edited newspapers. Reserve
unessential details for the body or the conclusion of the story if
they are used at all. Let the lead tell the main facts unhampered by


Much that might be said further about writing the lead is summed up
in the simple injunction: Be natural. Some newspapers caution their
writers against beginning a story with “a” or “the,” but an examination
of the leading newspapers of the country shows that this practice is
not generally followed. Strict adherence to such a rule would often
cause cumbersome or unnatural sentence structure. Unless your paper
forbids it, don’t be afraid to begin your first sentence with an
article if that is the logical, natural way to state the main fact. On
the other hand, avoid overworking “a” and “the.” The same advice is
applicable to the lead in general, and in fact to all news writing:
don’t adopt one kind of sentence structure and use it to the exclusion
of all others. A series of sentences all built on the same plan becomes
monotonous. In this respect as well as in others get variety into your


By no means taboo the sentence that begins with the name of a person,
especially if that name is widely known. Often the best lead possible
is one that tells the name of the chief character at the outset.
A “big” name attracts immediate attention. Often it is the only
justification for printing the story. The fact that the average citizen
sprains his ankle is not news; but it is news if the President of the
United States sprains his ankle. The name in the latter case, not the
accident, makes the story worth while. In another type of story the
name is of little importance; the main thing is the happening on which
the story is based. Bear these facts in mind in writing your lead. The
ideal story, from the news standpoint, is one which combines big names
and big happenings.

When, however, your story tells of an accident in which several persons
were killed or injured, put the names near the beginning, even though,
considered separately, they are not important as news. In reading the
account of a disaster of any kind in which human lives were lost the
average reader looks first at the names; he is eager to learn if anyone
in whom he is interested was injured or killed. After the Iroquois
theater fire in Chicago, one great newspaper devoted its entire front
page to a list of the killed and injured. It is a common practice of
many newspapers to enclose tabulated lists of the killed and injured,
with a concise statement of the nature of the injuries, in what
newspaper men call a “box” to go at the head of the story. This not
only aids the reader but simplifies the work of the news writer.

It is possible, in minor stories of unimportant persons, to carry
the “featuring” of names to an extreme. Noting this tendency in its
staff at one time, a widely read western newspaper issued a rule that
thereafter no story should begin with a name. No exceptions were made.
The result was strained and artificial writing in the first sentences
of many of the leading news stories. At the end of a week the order was


Reference has been made to the advice sometimes given news writers to
tell who, what, when, where and why as soon as possible in the story.
Investigation shows that if any such rule exists it is not generally
adhered to. Facts that come under these heads are often subordinated to
make the lead clear or to give the main fact added prominence. Every
story must be considered by itself. If any strict rule can be laid
down, it is this: Tell the main facts first, as clearly and forcibly as
you can. Remember, however, on whatever plan you build your lead, to
answer all the essential questions somewhere in the story. The story
that tells who, what, when, where and why, and in addition explains
how, is likely to be complete. As a reporter, run over these questions
in your mind and see if you are prepared to give an answer to each.


To ascertain the favorite newspaper method of beginning the story,
chiefly from the point of view of sentence structure, the writer
examined 100 first-page stories in sixteen of the leading daily
newspapers of the country. This is the result, tabulated:

    Beginning with subject of main verb        71
    Beginning with modifying phrase or clause  23
    Beginning with direct quotation             4
    Beginning with “There is”                   2

In other words, 71 per cent. opened with a simple, direct statement of
fact, with the qualifying parts subordinated. Twenty-three per cent.
opened with a qualifying phrase or clause containing some feature of
the story, as “thanks to the wireless telegraph,” “dragged more than
100 feet” and “unless a court ruling interferes.” Four per cent. began
with a striking quotation, while only 2 per cent. used the “there is”
structure in the first sentence.

Of the seventy-one stories that began with the main clause, twenty-two
put names first. In nearly every such case the name was that of some
widely known person, either nationally or in the community in which the
paper is published, such as the President, a governor or a chief of

Only six of the 100 stories began with a subordinate phrase in the
participial form. One story opened by answering the question “why” in a
“because” clause and two opened with “although.” Not one gave the time
or the place first in the sentence. In no case was the introductory
sentence long or involved.

The figures here compiled are instructive in showing that the modern
news writer wastes no time in preliminaries, but goes straight to the
heart of his story.

The first words of twenty typical leads of the 100 examined, indicating
their sentence structure, are here given:

    Eleven men were killed ...

    With two of the leading families of Monroe county arrayed
    against each other ...

    Two chivalrous firemen rescued ...

    Stirred by the disclosures ...

    With the arrival of the steamship ...

    Business reverses are said to have been the cause ...

    Evidence tending to prove that ...

    The United Wireless Station ...

    Three hundred insurgents ...

    Governor Hadley’s statement ...

    Sure of a prompt response ...

    A general denial ...

    Declaring the farmer to be the last person considered ...

    President Taft ...

    A verdict of ...

    The results of the ...

    With a dead man at the steering wheel, an automobile ...

    The “wet” or “dry” issue ...

    Indictment of twelve men ...

    Complaints have reached ...


I. Straightforward, simple news lead of an Associated Press dispatch,
broken up into three terse sentences:

    WASHINGTON, D. C., Nov. 19.--Four men were killed to-day by
    the premature explosion of a five-inch gun at the Indian Head
    Proving Grounds of the navy. The breech block of the gun, which
    was being tested, blew backward into the gun crew. Lieutenant
    Arthur G. Caffee was one of the men killed.

    The dead in addition to Lieutenant Caffee are:

    (List of the dead follows, then a detailed story half a column
    in length.)

(Note that all the essential questions are answered in this lead: Who?
“Four men,” giving names. What? “Killed.” When? “To-day.” Where? “At
the Indian Head Proving Grounds.” The cause of the explosion was not
determined, but the writer tells succinctly how the men were killed.)

II. Contrast the foregoing method with that of the following lead from
the Kansas City _Star_, in which a dramatic situation is emphasized by
holding the interest suspended. (The names are fictitious):


    The word rang distinctly in the clear air yesterday afternoon.
    A party of golf players watched a ball which went whizzing
    through the air from No. 4 to No. 5 hole on the golf links at
    Swope Park. Almost in their line of vision a puff of smoke went
    into the air. The faint sound of a shot reached them. They saw
    a man fall.

    John Smith, formerly a clerk for the Blank Brothers Coal
    Company, had shot and mortally wounded himself. Scores of
    golfers and other persons walking about the park rushed to the
    spot where Smith had fallen. The first to reach him was Mrs.
    J. W. Jones of 10 A street, who had been strolling about the
    park with her four children. She heard the revolver shot and
    saw Smith fall. The bullet had entered his head near the right
    temple and passed through.

    (The story continues to the extent of a column.)

(This story illustrates what has been said of the tendency, as regards
news of secondary importance, to work toward, rather than from, the
climax. A news lead of the type in I would have contained the fact
of the suicide in the first sentence. Note the effect of the short

III. The lead of another suicide story from the same newspaper in which
the method is more conventional:

    After suffering from acute rheumatism that had rendered
    him helpless three years, confining him to his home and
    necessitating his retirement from active business, John W.
    Williams, 50 years old, ended his life at 5 o’clock yesterday
    afternoon in his apartments at 20 West street by a revolver

(All the essential facts about the story are here told in a nutshell.
The lead could have stood as a complete story had space requirements
demanded that the succeeding paragraphs be “killed.”)

IV. Opening of a fire story from the Chicago _Record-Herald_ in which
the human-interest feature is “played up”:

    Seven families were driven to the streets and two sleeping
    infants rescued and carried from their cribs by their terrified
    mothers in a fire which last night attacked the Catalpa
    Apartments, 1727-29 Humboldt boulevard, causing a loss of

    The fire, which spread rapidly throughout the three-story
    brick apartment building, was caused by a faulty boiler in the
    basement. The flames rushed up the air shaft, thus attacking
    the three floors at practically the same time.

    The fire occurred early in the evening, before any of the
    families had retired, and this fact alone prevented probable

(Note how the writer has jumped right into the middle of things without
waste of words. While the human-interest element is made prominent,
other features of the story are not neglected.)

V. Lead showing that good news style does not demand that all the
salient facts be crowded into one sentence:

    LONDON, Nov. 18.--An army of 350 militant suffragettes tried to
    storm Parliament Friday. Charging with Amazonian fury against
    the double line of police about the building, they made half
    a dozen attempts to break through the cordon. Six women were

VI. Lead from the New York _Sun_ which begins with a direct quotation:

    “If hell stood in need of a king or queen there are people on
    earth to-day who could take the job and hold it down,” said
    Bishop Quayle of the Methodist Church, in a sermon he preached
    yesterday morning in the Washington Heights Church. Bishop
    Quayle, a product of Kansas City, is considered “a typical man
    of the West,” one who not only ventures to slap another man on
    the back, but whom another Westerner would dare slap on the

(Here the news writer has called attention to his story by picking out
and “featuring” a striking sentiment from the speaker’s remarks. The
second sentence skillfully characterizes the speaker and conveys the
idea that here is no stereotyped report of a sermon, as the reader
might have feared, but a pleasant, informal summary of its most
interesting points.)

VII. In which the story is summarized in a short opening quotation:

    LAREDO, TEX., Nov. 19.--“Mexico to-night faces the most serious
    crisis in recent years.”

    The foregoing statement made to-night by United States Consul
    Garrett at Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, just across the border,
    summarizes the situation as it exists now along the frontier.

VIII. Illustrating the use of direct quotation in the lead to give the
“atmosphere” of an interview:

    NEW YORK, Nov. 18.--“This is the age of woman, the domestic
    pet. Also it is the age of gold, which is necessary to the
    proper coddling of domestic pets.”

    This is one of the ideas which Miss Margaret McMillan has come
    to America to lecture about. Miss McMillan is not “another of
    those English suffragists.” She was born in Westchester, N. Y.,
    and is an authority in England on the education and needs of

IX. Lead in which the feature is put in indirect quotation:

    BALTIMORE, Nov. 12.--Drinking and cigarette smoking are not on
    the increase among the women of America, according to Lillian
    M. N. Stevens, president of the National Women’s Christian
    Temperance Union. Addressing the annual convention of the
    organization here to-day, she said in part:

    (Direct quotation follows.)

X. The chronological method of telling a story which is so short that a
summary of the facts in a formal lead would be useless:

    NYACK, N. Y., Oct. 27.--Joseph de Bonti, an 8-year-old boy of
    Haverstraw, before starting for school put a revolver cartridge
    in his mouth and began biting on it.

    The cartridge exploded and the boy fell to the floor dead, the
    bullet having gone upward through the brain.

XI. Example of the use that is sometimes made of an apt quotation to
precede a feature story. From the Kansas City _Star_:

    _Matilda wash the dishes; Lucinda fetch the broom;
     And Sookey set the chairs nice all around the room._
                                             --_Old Song_

    HUTCHINSON, KAN., Nov. 18.--Because Stubbs won in Kansas,
    Ernest Switzer, an employé of the Bell Telephone Company, must
    play the part of an unwilling Cinderella while the hired girl
    spends the evening taking in the canned drama at the motion
    picture shows.

XII. Where the time is the feature of the story:

    An hour before the funeral of his father was held yesterday,
    William Brown, 30 years old, was called from his home, 113 Z
    street, and arrested. The arrest was made at the request of the
    police of Chicago, etc.

XIII. Where the place is the feature of the story:

    GUTHRIE, OK., Nov. 17.--In rooms numbered 62, 47 and 32 at the
    Royal Hotel there is sweeping and dusting to-night. Governor
    Haskell has notified the landlord of the hotel that he will
    return to Guthrie early Saturday morning to resume his official
    residence, which he abandoned the night of June 11 to go to
    Oklahoma City.

XIV. Showing how the same story was epitomized by two different writers:

    1. From the Chicago _Record-Herald_:

    DENVER, Nov. 17.--Ralph Johnstone, the Wright brothers’ most
    daring aviator and the holder of the world’s record for
    altitude flights, fell 500 feet at Overland Park to-day, and
    broke every bone in his body. In attempting a “spiral glide” to
    the earth he forgot for a moment that the atmosphere here has
    not the carrying power of that to which he was accustomed, and
    death was his penalty.

    Many thousands of spectators were on the field when Johnstone
    fell, but only a few hundred of them actually saw the accident,
    for the attention of the great crowd was centered upon
    Johnstone’s partner, Hoxsey, then in air.

    2. From the Kansas City _Star_:

    DENVER, Nov. 17.--With one wing tip of his machine bent and
    broken, Ralph Johnstone, the aviator who held the world’s
    altitude record, fell from a height of five hundred feet
    into the inclosure at Overland Park aviation field late this
    afternoon and was killed. When the spectators crowded about
    the inclosure reached him, his body lay beneath the engine of
    the biplane with the white planes that had failed him wrapped
    about it like a shroud. Nearly every bone in his body was

XV. The following leads illustrate various faults. Criticize from the
point of view of style and re-write:

    1. Alleging a systematic police third degree by means of which
    she insists special officers of the Blank Street District have
    persecuted her 19-year-old son, John, Mrs. Mary Smith of 1010 C
    street appeared before Judge William Brown in chambers, Friday
    noon, and succeeded in laying before the judge evidence of such
    a character that the court held in abeyance its revocation of
    the young man’s parole. If the contention of the mother proves
    correct, Chief of Police Jones will likely take a hand and the
    Board of Police Commissioners may be given the matter.

    2. The three-story brick building at 140-158 D avenue was
    completely destroyed by fire early to-day, the blaze being
    extinguished only after three alarms had been sounded. The
    damage is estimated at $50,000. The building was occupied by
    the Blank Bag Company and was situated in the center of a
    factory section. The three hundred employés, men and women, are
    thrown out of work.

    3. At the meeting of the Blank Improvement Association at Smith
    Hall, Broadway and Wilson street, yesterday afternoon, a fight
    was proposed against the City Railways Company and a complaint
    will probably be filed in Police Court in a few days if the
    Eighth street car line is not extended to the city limits. They
    also want more cars during the rush hours over the present
    line. William Howard, manager of the City Railways, has
    refused to put on more cars to accommodate the traffic, it is



    There are numbers of people whose ideal paper is one in which
    the editorials shall be written by an Addison, a Lamb, or a
    Swift; the art criticism by a Ruskin; while the financial
    editor shall be an Adam Smith. It is a fairly safe guess that
    a newspaper with such a staff would have a life about as long
    as the ministry of all the talents. Imagine Mrs. Battle’s views
    on whist ... written in an hour at midnight. Good writing
    really consists of clearness of expression mingled with true
    literary form. And these are qualities not unobtainable even in
    a daily paper, as Mr. Strachey (editor of the London Spectator)
    himself admitted.--From an editorial in the _Christian Science
    Monitor_, Boston.

    I have always cared much for style and have endeavored to
    improve my own by reading a great deal of the best English and
    French prose. In writing, as in music, much of the perfection
    of style is a question of ear, but much also depends on the
    ideal the writer sets before himself. He ought, I think, to aim
    at the greatest possible simplicity and accuracy of expression,
    at vividness and force, at condensation. The last two heads
    will usually be found to blend; for condensation, when it is
    not attained at the sacrifice of clearness, is the great secret
    of force. I should say, from my own experience, that most
    improvements of style are of the nature either of condensation
    or of increased accuracy and delicacy of distinction.--From the
    Memoirs of W. E. H. LECKY.

Most news stories, as already pointed out, work backward from effect
to cause. In the story of a fire, for example, the writer first sets
forth the most important results of the fire. If there were no features
of obvious news interest, such as the loss of life or heavy property
loss, he may cast about for picturesque details that will enable him
to give a novel turn to his story. In either event he begins with the
effect. The lead written, containing perhaps a suggestion of the cause,
he proceeds to tell the story in detail. Usually the facts are put down
in the order of their importance, unessential details being reserved
for the last paragraph.

This method may be departed from, of course, if the most striking fact
about the fire was not the result but the manner of its starting. If
the fire, in itself unimportant, was one of a series started by an
incendiary, the feature of the story manifestly is found in the cause
and not in the effect. The lead in that case would be built on the
cause, which is the reason for printing the story.


In any case the story begins with the main fact and moves toward the
contributory incidents. Keeping his lead in mind, to avoid needless
repetition, the writer expands his story to the required length by the
addition of details. What he shall tell is determined partly by his
judgment of news values and partly by the space limit the editor has
set. Told to write half a column, he is expected to fill that space
and no more. The correspondent who wires, in reply to an order for 300
words, that he can’t tell his story in less than 1,000, is certain to
call down the wrath of the telegraph editor. The city reporter who
cannot or will not compress his story into the space allotted him is
not likely to remain long on the payroll. No matter what your personal
opinion of the news value of your story, remember that the editor is
the judge.

Another phase of “writing to space” presents itself, and this has more
to do with the gathering than with the writing of news. The writer
needs the ability to compress his story; he needs, too, to learn
the art of expansion. The order to write half a column may find him
unprepared if he has failed, as a news gatherer, to collect sufficient
details to fill that space. The problem now is not one of cutting down
the facts, but of telling all the facts he can muster. Ordered to
write a certain number of words, the reporter is assumed to have the
necessary information about his story. He is expected to tell the story
without padding and without faking.

It may be said here incidentally, since the subject is one of perennial
discussion outside of newspaper offices, that faking is not tolerated
by any reputable newspaper. A reporter who manufactures news may
succeed in deceiving his office a few times, but eventually he will
be found out and dismissed. Harmless exaggeration in giving a story
local color is often permitted, but no self-respecting city editor will
publish a story that a reporter tells him is untrue. There remains but
one solution to the problem of expansion and that is to get more facts.
The reporter should bear this in mind in covering his story. To be
on the safe side, he should get all the details possible in the time
available. Then, when he returns to his office, he will be prepared if
the city editor calls for a longer story than he had expected to write.

Even though the reporter is ordered to write only a few lines, the
labor spent in covering a story thoroughly is not wasted. Having a
complete knowledge of his subject, he is better able to determine
what are the main facts and to present them in right proportion.
Incomplete investigation leaves a reporter with the fear that he may
have overlooked something essential which a rival news gatherer has
found. The good reporter--and he is the one who is most likely to be a
good news writer--spares no effort in running down every smallest clew
that may help him to understand his story. Persistent investigation,
even when the story on the surface appears commonplace, may uncover an
important feature and enable the reporter to score a notable beat for
his paper.

What the newspaper demands is that the writer shall tell his story so
that every sentence adds something new to it. The order to expand a
story, viewed in this light, does not contradict what has been said
of the need of brevity. In adding to your story to bring it to the
prescribed length, avoid senseless repetition of details. Don’t repeat
an idea in different words simply to fill space. Try to make every
sentence count. Bear in mind what you have told in the lead and strive
to set forth the details in relation to the main facts. If your lead
is built on the rescue of a woman by firemen, tell the details so they
will contribute to the effect of the opening statement; don’t switch
your attention to the man who turned in the alarm and forget the
rescue. The turning in of the alarm is probably a trivial detail and,
if mentioned at all, should not be allowed to clog the movement of the
story. “Don’t worry about who called the ambulance or who turned in
the alarm” is one of the rules in the New York _Herald’s_ pamphlet of
instructions to reporters.


The ideal news story, from the standpoint of mechanics, can be cut off
at almost any paragraph and yet remain self-explanatory. This is the
direct result of telling the facts in the order of their importance
and making the story explain itself as it proceeds. The story that
fails materially in this respect receives scant courtesy from the city
editor. If passed on to the composing room without revision, it might
cause trouble in the make-up of the paper should the necessity arise
of cutting it down to make room for later and more important news.
Properly written, the story can be shortened by taking off paragraphs
from the bottom up. Thus the method of writing the body of the story is
suited to the mechanical limitations of the paper.

To understand this fully some knowledge of the manner of making up the
paper is necessary. One unacquainted with newspaper work may wonder
idly now and then how the editors manage each day to get just enough
news matter to make the paper “come out even.” The reporter learns
quickly that a vast deal that is written for the paper never gets
into print. Much is cut out of the copy; what survives and is set into
type is often still further subjected to pruning. It is the business
of the make-up editor, who watches the type set into the forms in the
composing room, to see that the big stories are displayed according to
schedule in the most prominent positions in the paper, with the minor
news tapering off. On Page 1 he puts the cream of the day’s news--the
stories that seem most likely to attract the reader--on the same
principle that the merchant puts his most attractive wares in his show
window. Suppose now that late news is received that makes it necessary
to cut down something in type. It is only a few minutes before press
time; there is not time to shorten a story by rewriting it. If the
story he decides to cut has been constructed strictly according to
rule, the editor has only to take off enough from the end to make the
space he requires. In actual practice, however, he may be compelled to
use considerable ingenuity in making his cuts, taking out a paragraph
here, a line there, and possibly writing a new line to hold the
remaining parts of the story together in logical sequence.

Resetting of type, a source of delay and expense, is avoided whenever
possible. For this reason care should be taken in marking proofs,
especially late proofs, not to make unnecessary changes that would
require the resetting of several lines. If a word is to be taken out,
try to substitute matter to fill the space so that only one new line
will need to be set.

It is not necessary that the reporter know the mechanical side of
newspaper making in order to write a good story, but a general
knowledge of this phase of the work is desirable. It has been truly
said that every scrap of information the reporter possesses may at some
time be turned to account. This is true also of information regarding
the workings of the newspaper, in his own and other departments.
Knowing how stories are pruned down in the composing room, he will be
less inclined to bury the main facts of his story in the last paragraph.

While the same general principles of news writing apply to all
newspapers, the need of making the story explain itself as it proceeds
is more pronounced on the evening than on the morning newspaper. The
morning paper seldom prints more than three editions and hence there is
less occasion for “making over” than on the evening paper with its half
dozen or more editions. The story that occupies a column in the first
edition of the evening paper may be reduced to a paragraph before the
end of the day. Then, too, the greater speed with which the evening
paper is turned out makes it imperative that a story be so written that
it can be changed with the least possible delay.

Do not get the idea from the foregoing that your story should be a
dry-as-dust recital of bare facts. Try to weave your facts together
into a coherent story that will hold the reader’s attention at every
point. The best news story moves with a swing that carries the reader
swiftly and easily along from the lead to the conclusion, and leaves
him at the end with a definite and clear idea of what he has read. From
the standpoint of the reader there is added reason for making the story
self-explanatory as it goes. If he does not care to read to the end,
the story nevertheless should stand complete in his mind, as far as the
essential facts are concerned, at whatever point he leaves off. The
novelist’s hint that something startling will be disclosed later has no
place in the news story.

Certain of the general rules that govern all good writing are
applicable in even greater degree to news writing. Be careful not to
omit essential words. The omission of the word “not,” for example,
may reverse the meaning of an entire sentence. The same is true of
an omitted or a misplaced comma. Observe the standard rules of
punctuation, with any special rules that may be in force on your paper.
Use pronouns guardedly; it is better to repeat a name than run the risk
of ambiguity. For the same reason the words “former” and “latter” are
frowned upon by many newspapers. Although needless repetition of ideas
should be avoided, don’t be afraid to repeat a word if that is the
simplest, most direct way of conveying your thought. A dog is a dog; it
is absurd to call it a “canine” (and “canine,” by the way, should be
used only as an adjective), simply to avoid repeating the word.

Put life and vigor into your story. An apt metaphor may express an idea
vividly and at the same time save many words. What has been said of
the advisability of short, telling sentences in the lead applies also
to the body of the story. It is a good general rule to avoid sentences
that would fill more than seven lines of type.

In trying to give your story freshness and originality do not go to
the extreme of flippancy, especially in writing of a serious subject.
Flippancy is not cleverness, though it often passes for such in the
writer’s own estimation. You will not err in this direction if you make
your story fair. Dialect should be used sparingly, if at all, and it
should never be used when there is a chance that it will offend a large
group of readers.

Remember the injunction to keep yourself out of the story. The
experiences of a reporter in getting a story are seldom of any interest
outside of the circle of his fellow workers. Let the story speak for
itself. Now and then an occasion may arise that would justify the
reporter in recounting his adventures, but in any such event he should
first consult the city editor.

Unless you are pressed for time, read over your story before you hand
it to the city editor and make sure that you have let no errors creep
in. Read it, too, after it appears in print and note what changes, if
any, have been made. Everyone makes mistakes--but the news writer can’t
afford to make the same mistake twice.


I. The following account of a disastrous fire illustrates the standard
newspaper method of handling a big story. Observe that the climax--the
death of twenty-five girls in a fire-trap--comes first. That is the
vital fact, beside which all other features are of minor importance.
The paragraphs are numbered for reference:

    1. NEWARK, N. J., Nov. 26.--Twenty-five girls were burned alive
    or crushed to death on the pavement in ten minutes this morning
    in leaping from the windows and fire escapes of the four-story
    brick factory occupied by paper-box companies at 216 High
    street, corner of Orange. The fire caught from a blaze which
    started in some gasoline used in cleaning an electric lamp.

    2. Nearly all the victims were young women employés. The latest
    count to-night showed that sixteen bodies recovered have been
    identified and that six girls are still missing. They may be
    among the unidentified dead or they may be in the ruins. The
    collapse of a wall late to-night interrupted further search.
    Forty-nine were taken to hospitals, and two of them may die.

    (List of the dead and fatally injured follows, this account
    having been published in a newspaper in a nearby city.)

    3. Among the injured is Joseph E. Sloane, deputy fire chief,
    who was overtaken by the falling wall and buried in bricks and
    rubbish. He is badly hurt, but may recover.

    4. The ambulance from the City Hospital and the patrol wagons
    from all the precincts were dispatched to the scene. An immense
    crowd kept the police busy.

    5. One of the spectators said that at least fifteen girls had
    jumped from the fourth floor of the burning structure. With
    the exception of two girls employed by the Ætna company, all
    the employés on the first and second floors of the building
    escaped, either by means of the exits or the one fire escape.
    The two girls suffered burns about the head and face.

    6. Twenty of the injured were taken to St. Michael’s Hospital
    in the ambulance. The salvage automobile took four more. Of
    these two died after reaching the hospital.

    7. Life nets were put into use immediately after the arrival
    of the firemen. Perhaps thirty lives were saved in this way.
    One girl, Hattie Delapey, was badly hurt by striking the edge
    of the net and falling to the pavement. Another girl suffered
    a broken ankle. Eugene McHugh, a foreman in the employ of the
    Ætna company, guided several scores of girls in his employ to
    safety down a fire escape. Nearly all escaped injury.

    8. Less than twenty minutes after the arrival of the firemen
    the interior of the building was flame-swept. The floors of
    the upper part of the building fell shortly afterward. It is
    believed that a search of the building will reveal other bodies.

    9. Among those who were early at the scene was the Reverend E.
    F. Quirk, assistant rector of St. Joseph’s Church. He gave last
    rites of the church to seven of the victims. Mr. Quirk said
    he counted twenty-three prostrate forms on the sidewalk. All
    were young women who had leaped from the upper windows of the

    10. The rush of the flames was so swift and threw such
    unreasoning terror into the huddled working girls on the top
    story, that the body of one was found still seated on a charred
    stool beside the machine at which she had been busy when the
    first cry of “Fire!” petrified her with fright.

    11. Horrible as must have been what went on in the smoke of
    that crowded upper room, what befell outside in the bright
    sunlight was yet more horrible. The building was furiously
    inflammable and the first gush of flames had cut off all
    possibility of escape by the stairways. The elevator made one
    trip, but took down no passengers and never came back.

    12. The only exit was by two narrow fire escapes, the lower
    platforms of which were twenty-five feet from the street. On to
    these overcrowded and steep lanes, scorched dancing hot by the
    jets from lower windows, pressed forward a mob of women, blind
    with panic, driven by the fire and the others behind them.

    13. A net had been spread beneath the windows, and the girls
    began to jump. “Like rats out of a burning bin,” was the way
    a fireman described that pell-mell descent. Some of them were
    dashed off the fire escape to the pavement sixty feet below.
    Others stood in the windows outlined against the flames and
    jumped clear; others from the landings; still others from the
    steps where they stood. The air was full of them and they fell
    everywhere--into the net, on the firemen, and fifteen of them
    on the stone slabs.

    14. When the awful rain of human bodies ceased there were eight
    dead in the street. Seven more were so badly crushed that they
    died in hospitals. Fifty are still under surgeons’ care.

    15. Clouds of smoke and showers of burning embers spread over
    the city. (Further details follow. The foregoing, with the
    headlines, fills one column.)

(A laboratory guide to the analysis of the story:

Paragraph 1.--Note that the essential points are summarized in the
opening sentence. There is no attempt to describe the “lurid flames,”
no philosophizing, but a plain, terse account of what happened--the
result of the fire. A brief statement of the cause follows. Often a
story of this kind begins coming into the office just before an edition
goes to press. If the story is constructed on the right plan, the
lead can be sent to the composing room as a complete story for that
edition, while the rest is put into type to be added in succeeding

Paragraph 2.--Further details concerning the loss of life. Observe
how the elements of greatest interest, those relating to persons, not
things, are kept uppermost. Temporarily the fire itself is ignored;
what the reader wants to know about is the effect of the fire on its
victims. So, too, the destruction of the factory, under ordinary
conditions worthy of being “played up” in the lead because of the
heavy property loss, is passed over as of minor consequence. Detailed
information about the victims is properly given early in the story, to
answer the questions that first come into the minds of their families
and friends.

Paragraph 3.--Here the name of the deputy fire chief, who was hurt
while on duty, is singled out for special mention.

Paragraph 4.--Detailed story of the fire begins. The facts here told
indicate the magnitude of the disaster.

Paragraphs 5 and 6.--Further human-interest details.

Paragraphs 7 and 8.--Note the short sentences. The story moves swiftly
from fact to fact. The writer is telling what happened, without
commenting on it.

Paragraph 9.--Human-interest feature deemed worthy of a prominent place
in the story.

Paragraph 10.--Effective description of the quick spread of the fire by
means of incident. At this point the “fine writer” might have lugged in
his artillery of adjectives. Note the opposite method--the right news
method--of telling specific details.

Paragraph 11.--Continuation of the same method. “The elevator made
one trip, but took down no passengers and never came back,” is finely

Paragraphs 12 and 13.--Swift, vivid description by specific details.
The precision with which the story is told, indicating accurate
observation, is noteworthy, as in “twenty-five feet from the street,”
“sixty feet below,” “fifteen of them on the stone slabs.” The exact
figures are obviously far more effective than a vague expression such
as “a number of.”

Paragraph 14.--Detailed summary. Note that every sentence adds
something to the story. There is no padding.

Paragraph 15.--The story continues a column from this point, fact piled
on fact in the order of importance. A story written in this manner has
been likened to a pyramid. It may be cut from the bottom up at almost
any point and yet stand complete.)

II. Another kind of fire story, from the New York _World_, in which
the news value is not so obvious as in the foregoing. Here the writer
has seized upon the human-interest feature and developed his story
accordingly. The fire in itself was of no importance:

    Fire visited last night the lodging house conducted by Mrs.
    Hannah Tracy, 102 years old, and Mrs. Sarah Wrinn, ninety-five
    years old, at No. 803 Washington street, and now the two aged
    landladies, who never demanded board money in advance, are in
    Bellevue and their boarders are minus their care.

    Children playing in front of the old-fashioned brick house near
    the Gansevoort Market saw smoke coming from the basement, where
    the two women had their living quarters. Little Arthur Weldon
    of No. 826 Washington street ran to a fire box and gleefully
    sent in a call. Margaret Havlick and Elizabeth Irving, also of
    No. 826, skipped across to the store of Joseph White with the

    White ran to No. 803, broke in the basement door and found
    that a cat that looked to be at least one hundred years old
    had upset an oil lamp on a table and that the table cover was
    burning. He threw the cover to the floor and stamped out the
    flames. Then he sprang into a rear room and found Mrs. Tracy
    in bed, feebly calling for help, while Mrs. Wrinn lay on the
    floor. He carried them out, one at a time.

    Though they had not inhaled much smoke their advanced ages
    led an ambulance surgeon from St. Vincent’s Hospital to take
    them to Bellevue. Neighbors said the women were sisters. Mrs.
    Tracy’s husband kept a dry goods store in Christopher street
    fifty years ago and when he died left her a little money.

    Mrs. Tracy is known in the neighborhood as “Mother” Tracy.
    Children have made it a point to follow her in the street,
    for she often distributed cents from her little old-fashioned

(An exception that proves a rule already stated is found in the
second paragraph, which tells how a child turned in the fire alarm.
An effective touch of local color is added in the last paragraph. The
story is a good example of restraint in writing. No undue effort is
made to impress the reader with the underlying pathos, but the facts,
simply and concisely told, are allowed to speak for themselves. The
headlines on the published story were: “Sisters, 102 and 95, Put in
Peril by Cat--Children in Street Give Alarm After Animal Knocks Over
Lamp and Starts Fire.”)

III. Write a story of 300 to 350 words from the following notes. Do not
manufacture any details, but put those here given into the form of a
readable news story:

    Fire in brick tenement, 193 Adams street, 10 o’clock last
    night. Damage $2,000, estimated by Assistant Fire Chief Dunn.
    Cause was the explosion of lamp on second floor. All the
    tenants got out safely except Charles Lawrence, 35, a painter,
    who lived with his wife and three children on the top, fifth,
    floor. He was asleep in bed when his wife called out that the
    house was on fire and told him to get out quick. He got out of
    bed and told her to go along with the kids; said he would come
    as soon as he got his clothes on. She went with the children
    and on the stairway met Patrolmen Quinn and Brown. Told them
    her husband had delayed to dress. The building was filling with
    smoke and they turned their attention to rescuing those on the
    lower floors. When the firemen heard that Lawrence was still
    in the house, they went to his room and found him lying face
    downward on the floor, unconscious. He had inhaled smoke. He
    died in an ambulance on the way to the City Hospital. The fire
    was extinguished in forty-five minutes.



    Richard Whiteing, the English novelist, is a strong believer
    that the art of literature has no greater aid than daily
    journalism. Speaking once he said:

    “Some foolish people have said that daily journalism is killing
    literature in its highest forms. I say, to the contrary, that
    the daily paper provides a sort of first course in literature,
    and I am an immense admirer of the clear, incisive style
    adopted by the halfpenny press.

    “It stimulates curiosity, and when once you have done that in
    any human being you have started him on the right road. The one
    deadly thing is apathy. The cow in the field has no note of
    interrogation. The savage might see an aëroplane and not wonder.

    “You can lead a man from the curbstone to the stars when you
    have once made him curious. A newspaper forces a man to be

    “The dear old truth--that’s all we want. The truth is so
    beautiful, so amazingly interesting, so much more wonderful
    than fiction. Therefore I say that, quite apart from morality,
    it is policy for a paper to tell the truth.”--_The Fourth

The feature story, as the name indicates, has more to do with the
development of some interesting feature suggested by the day’s news
than with the strict presentation of news for its own sake. It is
therefore not subject to the same rules that govern the writing of
the news story. Indeed it can hardly be said that the feature story
is subject to any rules, except those that apply to composition in
general. Individuality in style counts for more in the feature story
than in the news story that has no other purpose than to inform.
Greater freedom is allowed the writer; he is not required, for one
thing, to summarize his story in the lead. On the contrary, he may
employ the fictional method of working up to a climax. The main end of
all feature writing is to make the story interesting. If the writer
succeeds in this, it does not much matter on what plan his story is


What the feature story is can be indicated by showing what it is not.
In the first place, it is not a skeletonized recital of bare facts.
This was amusingly brought out by the New York _Sun_ in reply to the
statement of a college professor that the journalism of the future
would be “wholly without decorative effects.” The _Sun_ gave half a
dozen examples of what might be expected from a journalism of that
type. Here is the _Sun’s_ “Report of a Suicide”:

    The body of a young woman was removed from the river at the
    foot of 309th street by the harbor police yesterday afternoon.

    Pinned to her dress was a note stating that she purposed
    committing suicide, signed Edith G. Wannaquit.

    The young woman was about twenty-six years of age. She was not
    at all beautiful. She was, in fact, noticeably plain of feature.

    Her fingers were not covered with magnificent diamonds. She
    wore no rings at all. Her clothing was of the most inexpensive

    There is no mystery whatever connected with the case, nor have
    the police authorities the slightest idea that she was the
    victim of foul play.

    It is deemed positive from her appearance that she did not
    belong to some distinguished family of this community. The
    young woman simply had become tired of living and she jumped
    into the river--that is all. The case is wholly lacking in any
    element or feature of a sensational character. The names of the
    Wannaquit family appear in the city directory but no inquiries
    were made of any members of the family, the case not being
    deemed of sufficient importance.

It must not be inferred that the feature story, or any other kind of
news story, should distort the facts. The writer in the _Sun_ has
merely attempted to reduce to the absurd the theory that journalism
should put aside attractiveness in writing for a bare summary of facts.
The modern newspaper, while its main purpose is still to inform, is
coming more and more to be a source of entertainment also. It aims to
instruct, but in such a manner that the reader will not be bored.


After a day’s work normal men and women want to be amused. They are
willing to receive instruction, too, but prefer it in the guise of
entertainment. Therefore the newspaper incorporates features that may
be likened to a vaudeville show. The comic supplement is the most
pronounced feature of this kind. Between the two extremes of the comic
supplement and the editorial columns are feature stories on an infinite
variety of subjects, designed to be instructive, entertaining or simply

This encroachment of the newspapers on the magazines has opened up a
vast new field to the special writer. Signed articles, ranging from
beauty talks to sermons on civic ideals, may be found on the editorial
pages of many enterprising journals of wide circulation. Perhaps a
separate page, bearing some such title as “Magazine Section” or “The
Home Readers’ Page,” may be given to this class of articles. The bulky
Sunday issue is made up in large part of similar features. Although
this branch of modern newspaper making is distinct from the strict
presentation of news and hence does not fall within the scope of this
book, it is mentioned here as indicative of the newspaper’s aim to
furnish attractive reading for all classes.

The feature story, as the news writer uses the term, is usually
unsigned and is written for the news columns. It is not, however,
what has been called the plain news story--that is, a story told only
because of its news value as a recent happening. The feature story must
be timely; it should have also an element of attractiveness, through
its humor or its pathos, that may be lacking in the story written only
to inform.


Many feature stories may be classified under what the newspaper man
calls human-interest stories. The human-interest story is just what the
name implies. It is written not for its immediate value as news, but
for its power to affect the reader through his emotions--to make him
smile or to arouse his sympathy. Its appeal is directed to the interest
that people feel in the intimate doings of other people.

Real human interest cannot be faked. The writer must have seen and
understood his story before he can tell it in a way to impress the
reader with its truth. Much depends on the manner of the telling. A
pathetic story loses its power if it descends to pathos; a humorous
story must be something more than mere flippancy. There is special
need that the writer choose his words carefully. Perhaps the best
prescription for all kinds of human-interest stories, especially
those designed to arouse the reader’s sympathy, is to write simply
and naturally. False emotion is easily detected. Here again the
writer should remember that the short, Anglo-Saxon words are the most
effective. Ninety-seven per cent. of the words in the Bible are from
the Anglo-Saxon. Numerous instances might be cited of human-interest
stories that have moved newspaper readers to contribute generously
toward the alleviation of suffering. Such stories are not editorials.
The writer does not say: This is a pathetic story. He simply tells the
facts, and if the story is truly pathetic nothing in the way of “fine
writing” is needed or desirable.


The city editor is often called upon to determine whether a happening
shall be treated only as news or shall be expanded into a feature,
or human-interest, story. The story of an aged miser’s death, for
example, may be worth only a paragraph if written for its immediate
news value alone. But underlying the surface facts there may be a
story of intense human interest--the man’s life story. The field of
investigation that opens before the news gatherer is fraught with
possibilities. It is for him to clothe the skeleton of the story with
the flesh and blood of reality. What of the man’s early life? Why his
passion for hoarding money? What deprivations did he undergo to gratify
that passion? These and other questions come trooping to the mind of
the reporter in his quest of the story. The mere fact of the miser’s
death becomes incidental--it is the “peg,” as the city editor says, on
which the story hangs. What the reporter finds becomes the basis of a
human-interest story. A paragraph stating simply that an old man known
to his neighbors as a miser had died would mean little to the vast
majority of readers, but the story of the man’s life, properly told,
has the perennial interest of human tragedy.

Willingness to dig for facts goes a long way toward success in


The magazine section of the big Sunday newspaper is made up almost
altogether of feature stories. Usually the two outer pages of the
section are in colors, and for these pages stories are demanded that
lend themselves readily to vivid color treatment. A story unimportant
in itself may be spread over an entire page if it is adaptable to a
big, colorful illustration. Such would be a story of a new and odd
style of quadrille or round dancing or a speculative story about the
possibilities of airships. The story itself is subordinated to the
pictures. Soberer color pages may be made of the pictures of public
buildings, of a city’s skyline and the like, with a short explanatory

The inside features of the Sunday magazine are seldom written in
the style of the news story. The news element merely furnishes the
suggestion, and with that as a basis the writer handles the story in
its universal application. For instance, a news item telling of the
death of a motor car driver in a race may suggest a page story about
all the drivers who have met death in a similar manner. Past events as
a rule are dealt with only as they affect present or future conditions.
Thus a news story about a rich man’s death may later be expanded into
a page article about the effect of his fortune on the living. The story
of a queer will may be the “peg” for a page of speculation about wills
in general, with all sorts of other queer wills mentioned.

The magazine section is made ready two or three weeks in advance of the
date of publication. This fact must be kept in mind by the writer to
avoid inconsistency.


I. A feature story dependent for its value on an original method of
treatment. From the St. Louis _Post-Dispatch_:

    There was material for a good moving picture film in the
    adventure of Alec Jones, a Cape Girardeau visitor, at Union
    Station Wednesday night. Jones left in such a hurry that he
    failed to copyright the lively scenario he created, and anybody
    who wants it can have it without royalties.

    This is about the way it will be described when it gets into
    the film journals:

        JONES AND HIS GRIP.--Jones, from Southeast Missouri,
        is waiting in Union Station to take a train which
        leaves in an hour. Every time the train caller makes
        an announcement, Jones thinks his train is about to
        leave, and rushes for the door. Just before the first
        call comes, he is sitting beside a middle-aged woman on
        one of the round seats surrounding a pillar. She thinks
        he is sitting too near her and moves with some show of
        indignation to the other side of the pillar.

        She neglects to move her big carpet bag, and in his
        excitement at the train call, Jones takes the carpet
        bag instead of his own satchel. He rushes up to the
        train caller to ask about his train, and that official
        motions him back to his seat. He sits down beside an
        old man. In the meantime the middle-aged woman misses
        her carpet bag, and, finding the satchel in its place,
        opens it and is horrified to behold a pair of wool
        socks, a flask and other masculine belongings. She
        rushes around the waiting room hunting her carpet bag,
        and reaches Jones just as he is aroused by another
        train call.

        This time he leaves her carpet bag and picks up the
        heavy suit case belonging to the old man beside him.
        Again Jones finds out that his train is not ready, and
        retires to another seat, where a carpenter is dozing
        with his kit of tools beside him. Just as the old
        man, seeking his suit case and guided by the woman,
        reaches him, Jones jumps up again and carries off the
        carpenter’s kit, leaving the old man’s suit case in its
        place. The carpenter, the old man and the woman follow
        him and a policeman straightens matters out.

    Sergeant Meehan of the Union Station police squad says it all

(Note the informality of the introduction. The story aims to amuse the
reader--nothing more. It is a rule of most newspapers that no story
shall end with indented matter: hence the last paragraph. The headlines
are in keeping with the spirit of the story: “What Happened to Jones?
Well, Here’s the Yarn--Being the Comedy of Alec From Cape Girardeau and
His Various Valises.”)

II. A feature story in subject matter and treatment. From the Kansas
City _Star_:

    “Eyes made while you wait” is not the sign on the door, but it
    might be, for that is the way they do it. Artificial eyes are
    being made to order in Independence, and it takes only about
    a half-hour to send a customer out with a “made eye” that
    scarcely can be distinguished from his natural one.

    The laboratory is in a little room on the third floor of the
    Metropolitan Hotel.

    The work is being done in Independence because manufactured gas
    is available for fuel there. Natural gas is not rich enough,
    and will not stand the heavy pressure that is necessary in
    making artificial eyes. From a connection with the city gas
    pipes, Mr. Kohler passes the gas through a little blowpipe
    equipped with an apparatus for producing extreme heat.

    “Thousands of artificial eyes are kept in stock,” said Mr.
    Merry, “but there is an advantage in making the eye to order.
    The slightest peculiarity in size, shape or color in the
    natural eye can be reproduced exactly in the artificial one.”

    The foundation of the process of manufacture is a glass tube
    about three-fourths of an inch in diameter. The tubes vary
    slightly in color and in quality. Under the blowpipe a small
    portion of a tube is melted off and shaped into an eye. The
    color is put in by very delicate processes, and even any
    abnormal peculiarity of the natural eye is reproduced.

    A young man was “sitting for an eye” this morning when a
    visitor called. Kohler, glancing alternately from the natural
    eye of the customer to the blowpipe and back again, quickly
    modeled an eye to fill that particular need.

    “In many cases they have more than one eye made while they
    are at it,” said Mr. Merry. “Unless handled very carefully,
    the eyes are easily broken, either by falling or from sudden
    changes of temperature. Some persons are so careless with their
    glass eyes--they roll them around as though they were marbles.
    We had one customer in Kansas City who had twenty-four eyes
    made a year ago, and who already has broken five of them. But
    that is not the fault of the maker of the eyes.”

(Enough of the story is given here to indicate the method. Tell one
thing that has been omitted. Note the absence of technical terms. The
writer tells the things about the making of glass eyes that interested
him and hence are most likely to interest the general reader. A
technical description of the process would fall flat as a newspaper
story. The lead--“eyes made while you wait”--piques the reader’s

III. A human-interest story told simply and in good taste. From the New
York _World_:

    Flowers, the smiles of his fiancée and the commendation of his
    superiors went with Patrolman George A. Pattison when he limped
    out of New York Hospital last night on crutches and with one
    leg gone.

    Just two weeks ago Pattison lay on the sidewalk at Forty-second
    street and Fifth avenue, one leg badly crushed by a surface
    car, and smiled up at Deputy Commissioner Driscoll when that
    man patted his shoulder and said, “Too bad!”

    “It’s all right, Commissioner,” said Pattison. “We must expect
    such things in our business.”

    When they heard he was to leave the hospital yesterday his
    comrades in the West Thirtieth Station determined he should
    see there were other things in “our business” and that “our
    business” wasn’t entirely the suppression of emotion.

    So last night the men of the Tenderloin Station made up a
    purse. Some of it was set aside to pay for a taxicab for
    the long trip from the hospital to the policeman’s home in
    New Brighton, Staten Island, and the rest went to Broadway
    florists. Inspector George McClusky and Captain Samuel McElroy
    rode in the flower-filled cab to the hospital. There they were
    met by Miss Mary Lynch, who will be married to the policeman as
    soon as he is fully recovered.

    She led them to Pattison and they told him everybody in the
    department knew he was a man and that Miss Lynch would never
    regret her marriage to him. And he needn’t worry about his
    future, for his pay would be the same, though he would be a
    clerk at Headquarters when he was able to go to work again.

    There were tears in Pattison’s eyes as he tried to thank
    everybody for the good feeling displayed. Then he was helped
    down the stairs. When he found the taxicab was almost filled
    with flowers he didn’t trust himself to speak, but wrung the
    hands of his friends.

    Then, with his fiancée among the flowers, he started for his
    mother’s home, while inspector and captain waved their caps.

IV. Write a feature story of not more than 1,000 words, on any topic
that you believe people would like to read about. The following
are given as suggestive of the possibilities of a small town: The
oldest house in town; how the streets were named; an interview with
the railroad station agent on the people he meets; if a college
town, a story of the students who earn their own expenses; organized
charities--get the human side; hunters’ licenses--number--revenue
from--women hunters, if any--possibly talks with some of the hunters;
birth rate for a given period compared with the death rate; marriage
licenses--minors who have been married--the favorite month for
weddings; collections of antiquities; recent improvements, such as
street paving; condition of the city jail; the oldest man; the oldest
woman; persons in town above the age of 90; women’s clubs; the public
schools--how the attendance compares with that of previous years--talks
with the superintendent and teachers on their work and plans; former
citizens who have become famous; the moving picture shows--how many
attend daily--talks with the show managers about the growth of the
moving picture business; any unusual industry, such as the making of
corn-cob pipes; number of automobiles in town--condition of the country
roads--farmers who own automobiles; the public library--what books are
most read--effect of the seasons on the number and character of the
books read; the post office--amount of stamp sales--odd addresses on
letters--hardships of rural route carriers. The list might be extended



    They (teaching and accompanying reading) can suggest the
    proper relation between subject and style--the man whose
    style is too big or too small for his subject is the born
    prey of the parodist; they can call attention to the balance
    proper to be observed between narrative and dialogue, and
    show by reference to the masters (to Sterne and Congreve,
    for example), how vividness and dramatic suspense may be
    imparted to dialogue without loss of naturalness; they may
    incite the hearer to learn from Steele that writing may be
    very simple yet very distinguished, from Stevenson that
    subtlety is one thing and obscurity quite another. The
    professor can, and should, preach with parrot-like persistency,
    “Lucidity--lucidity--lucidity!”--Said by Anthony Hope on the
    writing of novels, but applicable also to the news story; from
    the _University Magazine_, Toronto.

An interview in the newspaper sense, the dictionary says, is “a
conversation held for the purpose of obtaining the opinions of a person
for publication.” The term may be applied both to the process of
questioning by a reporter to elicit information, and to the published
statement. An interview may be informal or formal--that is, it may be
incidental to the end of making a story complete or it may be the end
in itself.


The city editor’s fourth dimension would make it possible for him
to have a reporter present at every happening which the newspaper
chronicles. Every story would thus be obtained at first hand. Such
a condition being manifestly impossible, the reporter usually is
compelled to rely on the information furnished him by others.

Sometimes, of course, a reporter’s assignment is such that he can see
the story unfolding before him, as at a fire or a court trial, and he
is enabled to write more vividly than if his facts had come to him
second-hand. Every reporter dreams of the day when he will have the
chance to write a big story that he has seen in the making. It is
related that a group of New York newspaper men were discussing the
biggest possible story that could “break.” The ideas of all were summed
up by the oldest of the group: “Suppose Brooklyn Bridge, at the height
of the evening rush homeward, should fall, and I should be there, just
at the edge, the only reporter who saw it--that would be the biggest
story that could happen!”

On most of his assignments the reporter must trust to others for
many, if not all, of his facts. Covering the story of an automobile
accident, for example, he must see the story through the eyes of those
who were present. These persons he interviews informally. From the
information obtained in this way, supplemented by his own observation
of the visible results of the accident, the reporter culls the
salient facts and writes the story in his own words. What he is sure
of he makes his own; other facts he may put in the form of indirect
quotation, while occasionally he may quote a person directly.

Interviewing in its broad sense is thus at the basis of nearly
all newspaper reporting, because nearly all stories deal with
persons--their doings and opinions. Even in covering the story which
the reporter is fortunate enough to observe, a certain amount of
interviewing may still be necessary to make the story complete. If it
is a fire story, he probably questions the owner about the loss and the
insurance and plans for rebuilding; he interviews various persons to
find out the cause of the fire; he talks, perhaps, to persons who have
been rescued and their rescuers. These and other facts can be obtained
only by asking questions.

Except when a story is dependent on what a person has said, in a
speech or a formal interview, it is nearly always desirable that the
reporter, as far as possible, should make the story his own. He should
hitch his wagon to the star of absolute certainty and then tell the
story, at least the salient facts, in his own words. It is poor policy
in news writing, as a rule, to put trivial bits of information in the
form of direct quotation. The reporter will find that owing to the
common failure to observe accurately the accounts given by witnesses of
a given occurrence will vary widely. It is the reporter’s business to
learn all that he can of the story; to see, in the limited time at his
command, as many as possible of the persons concerned in it, and then
to present to the reader an intelligible, lucid account in the third
person--the kernel of the story without the husks of inconsistency. It
is impossible to do this if the writer slavishly quotes, in the direct
form, everybody to whom he talked in getting the story.

Some reporters are inclined to overwork the direct-quotation method
because it is usually the easiest way of telling the story, often
relieving the writer of the necessity of thinking for himself.
Quotation marks may enclose a multitude of rhetorical sins. Rather than
go to the trouble of coordinating his facts, such a writer will lazily
string together the statements of several persons and let it go at
that. This plan is obviously bad. It violates the fundamental rules of
news writing, which demand that a story be clear, concise and forceful,
and gives the reader a confused image rather than the definite,
clear-cut impression left by the story rightly told.

It is absurd to lug into a story the views of persons who have no vital
connection with it, simply for the sake of filling space. And yet that
is the error committed by some news writers, as in a fire story, for
example, where the janitor is quoted as saying, “Yes, I saw the fire;
it was a great sight,” or something else equally trivial. When the
janitor sees that he immediately gets an exaggerated idea of his own
importance. It is conceivable that the next time a reporter asks him
for a bit of information, the janitor will throw out his chest with
the air of a personage and reply, “I refuse to make a statement for
publication,” hoping that the newspaper will quote him to that effect.

The news writer who is prodigal with his direct quotation is
encouraging an attitude of mind that will cause trouble for him and
other newspaper men in the future. If a person is asked to give
information about a story and refuses, it is seldom good policy to
state that fact, unless he bears such a close relation to the story
that his silence is of interest. If there is no particular reason why
the opinion of Smith, the janitor, should be sought, don’t commit the
folly of telling several thousand readers--and Smith--that he “refused
to talk for publication.”

Another absurdity is illustrated in the sentence: “Smith refused to
make a statement, but said ...” This paradoxical introduction may be
followed by a long interview with Smith. What the writer probably means
is that Smith, when first asked for a statement, said that he wouldn’t
talk, but later changed his mind. The reader is not likely to be
interested in all this, so the copy reader cuts it down to “Smith said.”


“The Governor will be in town to-night. Get a statement from him on the
police situation here.”

Thus the city editor outlines what he expects the reporter to bring
back to the office. His order is the first step toward getting an
interview on a definite subject. The reporter sees the Governor,
questions him along the line indicated and returns to the office with
his story.

Now what the Governor said is not incidental to another story; it is
the story in itself and is so written. There are no definite, fixed
rules as to how it shall be written, except that it shall fairly
express the Governor’s sentiment. The form in which the facts shall be
presented depends on the news writer’s own judgment or the editor’s
instructions. He may begin his story in any one of several ways. If the
Governor said something of grave importance in a striking manner, the
reporter may seize upon that for his lead, throwing it into the form of
direct quotation. The story then might begin in this way:

    “The police department of this city must clean house. There has
    been an alarming increase of crime here in the last six months,
    and I am going to find out the cause.”

    Governor Smith, who arrived in ---- last night, thus outlined
    the purpose of his visit. The Governor, etc. (After this
    explanatory paragraph the quotation is continued.)

Or the lead might be in indirect quotation, somewhat after this manner:

    Governor Smith declared, on his arrival in ---- last night,
    that he had determined to learn the reason for the recent
    increase in crime in this city. He said the police department
    must “clean house.”

    “I am here to make a thorough investigation,” the Governor
    said. “If the charges of grafting are proved, I will
    proceed ...”

If the interview yielded nothing of importance, the writer might base
his story on the fact of the Governor’s visit:

    Governor Smith, with his secretary and three members of his
    staff, arrived in ---- at 10 o’clock last night and went to
    the ---- Hotel. The Governor is here to address the State
    Convention of Millers this morning.

    In an interview last night he said ...

An interview may take the form of a feature story. Suppose the Governor
has a hobby that is worth writing about. Then an interview with him
might begin in this way:

    Governor Smith is going to saw all his own wood this winter.
    He believes that bending over the sawbuck and cutting cord
    wood into stove lengths will put him into prime condition for
    “sawing wood” officially. (Interview follows.)

It must not be understood that the foregoing examples are set forms for
interviews. They are given merely to suggest the several ways in which
the writer can begin his story.

The interview may be in itself either a plain news story or a feature
story. It may take the form of a considered statement or it may be
informal in character. Some men give out typewritten statements of
their views when asked for an interview, while others talk freely,
putting the reporter on his honor to be fair and accurate in his
quotation. The question of presenting the speaker’s remarks most
effectively from the news standpoint is then left entirely to the
writer’s discretion. He is not expected to quote slavishly. Indeed, few
men would like to have their conversation appear in print verbatim,
with the defects to which the best spoken language is liable. Unless
the interview is printed for no other purpose than to poke fun at
the speaker, as might be done with the remarks of an ignorant and
disreputable politician, the writer should strive to convey the
spirit of what is said rather than the exact words. Now and then a
characteristic phrase or sentence may be quoted verbatim--and this is
desirable in order to give a flavor of the speaker’s individuality--but
the faults of ordinary speech, verbosity, awkwardness and the like,
should not be reproduced. True accuracy leaves a correct impression of
the whole. An interview rightly written, telling the speaker’s meaning
in simple, clear English seasoned with phrases that give a hint of his
personality, is more accurate in this sense than a phonographic record
of the conversation.

It follows that the speaker’s remarks need not be set down in the
order in which they were made. Possibly the last thing he said may be
put in the lead. Part of the interview may be in indirect quotation,
summarizing statements of minor importance. The reporter may introduce
explanatory sentences, especially if the interview is long and deals
with more than one subject. He may break into the discourse to tell
of the speaker’s gesture at a certain point or to describe a facial
expression--anything that will give the reader a vivid and true picture
of the man interviewed.

Ordinarily the reporter’s questions should not appear in the story,
but sometimes they may be effectively given and the interview may
consist of a series of categorical questions and answers, resembling
the reports of testimony at a trial. This method may be used when the
newspaper desires specific answers to certain pointed questions of
great interest, or when it seems the most direct way of getting the
meaning before the reader. No set rules can be laid down on this point;
every interview, like every other news story, presents its own problem.

The suggestions regarding the interview of formal character apply
also to the reporting of speeches. It is the custom nowadays of
many men who appear often in public to give out to the newspapers in
advance typewritten copies of their speeches. The news writer sent
to report an address, freed of the necessity of following closely
the speaker’s words, may devote his attention to the details of the
meeting. In covering a formal lecture or address of which no advance
copy is available the reporter naturally may use the speaker’s exact
words more freely than in writing the interview. Even in such a story,
however, it is seldom desirable to give all the speech, and frequent
summaries may be made in the writer’s own words. This also is a matter
for the reporter’s judgment of news values. It is not demanded that the
newspaper man be able to write shorthand. If a verbatim report of a
speech is desired a stenographer is employed for that purpose.

A word as to the mechanics of the story: Be careful to enclose all
quoted matter in quotation marks. Begin each paragraph with quotation
marks and don’t forget to use the marks at the end of the last
paragraph. Remember that “he said” used too often in dialogue becomes
monotonous. “Replied,” “asserted,” “laughed,” “remarked,” “exclaimed,”
“corrected,” “inquired,” “suggested,” “urged” and many other words may
often be substituted to good advantage.

A series of interviews from different persons on the same topic is a
symposium. In this form of story the name of the speaker is given, then
the interview. The lead states briefly the topic under discussion.


I. Feature interview beginning with a striking remark in direct
quotation. From the New York _World_:

    “It is impossible for a woman to live in comfort in New York on
    $3,000 a year.”

    This is the statement of Mrs. Juanita La Bar, who has
    petitioned the Orphans’ Court of Scranton, Pa., to allow her an
    additional thousand dollars so she can send her eleven-year-old
    son to school.

    The things Mrs. La Bar thinks absolutely necessary for a modest
    menage are:

    One servant.

    To dress not handsomely but neatly.

    A healthful apartment.

    The best the market affords for the table.

    A vacation to the seashore, country or mountains every summer.

    “I can’t get along on $3,000,” said Mrs. La Bar to a reporter
    for the _World_ last night at her apartment at No. 210 West
    Twenty-first street, “and I’m not extravagant, either, because
    I don’t owe a cent.”

    The apartment was modest and comfortable, and Mrs. La Bar was
    dressed quietly, but in well cut and well made garments.

    “Ten years ago, when my husband was alive, we lived well at a
    hotel and went to the seashore every year. We had a maid to
    look after the boy, but we didn’t keep house ...”

    (The rest of the story consists of direct quotation.)

(The method of presenting the interview here is simple and
effective--first a paragraph in direct quotation that contains the meat
of the story, then identification of the speaker and a third-person
statement of her views, and finally the interview itself, running about
half a column.)

II. A more formal and conservative method is shown in the following:

    NEW YORK, Dec. 2.--B. F. Yoakum, chairman of the board of
    directors of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company,
    arrived here to-day. He had returned from an inspection trip
    over the Frisco lines with B. L. Winchell, president of the
    principal roads of the system; A. J. Earling, head of the
    Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, and Percy C. Rockefeller.

    Mr. Yoakum declined to make a statement about his inspection
    trip so far as it may result in a traffic agreement between the
    Frisco and St. Paul systems.

    “There seems to be but little stock ticker prosperity in New
    York, but there is a good deal of real prosperity in the
    Southwest,” he said. “After crossing the Mississippi River one
    rarely hears the New York stock market referred to. Trading in
    securities is not the business of the West, and securities
    listed on the stock exchange are not the collateral required or
    generally used by bankers in the West....”

    (Three paragraphs of quoted matter follow.)

III. Interview in which direct quotation is varied with indirect. From
the Chicago _Evening Post_:

    “The Panama Canal will be completed at least a year sooner than
    the time set for the official opening, Jan. 1, 1915,” said Ray
    L. Smith, employment agent of the Isthmian Canal Commission,

    Mr. Smith is in Chicago attempting to enlist boiler-makers to
    take the places of the hundred men who resigned after being
    refused an increase in wage.

    “I attribute the reduction in time to the efficiency which has
    been attained by the men,” he continued. “When the work began
    laborers were imported from the West Indian Islands and from
    Italy and Spain. The European laborers accomplished nearly
    three times as much a man as the West Indians at first, and
    they were paid twice as much.

    “Now the efficiency of the West Indian has been so increased
    that the European is only twice as effective.”

    According to Mr. Smith, the personnel of the workers on the
    canal includes representatives from nearly every country in the
    world. There are 45,000 employés of the commission in Panama.
    Of them, 5,000 are Americans. The remaining 40,000 represent
    perhaps more tongues than were gathered around the Tower of
    Babel. The bulk of the laborers are negroes from the Barbados,
    from Trinidad and from Jamaica. Besides the negroes from these
    islands there are Spaniards from most of the islands except

    “The death rate in the canal zone is only 4.05 a thousand
    persons,” said Mr. Smith. “This is lower than in any American
    city. The low rate is the result of the careful supervision
    exercised by the government. For example, there is a hospital
    at Culebra, the headquarters of the commission, which has 2,200
    beds. All the houses are screened against mosquitoes, and in
    other ways the greatest attention is paid to sanitation....”

    (The rest of the interview is in direct quotation.)

(Note that the writer drops direct quotation in the fifth paragraph.
Making it clear that the speaker is his authority, he puts his
information in the third person. This may be done with a plain
statement of facts and figures in which there is no expression of
opinion. Nothing would be gained by putting in the speaker’s words the
statistical matter here given. On the other hand the reporter should be
careful to quote anything of a controversial nature.)

IV. The following paragraphs from a feature story in the New York
_Mail_ show the questions-and-answers method in the interview. The
extract is from a signed story, the only kind in which the reporter is
permitted to write in the first person:

    “Evidently,” I said, “you are an admirer of the new woman, the
    woman who earns her living.”

    “Well,” he said, “you can’t blame me. It’s always better to
    get business advice from a woman who knows something about
    business, than from one who knows nothing about it. For women
    are bound to meddle with their husbands’ affairs, whether they
    are acquainted with them or not.”

    “And how about politics?” I ventured. “Should women take an
    active part in this field, too?”

    “Decidedly not,” he returned, etc.

(Signed newspaper stories are the exceptions. In the average story,
when the writer has occasion to refer to himself, he uses some such
impersonal form as “the reporter asked” or “it was suggested.”)



    The test of the news value of an event is its element of
    novelty. Whether news shall be the record of things admirable
    or things disgraceful practically depends on the community. In
    the early days of Dodge City, Kan., or Leadville, Colo., the
    information that Cherokee Jake or San Juan Bill had attended
    church would have been news. But in these communities at the
    present day the weekly presence of many citizens of equal or
    greater prominence has no news value. In which city would the
    rabbi rather live, the one where church attendance has news
    value, or the one where it has none?--From an editorial in the
    St. Louis _Republic_, replying to a critic of the daily press.

While every news story, in the nature of the case, presents its own
problem, the news writer soon finds that in all the stories on the same
basic theme, as those dealing with fires, certain definite points must
be covered. It is impossible, of course, to provide a set pattern for
any story or group of stories, but a few general instructions will be
found to hold good.


In covering an important fire story, in addition to any special news
features, get the following facts: Exact location; time; cause; names
of owner and occupants of building; losses; insurance.

If possible, see the owner to learn the extent of the damage to the
building; otherwise get the fire chief or some other person who can
speak with authority to estimate the loss.

If persons were killed or injured, or lives were endangered, get all
the details possible. These facts take precedence over all details
concerning property loss. Don’t forget names and addresses. Among the
points to be noted are: Rescues; exits and fire escapes, or absence
of fire escapes; other precautions, or lack of precautions, against
crowding and panic; thrilling, humorous or pathetic incidents;
circumstances affecting the work of the firemen, such as a possible
failure of the water pressure at a critical time.


In death stories give the following: Full name; age; time and place of
death; cause; account of last illness; funeral arrangements; names of
relatives; birthplace; account of business and political life; society
and church connections.

Let your story be simple and dignified, in keeping with the theme.


In stories of “big” weddings give the following: Full names of the
persons married; their family connections; time and place of wedding;
minister officiating; attendants of all kinds; descriptions of gowns of
bride and attendants (it isn’t necessary to say the bridegroom wore the
“conventional black”); music; decorations; reception; guests from out
of town; presents from organizations and groups of friends; noteworthy
presents from individuals; wedding trip; when and where the couple will
be at home.


In covering a story of murder or suicide, don’t stop with the facts
that appear on the surface--get the motive. When one hears that a
friend has killed himself the first natural inquiry is: Why did he do
it? It is this question that the city editor urges upon the reporter
starting out to cover the story. “Get the motive” is the order,
expressed or implied. If the story does not show the motive, it must
have other marked elements of interest to receive more than a few lines
of space.

It is not within the scope of this book to discuss newspaper ethics
and ideals, except in relation to news writing, but attention may be
called briefly to that phase of the newspaper’s daily problem that has
to do with crime news. Whether or not such news is “featured” depends
altogether on the newspaper’s individual policy; there are no general
standards that fit all cases. A story that one paper cuts to a few
lines or throws away may be “played up” in another to the extent of a
column or more. Any newspaper will give liberal space to a story that
vitally concerns the entire nation or community, such as the attempted
assassination of a public official. Divergence comes in the treatment
of human-interest news. Take for example the story of a shop girl who
kills herself because she has been jilted. Here is a story that may be
developed for its human-interest features, may be dismissed with a bare
statement or may be ignored. The theory is widely accepted that the
publication of a suicide story, especially one that goes into detail,
may implant the suggestion of suicide in persons of morbid mind, or
may lead those who have been thinking of suicide to act. It is largely
for this reason that many newspapers give little space to news of this
character unless it concerns someone of prominence or contains some
unique human-interest feature. Ordinary, routine suicide stories
receive bare mention at the most, and then usually in an inconspicuous
part of the paper. What shall be done with a story is the editor’s
problem. The problem of the reporter is to get the facts and present
them to the best of his ability. And if a suicide story is to be
covered in detail, don’t stop with the obvious--find out the “why” of
it all.


In stories dealing with business transactions, especially court
reports, it is particularly important that the reporter get the names
right. “Brown and Co.” may be the name of one corporation and “the
Brown Company” of another. Don’t confuse the two.

Don’t call a firm bankrupt simply because a petition has been filed
asking that it be declared bankrupt. Wait until the case is decided in

In general--and this cannot be stressed too much--remember that the
reporter has power to do irreparable harm by a careless or malicious
statement. An unwarranted aspersion may work an injury that no
subsequent correction can wholly undo. A statement in print is final;
it cannot be amended or softened as can the spoken word. It is part
of the news writer’s plain duty--to himself, his newspaper and the
public--to choose his words carefully, in order that no misconstruction
may be placed upon them. More important still, he should never forget
the obligation that rests upon him to say no thing, directly or by
implication, that can harm an innocent person.


The second-day story, as the name suggests, relates a development in
a story printed the preceding day, of which it is assumed the reader
has some knowledge. For example, the story of a death, if deemed of
sufficient importance, may be “followed” (as the newspaper vernacular
has it) by an evening contemporary. But while the account first
published begins by telling the fact of the death, the second-day, or
the “follow,” story is brought up to date in the lead with some newer
facts, probably about the funeral arrangements. News ages quickly in
these days of hourly editions, when beats are measured not by days or
hours but by minutes. The news writer aims to give the latest possible
information about his story, and to give it in such a way that the
reader will be impressed with the fact of its newness. An experienced
reporter will never write “yesterday” into the lead of his story when
there is a chance of making “to-day” prominent.

The morning newspaper, which sends its city edition to press at 2 to
3 o’clock in the morning, tells of the events of yesterday. It is the
breakfast-table paper, setting forth the history of the preceding
day. Necessarily the word “yesterday” recurs frequently in its local
columns. The reporter must write his story to conform to the date
of the paper’s issue. Hence, writing for next morning’s paper of
a fire which occurred at 8 P. M., he fixes the time as “8 o’clock
last night”--this form being preferred to “yesterday evening.” “Last
night,” however, is avoided in reference to anything that happens after
midnight, on the day of publication. In such a case, the reporter, with
the conscious purpose of making his news seem as timely as possible,
writes “early this morning” or gives the definite time.

An even greater effort to get “to-day” rather than “yesterday” into
news stories is made by the evening paper, because its special field is
the news of the day on which it is published. Yesterday is dead; its
news has passed into history. Taking up the chronicle where the morning
paper has dropped it, the evening paper, in successive editions,
records the events of the day. First-page stories in early editions may
be ruthlessly cut down or thrown out as more important news develops.
It is not enough to tell what has happened already; the newspaper
must tell what is happening and what is going to happen. News that
appears stale is not wanted. There are so many things of vital interest
happening all the time that the newspaper is not concerned with dead
events, except as they may have a bearing on the present.

The second-day story, then, if it is worth publishing at all, must
have some new feature to bring it up to date. At least it must have
the appearance of newness. It is in giving a story this gloss that
the tricks of the news writer’s trade are called into play. Nowhere
does experience count for more than in writing of a day-old event in
a manner to convey the impression that the news is being told for the
first time. The novice may write vividly of something he has just
seen, but the trained news writer excels in the artifice of what the
newspaper man calls rewriting.


On some evening newspapers a squad of men begin work soon after the
city editions of the morning papers are off the press. Before dawn
these men are on duty, busily preparing copy for the first edition of
the paper, which goes to press before news begins to pour in through
the regular channels. This work is in charge of an assistant city
editor, who paves the way for the city editor. Copies of the morning
papers and a pair of shears are his equipment. Stories that promise
further development during the day he lays aside for the consideration
of the city editor; others that may safely be rewritten and made to
appear as new he deals out to the squad of writers; still others, those
that are dead after one telling, he throws away. Stories that hold the
possibility of a libel suit--or, as the newspaper man says, contain
dynamite--are mentally labeled dangerous and held for investigation--or
the wastebasket.

Now assume that to the rewrite man is handed a clipping telling of
the arrest of a leading citizen for exceeding the speed limit in his
automobile the night before. The citizen gave bond to assure his
appearance in police court the following day. The story fills, say,
half a column in the morning paper. “Cut it to a stick” is the order.
The novice probably would begin by saying that “John Jones, cashier
of the First National Bank, was arrested last night for speeding,”
that being the substance of the lead in the original story. Not so the
rewrite man. His story begins somewhat like this:

    On the docket of the First District Police Court this morning
    appeared the name of John Jones, cashier of the First National
    Bank, charged with exceeding the speed limit in his automobile.
    Mr. Jones was arrested last night, etc.

Here the news writer has given his story a new lead without in the
least going beyond the facts. He knows that an arrest for violation of
a city ordinance is followed by arraignment in police court; from the
district in which the arrest was made he knows in what court Mr. Jones
must appear. It is assumed that the writer is an experienced reporter,
acquainted with police procedure in the city in which he works. Later
in the day the lead of the story is changed to tell the disposition
of the case. Nearly all the stories rewritten from other papers are
subject to changes during the day or are thrown out altogether to make
way for later news.

Suppose the story tells of a fire in which persons were killed. The
fire was in a factory, which, contrary to law, was not adequately
equipped with fire escapes. The morning papers told the story in
detail. So far as the facts about the fire are concerned, the story
is old. The rewrite man, drawing on his knowledge of similar events,
begins his story in this manner:

    An investigation was begun to-day by Building Commissioner
    Smith to fix the responsibility for the loss of ten lives in a
    fire which last night destroyed the paper-box factory of Blank
    and Company at 1010 Y street.

Then the story tells of the lack of fire escapes on the building and
proceeds to give details about the fire culled from the published
account. In later editions the lead is changed as developments warrant.

On some evening newspapers the rule is to use the name of the day
rather than “to-day,” “yesterday” or “to-morrow.” The paper can then
be dated one day ahead and sent out as a mail edition without the
necessity of changing local stories to conform to the new date line.


I. Concisely told story of a fire. From the Chicago _Evening Post_:

    Lives of firemen were imperiled and a loss estimated at $35,000
    was caused early to-day by fire which swept through the three
    top floors of a five-story brick building at 2427-31 West
    Fourteenth street. These upper floors were occupied by the
    Platt-Maschek Company, novelties, of which C. C. Maschek is

    The two lower floors are occupied by C. A. Hiles & Co., Inc.,
    tool manufacturers. This concern escaped with a slight loss.

    Starting supposedly from crossed electric wires on the fifth
    floor, the fire broke through the roof and had spread to the
    fourth and third floors when it was discovered by Policeman
    Thomas Feeney, who was passing. Flames and smoke rolled out
    of the fifth floor windows. Feeney pounded on the front doors
    of the building and attracted the attention of Edward Claus,
    a watchman, who was on the first floor and unaware that the
    building was burning.

    The two attempted to ascend a stairway to the third floor,
    believing that there was another watchman in the novelty
    concern, but flames and smoke burst through a door and they
    were compelled to retire. Glass in the door was broken by the
    heat and Feeney was cut about the face and hands.

    A general alarm was sounded and Marshal Horan arrived in his
    automobile. He sent in five special calls and took charge of
    the many companies of firemen. The heat was intense and firemen
    who had mounted the roofs of adjoining structures frequently
    were compelled to climb down.

    While firemen were still at work on the flames about
    twenty-five girls reported for work. It was said they would be
    thrown out of work by the fire.

(Notice how the two leading facts in the story are combined in the
opening sentence, the fact that firemen were in peril coming first,
then the property loss. The writer manifestly has taken pains to get
the firm names correct.)

II. Brief news dispatch telling of a death by fire:

    NEW YORK, Dec. 12.--Mrs. F. A. Hilliard, 76 years old, a
    wealthy widow of Milwaukee, was burned to death early to-day in
    her room in the Hotel Bristol. She set fire to her clothing in
    attempting to light a candle. Mrs. Hilliard registered at the
    hotel Nov. 6. She attracted attention by her eccentricities.
    She refused to use either electric light or gas, and insisted
    on burning candles in her room.

(All the salient facts are told here in less than seventy-five
words--the who, when, what, where and why of the story. This is the
compressed form in which the story was carried in the news dispatches.
As a local story--that is, published in the city in which it
originated--its human-interest element would justify the giving of more
details--but nothing of a horrible nature. News, unless it is national
in interest, shrinks in importance in proportion to the distance from
the scene of the happening. This rule, of course, would not apply in
this case to Milwaukee, where the story would be local in significance
because of the residence of the woman in that city.)

III. Fire story summarizing the main facts in a few lines, as carried
in the report of a press association:

    JOPLIN, MO., Nov. 16.--Fire of unknown origin this morning
    destroyed the entire business section of Duenweg, a mining town
    six miles east of here. Seventeen buildings were burned, the
    damage being estimated at $75,000.

(It is significant, in studying relative news values, that this story,
dealing with property loss, gets only half as much space as that
telling of a woman’s death. Both appeared in the same newspaper.)

IV. Death story which covers all the important points. From the
Baltimore _Sun_:

    ATLANTA, Nov. 13.--United States Senator Alexander Stephens
    Clay, of Georgia, died of heart disease at the Robertson
    Sanatorium to-day after an extended illness.

    His death was as peaceful as it was sudden. He was talking to
    his son Herbert when he suddenly ceased speaking and fell back

    During the morning and early afternoon the Senator appeared
    in better spirits than usual. The attending physicians said
    that he was apparently recovering from the slight relapse of

    Mrs. Clay came to Atlanta from Marietta in the morning, but
    when she found the Senator so much improved she returned home.
    The only member of the family present at the deathbed was the
    Senator’s son Herbert, who is mayor of Marietta.

    According to the physicians Senator Clay’s death resulted from
    dilatation of the heart, superinduced by arterial sclerosis.
    The Senator had been ill for nearly a year and went to the
    sanatorium on November 1 to take the rest cure. He appeared to
    be improving until Saturday, when he suffered a relapse which
    his weakened condition was unable to withstand.

    The body was removed to the Clay home at Marietta, where
    the funeral services will be held Tuesday. Senator Clay was
    57 years old, and is survived by a widow, five sons and a
    daughter, besides his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Clay, of Cobb

    (An account of Senator Clay’s political life, in 350 words,

V. Death story in which the cause is of special interest:

    CHICAGO, Dec. 5.--Prof. Charles Otis Whitman, head of the
    Department of Zoölogy and director of the Zoölogical Museum at
    the University of Chicago, died of pneumonia to-day. His death
    was due to exposure a week ago, when, late at night, he left
    his room to look after a flock of pigeons which he had been
    studying. Friends say that Prof. Whitman feared the pigeons
    would be frozen.

    Prof. Whitman, who was 68 years old, was widely known as a
    zoölogist. He was born at Woodstock, Me., and was educated at
    Bowdoin College, Leipzig University, in Germany, and Johns
    Hopkins University.

    Surviving Prof. Whitman are his widow and two sons, Frank and
    Carroll. Arrangements for the funeral have not been completed.

VI. Graphically told story of the death of a famous “man-bird”:

    LOS ANGELES, CAL., Dec. 31.--The winds, whose treacheries Arch
    Hoxsey so often defied and conquered, killed the noted aviator
    to-day. As if jealous of his intrepidity, they seized him and
    his fragile flying machine, flung them down out of the sky and
    crushed out his life.

    He fell dead in the field from which he had risen but a short
    time before with a laughing promise to thousands of cheering
    spectators to pierce the zenith of the heavens, surpass his own
    phenomenal altitude record and soar higher than any other man
    dared go.

    Cross currents, whirled off from a vagrant storm that floated
    in from the sea, caught his biplane and shot him downward 563
    feet to earth.

    His body lay broken and twisted almost out of all semblance
    to a human form. All of the spectators in the grand stand
    witnessed the tragedy, as it occurred directly in front of them
    on the opposite side of the course.

    They sat in awe-stricken silence until the announcer gave out
    the words through the megaphone:

    “Hoxsey has been killed.”

    Then from every part of the great stand came sobbing of women,
    who but a short time before had clapped their hands to the
    daring aviator as he arose from the field for his fatal flight.

    “Of course the success of this attempt is contingent upon the
    kind of weather I find up there,” said Hoxsey just before he
    left the ground. “Some of the temperatures one encounters in
    the higher altitudes are simply beyond human endurance. But,
    if I can stand it and my motor works as well as it has been
    working, I’ll come down with a record of 12,000 feet or more.”

    Even at that moment the wind attained a velocity that kept
    more cautious aviators on the ground. After he had ascended
    it gained rapidly in violence. Moreover, it created a “Swiss
    cheese” atmosphere, the most treacherous meteorological
    condition that man-birds have to contend with.

    There is nothing by which it may be known why Hoxsey did not
    go higher than 7,742 feet, which his barograph showed he had
    attained, but he had apparently encountered at that altitude
    the same conflicting air currents that finally overcame him.
    Notwithstanding this, and with the same reckless daring he had
    displayed during the last week, he descended by a series of
    spiral glides, and was performing one of his thrilling rolling
    dips, when his biplane suddenly capsized and shot to earth.

    Over and over the aëroplane turned as it fell, with a speed so
    swift that of all the thousands who saw the tragedy not one
    could tell what effort the aviator made to save himself. When
    the wreckage had been cleared sufficiently so that his body
    could be reached, he was found planted firmly in his seat, his
    arms around the levers. The fall telescoped the biplane.

    The steel sprocket which drove the propellers lay across
    Hoxsey’s face, the motor resting upon the right side of his
    body. Every one of the ribs on that side was shattered into
    fragments. An iron upright, broken by the force of the crash,
    held the aviator’s body impaled upon its jagged point.

    The stop watches of the judges in the stand registered the
    exact second of 2:12 o’clock when Hoxsey’s machine turned over
    and plunged in its fatal fall. The news of the tragedy was
    telegraphed over wires leading out of the press stand before
    the machine struck the ground.

(Enough of the published story, which filled more than three columns,
is given here to indicate the detailed method of treatment. The death
of Arch Hoxsey in itself was a big news story, of nation-wide interest.
Its importance as news was enhanced by the fact that another noted
aviator, only a few hours before, had met death in a similar tragic
manner on another aviation field.)

VII. Story of a suicide printed because of the unusual means employed.
(Names and addresses given here are fictitious.) From the New York

    James Wilson, aged seventy, a photographer, committed suicide
    by drowning himself yesterday afternoon in a tank in his studio
    at No. 17 Blank street.

    Wilson lived at No. 616 R street and was in the photograph
    business with his son. The studio is on the third floor and
    consists of three rooms.

    Water leaking through his ceiling about 5 o’clock yesterday
    afternoon attracted the attention of Henry Smith, who has a
    printing shop on the floor underneath the studio. He sent a
    workman to investigate and when the man returned and said that
    Wilson’s door was locked Smith notified the police.

    Patrolmen Stephens and Jones of the Blank Street Station broke
    open the Wilson studio door and in the rear room found water
    running over the sides of a tank used in developing pictures.
    This tank is zinc lined, is 2½ feet wide, 2 feet deep and 4
    feet long, and stands 5 feet up from the floor, the upper
    edge being only 2 feet from the ceiling. Inside this tank was
    Wilson’s body.

    Wilson was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. To
    reach the top of the tank he evidently stood on a sink beside
    it, but how he managed to crawl inside has puzzled the police.
    First, thinking that Wilson might have been trying to repair
    the tank, the police made a search for repairing tools,
    but found nothing of the kind. Wilson was dressed in his
    underclothing, and his outer garments were found hanging on

    The tank had to be chopped down before the body could be
    removed and taken to the Morgue.

    Mrs. Wilson said last night that her husband had acted queerly
    yesterday and seemed to be brooding because a man whom he had
    had in his employ for a number of years was to leave him at the
    end of the week. She said one of their sons committed suicide
    about seven years ago.

(Observe that the writer gives concrete details. Instead of saying,
vaguely, that Wilson, a large man, drowned himself in a small tank, he
gives Wilson’s height and weight and the exact dimensions of the tank.)

VIII. The following leads show how stories have been brought up to date:

    1. ST. LOUIS, Dec. 9.--Colonel Abe Slupsky wears modestly
    to-day the metaphorical wreath of hops that goes with the
    championship in beer drinking.

    When he drank a bottle of beer in the café at Hotel Jefferson
    last night it marked the completion of a task begun thirty days
    ago. Every day since then, Sundays included, nineteen bottles
    of beer preceded the good-night one. Etc.

    2. Search in a snowstorm failed to-day to find the three
    robbers who held up three men and stole nearly $20,000 in
    cash and checks on the Egremont trolley extension yesterday.
    The amount taken was given out as $10,000, but the Woronoco
    Construction Company stated to-day that yesterday’s full pay
    roll was $20,000, and only a few men had been paid off when the
    hold-up occurred. Of this amount nearly half was in checks. Etc.

    3. BELFAST, Dec. 10.--Political excitement is at fever heat
    to-day, following last night’s riots that resulted from
    several Orangemen voting for the Irish Nationalist candidates.
    Those so voting are being called traitors and their houses are
    under guard to-day to prevent violence being done them. Etc.

    4. Several hundred college boys from the University of Blank
    crawled from the sheets this morning with dry throats, big
    heads and a universal tendency toward “never again.” For last
    night was “football night” and the college boys “did things up
    brown.” Etc.

    5. John K. Smith, millionaire broker, following his fourth
    arrest in a month because of his strange antics with
    automobiles, is in the observation ward of the City Hospital
    pending an expert investigation as to his mental condition.
    Smith was arrested yesterday, etc.

    6. PROVIDENCE, KY., Nov. 26.--It is believed to-day that the
    ten men entombed in Mine No. 3 of the Providence Coal Company
    by an explosion are dead.... A windy shot in the mine yesterday
    caused a terrific explosion, etc.

IX. Write a local fire story from the following notes, assuming it is
to be printed in an evening paper in a town of about 20,000:

    Home of A. B. Smith, 600 Converse avenue. Fire discovered at 1
    A. M. by neighbors returning from theater. One of them broke in
    front door with a stick of cord wood and aroused the family,
    who were asleep on the second floor. Fire had started in the
    attic from crossed electric wires, and had burned down into
    the closet in the room occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Opening
    the closet to get some clothing, Smith was driven back by
    flames. His wife fainted and he carried her out. His hands and
    face were slightly burned. Two children, girls, 8 and 5, were
    carried out by neighbors. The house, two-story frame, burned
    rapidly. Only a part of the furniture on first floor was saved.
    Loss about $10,000, covered by insurance. Whole building was
    ablaze when the firemen arrived. Smith is cashier of the Second
    National Bank. Man who broke in door, A. L. Jones, a grocer,
    604 Converse avenue.

X. Assuming that the death of Senator Clay (see No. IV) was first
published in the morning papers, rewrite the story in 150 words for an
evening paper.

XI. Condense the story of Wilson’s suicide (see No. VII) into a
telegraph dispatch of 150 words.



    Too often the complaint against the newspaper is that it is
    sensation-seeking and has a predilection for scandal and
    unsavory gossip. Men and women, including some of eminent
    rank in their own professions, although having only a slight
    knowledge of the making of a newspaper, have a habit of saying
    in their ignorance that newspapers give preference to crime,
    divorce and scandal. It is even added that it is impossible to
    get wholesome news into a newspaper.

    This opinion is wrong. It not only does injustice to most
    newspapers, but, in a measure, it offers insult to the readers
    of those newspapers. As a general thing newspapers give
    preference to only one thing--news. But news is news only when
    it relates to something of present interest in an interesting
    way.--From an editorial in the Washington (D. C.) _Times_.

In addition to getting the service of one of the big news gathering
organizations, such as the Associated Press, and maintaining
correspondents in the leading cities of the country, the metropolitan
newspaper receives a vast amount of material from special
correspondents in the cities and towns in its immediate territory. By
immediate territory is meant those states in which the mail edition
of the paper has its greatest circulation. Chicago papers, for
example, circulate not only in Illinois, but reach into Wisconsin,
Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and parts of Missouri, Ohio and Minnesota. St.
Louis and Kansas City papers have a broad field in the Southwest. The
newspaper’s function is to give all the important news of the nation
and the world, and to give besides the special news of that section of
the country which it serves. It is to the end that news within this
territory may be covered, or covered more fully than it would be by a
national news gathering organization, that the paper maintains a corps
of special correspondents.

A special correspondent is in effect an out-of-town reporter for the
paper he represents, working under the direction of the telegraph
editor just as the local reporter works under the city editor. The
only difference is that he is not in as close touch with his chief as
the local man. Though now and then he may get a definite assignment
by wire, he works largely on his own initiative. This is added reason
why he should cultivate a “nose for news” and the art of writing news.
A mistake made by wire is usually harder to correct than a mistake
made in the office. Time is lost and unnecessary expense incurred if
the correspondent sends in a slipshod story about which the office
has to ask questions. The correspondent is as much an agent of the
paper as the local reporter. He is responsible for all the news in a
given territory, and if wide-awake and efficient he can do much toward
increasing the prestige of his paper in his community.


The general rules that govern all news writing apply with equal
or greater force to the telegraph story. So far from taking an
unworthy advantage of his comparative freedom from supervision, the
correspondent should feel perhaps even more keenly than the local
reporter the news writer’s obligation to be absolutely fair and
accurate. It goes without saying that he should be concise, because
the newspaper pays for every word that he sends over the wire. On the
other hand he should never sacrifice clearness to save a few words.
Few newspapers want their dispatches skeletonized--boiled down, that
is, by the omission of such words as “the” and “of.” If the dispatch
is skeletonized intelligently, the editor in the office can easily
supply the missing words, but most newspapers consider that any saving
effected in this way is more than offset by the loss of time in editing
the story. Unless a newspaper specifically states that it wants its
news in skeleton form, the correspondent should put it on the wire
exactly as he would like to see it in print.

In estimating the value of his story to the paper he serves, the
correspondent should never let his personal interest in the doings of
his own community bias his judgment. A story that is worth a column
of space in his local paper may be of no value whatever to a paper
published 100 miles away. In “sizing up” a story let the correspondent
imagine himself a stranger, in the community for the first time. What
would be of interest to him? What, in other words, is of more than
purely local concern? Not the fact, surely, that a new sidewalk is
being laid on Elm street. That is a matter in which the residents on
Elm street, Smithville, may be vitally interested, but it has no news
value outside of Smithville. The correspondent who makes a newspaper
pay tolls on trivial items is certain to get a peremptory order to stop
sending, and if he is not an authorized correspondent, the telegraph
tolls may be charged back to him.

No newspaper worthy of the name will knowingly print fake stories. If
for no other reason than self-interest, the correspondent should hew
close to the narrow line of truth, for the faker cannot hope long to
escape detection and dismissal. Neither should the correspondent try
to win favor by inserting in his stories “puffs” of persons to whom he
feels indebted for information. The writer who seeks to use the columns
of a newspaper for personal ends is unfaithful to the trust reposed in
him as the newspaper’s agent. Newspapers are in the business of buying
and selling news. They want the facts that are news--and the facts only.


“Remember,” the Chicago _Record-Herald_ tells its correspondents in
a pamphlet of instructions, “that while news is always truth, the
truth is not always news.” Essentially the same warning is given
by other newspapers. While it applies partly to matters of trivial
importance, it is intended chiefly to put the correspondent on his
guard against stories that are forbidden by good taste or decency. When
a gossipy individual approaches a correspondent and whispers that he
has something “that will make good reading,” the chances are he will
tell something that no reputable newspaper would print. The writer
should beware of malicious gossip and unfounded rumors. Things that
are merely rumored are not news. No newspaper cares to give space to
libelous matter and no newspaper that is edited on right principles
will intentionally print anything that will injure the reputation of an
innocent person.

The _Record-Herald_ thus states some of the pitfalls that are to be

“If John Smith leaves town and Mrs. Jones precedes or follows him,
thereby causing local scandalmongers to intimate that they have eloped,
don’t send it; the chances are that the gossip is false, and in no way
can a correspondent do more irreparable damage.

“If John Smith has been financially hard up and suddenly disappears,
suffering, perhaps, severe mental strain, don’t send a dispatch that he
is an absconder or an embezzler. He may be neither.

“Or if John Smith be removed from some position of trust, and his
employer has seen fit to put experts at work on his books, don’t jump
to the conclusion that John is a defaulter, and don’t send a dispatch
that he is under suspicion. Facts, not suspicions, are news.

“Be careful never to confound the name of the plaintiff for that of
the defendant, or vice versa; nor the name of a person making an
arrest for that of the person arrested; nor the name of a lawyer for
that of the client whom he is defending--in short, remember that it
is reprehensible, if not actually libelous, to accuse any person of
anything that some other person stands accused of.

“Never draw conclusions adverse to conduct or character; never comment
upon the facts. Let the facts themselves tell the whole story.

“Carefully scrutinize and consider any court news affecting business
standings or business transactions. Ex parte statements filed in court
are always one-sided, sometimes malicious, and may be libelous. Not
infrequently such statements are filed in the hope that they will find
their way into print and thus damage the credit or reputation of the
person assailed. The fact that such a statement or petition has been
filed does not necessarily justify publication.

“Be wary at all times of stories affecting the professional repute of
doctors, lawyers, preachers and members of other professions largely
dependent upon the esteem in which they are held.

“Shun, whenever it is possible, all stories affecting the characters of


Here are some of the things that most newspapers include in their lists
of what not to send:

1. Trivial accidents, such as the breaking of an arm or leg by
machinery, unless the person hurt is of wide prominence.

2. Insignificant robberies or burglaries.

3. Murders in which the persons concerned are obscure or in which there
is no element of mystery.

4. Unmentionable offenses, breach of promise, abandonment and similar
cases. If, however, the circumstances are very unusual, send the facts
guardedly, but only the facts that can be verified through judicial
proceedings. “Such stories,” the Chicago _Tribune_ adds, “should be
handled with extreme care. Where lynching or attempts to lynch follow
assaults, that fact should be bulletined immediately.”

5. Daily accounts of trials, murder or otherwise, unless specifically

6. Puffs of individuals, hotels, etc., or any other form of free
advertising. No press agent stories are wanted.

7. Obituaries of obscure persons.

8. Marriages, unless the persons are prominent, in which case notice
should be sent in advance by mail.

9. Ordinary damage suits.

10. Storm news, unless there is loss of life or great property damage.

11. Condition of crops, except in case of rain, frost or drought at
critical times.

12. Ordinary business transactions.

13. Meetings of secret societies, except state or national meetings.

14. Accounts of county fairs or picnics, unless ordered.

15. Abstracts of sermons, unless they contain some striking news

16. Reports of celebrations, unless persons of state or national
prominence attend, or of the general observance of Christmas, New
Year’s or the Fourth of July.

17. Stories of freaks or monstrosities, such as three-legged chickens.

18. School commencements, meetings of teachers’ institutes, medical
societies, farmers’ alliances and the like, in which the interest is
purely local.

19. Interviews with “a well-known citizen,” “a prominent official” or
any other anonymous individual.

20. Theatrical notices, unless they contain some real news feature.

21. Political speeches or gossip, unless ordered.

22. Fatal accidents to trainmen or obscure persons, except where there
are two or more fatalities.

This list, while not exhaustive, gives a general idea of what is to be
avoided. No set of rules could be drawn up to cover every case with
which the correspondent has to deal. To equip himself to give the
best service he should not only learn the general principles of news
writing, but should study the columns of the newspaper he represents
to find out its particular needs. He should remember, too, that no
rule is iron-clad. A story falling under any head of the foregoing
classification may possess some extraordinary feature that will make
it worth printing. In that case the correspondent should be careful to
build his story around the unusual part.

Most newspapers rely on a news gathering organization for stories of
railroad wrecks, big fires, floods and the like. The correspondent
should never duplicate a story of this kind that he knows will reach
the newspaper through another channel in time for publication. If,
however, an event is of unusually grave importance, or if it happens at
a late hour, the chances are that a special dispatch will be required,
and the correspondent should send a bulletin of the facts immediately.
Alertness in furnishing bulletins of important news is always
appreciated. The correspondent should never under any circumstances
duplicate a story to two newspapers in the same city.


A careful reading of a list of “Don’ts” will give the correspondent
a fair idea of what the newspaper does want. In addition he should
remember that nearly every newspaper has a hobby--a fondness for a
certain class of news of which it makes a specialty. This hobby may be
the gathering of news that will help along the cause of good roads, or
statistics of Fourth of July accidents, or sporting news; whatever it
is, the correspondent can make it a source of profit.

The Cincinnati _Enquirer_, for example, is particularly insistent that
its correspondents keep it informed regarding sporting events. The
Chicago Tribune includes in its book of instructions a list of “Tribune
Specialties.” These are:

    Unique statistics.

    Cigaret stories, legal, legislative, deaths, insanity, etc.

    Animal stories--by mail.

    Unique hunting and fishing stories--by mail.

    Interesting personalities about men and women in the public
    eye--by mail.

    Odd photographs.

    Scientific discoveries.

    Stories of romance--by mail.

Short human-interest stories, things that will bring smiles or tears
to men and women everywhere, are always in demand. It is a perverted
notion that all newspapers are eager to get so-called scandal news. The
“cleaner” the story, the more likely it is to be printed.

For a newspaper published, say, in Chicago, events involving residents
of Chicago have a special value beyond their ordinary worth as news. In
such cases street addresses should always be sent.

Advance notices should be sent by mail of weddings of prominent
persons, of coming elections and political conventions of all parties,
and of all meetings in which there is more than local interest. If
predictions as to the outcome of an election are desired, go to the
political leaders; the personal opinions of the correspondent are not

Stories of important business transactions and movements in the
industrial world are nearly always acceptable.

If the newspaper you represent uses illustrations, don’t overlook an
opportunity to get good pictures. Photographs illustrating important
news stories should be mailed at the earliest possible moment. Use
special delivery stamps and wire the newspaper that you have mailed a
package which will reach the city at a certain time.


Special instructions regarding sporting matter are given by many
newspapers. Note the following:

Never take sides in controversies.

Send pictures of the winners of important sporting events.

In sending summaries of trotting meetings, always observe the
newspaper’s style.

Do not send accounts of prize fights between men of only local
reputation, except in case of death or severe injury. Send to the
sporting editor by mail advance notice of all important contests, and
if possible send photographs of the fighters in advance.

Be absolutely sure of your facts before stating that a record has been

Never say that a contest is for the championship of a city, county or
state, or any other championship, when such is not the case.

Watch for general news features. For example, if a spectator is killed
at a baseball game, say so at once. Never bury facts of general
interest under a story that will interest only those who read the
sporting page.

Be prompt. The sporting page as a rule goes to press early, and stories
are often left out, especially on Saturday nights, because they reach
the office too late. File stories of Saturday afternoon events as soon
as possible.


The correspondent sends his story in one of three ways--by telegraph,
mail or long-distance telephone.

Practically all news of immediate interest is sent by telegraph. Assume
that you are the correspondent of a morning newspaper and at 5 o’clock
in the afternoon have a story of a fire and panic in a theater, in
which five persons were killed and twelve injured. You have plenty of
time to send what the newspaper calls a query--a brief dispatch setting
forth the salient facts of the story. Nearly all newspapers require
their correspondents to file queries on early news.

An acceptable query in this case would be:

“Theater fire and panic; five dead; twelve injured; five hundred.” This
means that you are prepared to furnish 500 words on the story. It is
unnecessary to say, “Do you want the news?” or “How much?” The dispatch
in itself is a question.

Get your story into shape to put on the wire without delay if it is
ordered. If it is not wanted, no reply to the query will be received.

Assume that the story is ordered in this dispatch: “Rush three hundred
fifty theater fire.” That means that the correspondent is to keep his
story within 350 words. The fact that a newspaper does not order a
story or orders less than the correspondent offers does not necessarily
imply that his news judgment is questioned. Stories that ordinarily
would be used may be crowded out by a rush of news of greater
importance. One story like that of the San Francisco earthquake and
fire will cause the omission or rigid condensation of news that usually
would be “featured.” Sometimes the correspondent’s story is not ordered
because the facts are covered in the reports of a news gathering
organization as fully as the newspaper desires.

After the date line at the beginning of your story write the time of
filing, thus: “Centralia, Mo., June 6.--Filed 6:30 P. M.” This will
enable the newspaper to fix the blame if the dispatch is delayed. In
sending more than one story make each a separate dispatch, with date
line and signature.

For morning newspapers file all day news as early as possible, but
instruct the telegraph operator not to send until 6 P. M., when the
night press rate, which is cheaper than the day rate, goes into effect.
Promptness is essential. News matter received after 11 P. M. is likely
to be thrown away unless of great importance.

Never write a “blind” query, such as “prominent citizen killed” or
“horrible accident.” State plainly and specifically what your news is.
It is especially important that the correspondent observe this rule
in sending late news of comparatively small happenings. Much can be
compressed into a hundred words. If it is too late to order more, your
dispatch--in this case a compressed news story rather than a query--can
be treated as complete in itself.


The rules that apply to the sending of the early story may be waived
when the correspondent has late news of big, vital importance. The
main thing then is to get the story into the office, and get it there
as quickly as he can. The Cincinnati _Enquirer_ says: “Never postpone
sending in a good piece of news. Get it to us somehow, no matter at
what hour the event may occur. Remember that a few words of an item
to-night are worth more than a column of the same to-morrow night.”
That is a good rule for the correspondent. Do not delay sending news in
the hope that it will be allowed greater space if you hold it a day.

Assume that you have the story of a railroad wreck in which a dozen
passengers were killed. You are sure the story will be wanted. It is
10 o’clock at night. There is not time to query and get instructions.
As soon as possible send a brief bulletin, telling what the news is
and about how many words you will have. Then begin to send the story
at once. Don’t wait until you have completed the story before handing
it to the telegraph operator. Give him the lead and write the story as
he works. Send the big facts first, then the details. Write simply and
naturally, without padding.

If you cannot get to a telegraph wire, do not hesitate to use the
long-distance telephone. Have your facts well in mind so that you can
tell them without an expensive waste of time. A big story may be rushed
into type for the city edition of a morning newspaper as late as 2:30
o’clock or even later. News that is important enough to warrant “making
over” the first page or the issuance of an extra edition is available
up to 4 or 5 o’clock.

Evening newspapers, as a rule, are essentially local in character,
and hence use less special telegraph matter than those published in
the morning. But a big story is a big story at any hour of the day or
night, and if it develops in time for day publication the correspondent
of an evening newspaper should use every effort to get it in. The St.
Louis _Post-Dispatch_ says: “In the early hours of the morning--say up
to 10 or 11 o’clock--a brief bulletin on any important news item will
be sufficient; if the telegraph editors want more they will notify
you by wire. But after that hour the _Post-Dispatch_ would rather
have too much of a good thing than not enough. Remember that the Home
Edition--the principal edition of the _Post-Dispatch_--is practically
closed to its correspondents at noon. If anything BIG happens in your
locality about that time, rush it to the _Post-Dispatch_ without any
preliminary notification. Do not hesitate to ‘take a chance’ at any
time if you believe you have something that the _Post-Dispatch_ would
like to know about.”


Feature stories, which are as interesting at one time as another,
obviously should be sent by mail. To what extent the correspondent
should use the mails for matter of more immediate interest depends
somewhat on the instructions he receives from his office. As a rule,
early news matter for a morning newspaper should be sent by mail if the
correspondent is sure his letter will reach the office by 10 o’clock
at night. If news of great importance is mailed, wire the office to
that effect, telling what train your letter is on. Most newspapers
furnish special envelopes to their correspondents for use in mailing
stories. Don’t hesitate to use a special delivery stamp in mailing
important news. It is often possible for the correspondent to send news
in advance by mail, to be held until a dispatch is received from him
releasing the story for publication. A speech or a report of which the
correspondent has an advance copy may be handled in this way to save
telegraph tolls and time.

For the evening paper, stories of the late afternoon or night may be
sent by mail when the correspondent is certain they will reach the
office early in the morning. But an important story, which depends for
its interest on immediate publication, should never be entrusted to
the mails when there is any likelihood that it will not be received on
time. In brief, the correspondent should strive to get all worth-while
news for the paper he serves and get it to his office first.


Below are some general instructions that hold good for the
correspondent of any newspaper, in any territory:

1. Don’t send more than ordered.

2. Keep the local telegraph office informed of your address and
telephone number, so that messages may be delivered to you at any time.

3. Get a substitute to do your work when you are temporarily absent
from town. Have him sign dispatches with your name to avoid confusion
in accounts.

4. Make it a point to keep on friendly terms with the telegraph
operators. They can often be of great service.

5. Write your dispatches plainly.

6. If possible, use the typewriter in preparing stories to be mailed.

7. Never send letters or photographs by express. The express companies
deliver only during the day.

8. Study the style of the newspaper you represent by comparing your
stories as sent with the stories as printed.

9. Spell out round numbers in dispatches.

10. When an extract from a speech or a document is sent by wire,
indicate the beginning of the quoted matter with the word “quote” and
the end with the words “end quote.”

11. Incur any legitimate expense in getting important news and
photographs. If possible, however, query the office and get
instructions before doing so.


The correspondent is paid on the basis of matter used. Rates vary,
but the average is $5 a column, usually estimated at 1,500 words.
Extra payment is allowed for exclusive news. A few newspapers require
correspondents to send in at the end of each month a “string” of
their published stories, but the majority keep an account with each
correspondent by means of credit tabs showing the date of each story,
the name of the sender and the number of words.



    If that change occurs (a return to smaller newspapers) there
    will be an increased demand for the services of the man who
    possesses not the common ability to make a story long and
    diffuse, but the rare talent of making it short, vivid and
    complete. There is hardly a newspaper office in the country
    in which the difficult and admirable art of compression has
    not been to a greater or less extent neglected in recent
    years.--From a lecture by HART LYMAN, editor of the New York

The copy readers on a metropolitan newspaper do the work that is
commonly associated with the word editor: they “blue-pencil,” or edit,
the news copy. Tradition has equipped the editor with a blue pencil
and has made it a symbol of editorial callousness. In reality, the
copy reader is much more likely to use a soft black pencil with which
a word may be cut out at a single stroke or an illuminating word
inserted in broad, unmistakable characters. The copy reader takes the
story as it comes from the reporter and puts it through a refining
process. His work is critical rather than creative. It is destructive
so far as errors of grammar, violations of news style and libel are
concerned. But if his sense of news is keen, as that of every copy
reader should be, he will find abundant opportunity for something more
than mechanical deletion and interlineation. He may insert a terse
bit of explanation to clear away obscurity or may add a piquant touch
that will redeem a story from dullness. To the degree that he edits
news with sympathy and understanding, with a clear perception of news
values, his work may be regarded as creative. If, on the other hand,
he conceives it his duty to reduce all writing to a dead level of
mediocrity, if his ideal of editing is merely to wage war on the split
infinitive and substitute “obtain” for “secure,” no matter what the
sense, he richly deserves the epithet that is certain to be hurled
at the copy reader by the reporter whose fine phrases have been cut
out--he is in truth a “butcher” of copy.


The efficient copy reader has a good working knowledge of the English
language; he has a highly developed sense of news; he knows the style
of his paper; he is content with nothing short of accuracy. To write
headlines, he must have primarily the knack of putting the gist of a
story into a few short, simple words. With all these qualifications he
may yet fail if he is not able, when occasion demands, to work swiftly.
It follows that he should keep in touch with current affairs and should
lose no opportunity to add to his stock of knowledge of the city in
which he works. The name of the Secretary of the Interior, the latest
development in a famous will case, whether a thoroughfare is a street
or an avenue, the initials of the county recorder--all such details
can be found in the files of the newspaper or in reference books, but
the copy reader can save valuable time if he has them filed away in
his memory. New words are constantly coming into general use and new
ideas are demanding expression. The copy reader must keep abreast of
the big movements in science, in politics, in all the fields from which
news stories are drawn. The right attitude toward his work was shown by
a copy reader who, when ballooning first gave evidence of becoming a
popular sport, went to the public library and looked in the index for
“aëronautics.” He got the best book he could find on the subject and
studied it. He learned the principles of ballooning and its special
vocabulary and when stories of the new sport began to come to him, he
was able to “blue-pencil” the copy intelligently.


The number of copy readers depends, of course, upon the size of the
newspaper. Small-city papers may have no men employed solely for this
work. On the larger papers the staff of copy readers averages perhaps
six or seven, while some offices use as many as a dozen or more. These
men are said to comprise the “copy desk,” and all news copy, in theory
at least, passes through their hands. On some papers the staff is
divided, part reading telegraph copy under the telegraph editor and
part working in the local room under the city editor. Other offices
have adopted the newer plan of the combined desk, where both telegraph
and local copy is read. This desk is in charge of a head copy reader,
who apportions the copy among the readers, passes on their work after
it is finished, and in general keeps things moving. The head copy
reader is in effect a news editor or an assistant news editor. It is
his duty to see that neither the local nor the telegraph department
“plays up” its stories unduly, but that each story, whatever its
source, is rated at its true value in relation to the other news of
the day.


The work of the copy reader is twofold: (1) to edit the copy and (2) to
write the head. Only the first of these functions will be discussed in
this chapter.

In brief, the copy reader should hew and polish the story to exactly
the form in which it should appear in print. He is a skilled workman,
employed to trim away the rough edges. By this it is not meant that
the copy reader is expected to give the story the grace and elegance
of literature. He should give it, if it has not already, grammatical
exactness, freedom from ambiguity, and the force that goes with direct,
simple statement of fact. This is the groundwork of the copy reader’s
task--to make the story correct in form as in fact.

Less obviously, he must make the story conform to style--not only to
the general laws of news writing, but to the special, arbitrary style
of the newspaper for which it is written. Every good newspaper has an
individuality, expressed partly in what is rather vaguely termed its
style. The general style of a newspaper, its habitual attitude toward
news, can be learned only by close observation of its columns. Specific
rules, however, are laid down to cover the more mechanical aspects of
style, such as punctuation and capitalization. No two newspapers agree
in all the details of style. In giving an address, for example, the
word “street” may be printed St., Street or street. Capital letters are
used sparingly by some papers, liberally by others. Ages may be spelled
out, as eighty-one years old, or the figures, 81, may be used. Style
determines the method of giving titles: it may be “the Rev. William
Jones” in one newspaper, “the Reverend William Jones” in another and
“Rev. William Jones” in a third. “Program” or “programme” may be the
form required. All such rules, which the newspaper makes in order to
get uniformity, are usually embodied in a style-book, issued for the
guidance of both the editorial and the mechanical department.

Compositors, as a rule, follow style as regards capitalization and
like details, no matter how the copy is marked, unless the specific
direction “follow copy” appears in the margin. Proofreaders, too, are
instructed to observe style. It is always desirable, however, that
copy when sent to the printer should be correct in every detail. The
linotype operator loses time if he is compelled to read ahead to
supply a missing word. Mistakes that get into type are marked by the
proofreaders and corrected, but all this takes time and increases the
cost of composition. The ideal piece of copy has every word and every
punctuation mark correct. This is the standard, as regards mechanics,
toward which the copy reader should strive. Sometimes, when he is
working under pressure, he may find it impossible to correct any except
the glaring mistakes. Here enters the factor of time. When a big
story comes into the office only a few minutes before time for going
to press, the copy reader cannot afford to hesitate over a misplaced
comma; his first concern is to get the story to the printers, with the
facts straight. Incidentally, it is a good general rule that the copy
reader should not make a change in a minor detail of style unless he is
sure he is right. When in doubt about a comma, omit.

Just what is meant by style may be seen from the following extracts
regarding the use of figures from newspaper style-books:

“When an indefinite sum is mentioned, do not put in figures, as a
dollar, about a hundred dollars, a million dollars, millions of
dollars, etc.”--Chicago _Record-Herald_.

“When figures are given in round numbers, say 1 million dollars instead
of $1,000,000; also ¼ million for 250,000; ½ million for 500,000; ¾
million for 750,000. Also ‘The attendance was ten thousand’; but ‘The
attendance was 10,375.’”--Kansas City _Star_.


Only at the price of eternal vigilance on the part of reporters and
editors can libelous matter be kept out of the newspaper. No item is
too small to contain a potential libel suit; indeed it is the small
items that most frequently cause trouble. Routine items, especially
those from police sources, should be watched carefully. A story of
considerable length that appears dangerous is always closely edited,
but too often minor stories, because of their very insignificance, are
allowed to slip by the copy desk and into print without thought of
their mischief-making possibilities.

A vest-pocket card containing libel warnings and headed “Look at This
Every Day,” is given by the St. Louis _Republic_ to each of its copy
readers. First is this note:

“Editors and reporters should never forget that no news article is
valuable enough to compensate for a libel suit. Take no chances. When
in doubt, consult the head of your department.”

The rules which follow are a good summary of the main facts about libel
that the copy reader needs to remember:

“1. Heads are danger points. Never make in a head a damaging assertion
which is not borne out fully in the text. Qualify in both to be sure.

“2. Make no assertions against any person’s conduct or character unless
you are ready to supply complete legal evidence.

“3. Do not draw conclusions adverse to conduct or character. Never
leave the plain facts. Let the facts tell the whole story.

“4. Be sure the wrong person is not made to appear. This is often done,
either by slips in writing names or mistakes about identity of persons
involved. Get every name absolutely right.

“5. Be careful about using names given by unknown persons. It is a
common practice for criminals and other delinquents to assume the names
of respectable persons.

_Dangerous Ground_

“1. Court Reports. Any court news affecting business standing or
business transactions. Watch names. Be careful about reporting
business failures or embarrassments.

“2. Stories affecting professional repute of doctors, lawyers,
preachers and other professions dependent upon personal esteem.

“3. Stories affecting the character of women. Use no epithets or
adjectives unnecessarily. Never on hearsay connect a woman with a
detrimental action. Watch names.

“4. Statements from one side. This includes petitions in law cases.
Never base an assertion on these ex parte statements. Get both sides or
say that it is from one side and be careful even then. The fact that a
petition has been filed does not necessarily justify publication.”

Bear in mind, too, that a libelous statement is not excused by the fact
that it is quoted. “It is said,” “it is reported” and like expressions
scattered through a story are no defense against a suit for damages.
The newspaper is responsible for everything it prints. Avoid the libel
that lurks in qualifying words. A statement otherwise harmless may be
so colored with adjectives and adverbs expressing disapproval that it
will furnish ground for legal action. Let the plain facts tell the

The copy reader--in fact, anyone concerned in the preparation of news
matter--will do well to inform himself thoroughly of the laws on this


Assume now that you are editing a story to carry what is called a top
head (a head used only at the top of a column). In the upper left-hand
corner of the first page the city editor or the head copy reader has
written a guide line naming the story and designating the size of the
head. This is the “slug” by which the story is identified in all the
processes through which it passes from the copy reader into print. The
guide line, for example, “Fire No. 2,” is set in caps at the head of
the story and remains there until the story is placed, with its head,
in the position allotted it by the make-up editor in the type forms.
Any identifying word may be used to name a story, but no two stories
should bear the same “slug.”

The guide line, of course, is not intended to appear in print, its
purpose being merely to facilitate the handling of the story. But as
lines designed only for office information have a way of slipping into
the paper in the hurry of making up, the copy reader should take care,
when he “slugs” a story, to choose some word that will not cause
embarrassment if published. It is related that a facetious copy reader
once “slugged” a wedding story with a view to furnishing amusement for
the office force. The next morning the proprietor of the newspaper, who
happened to be particularly interested in the wedding, and a hundred
thousand or more other readers saw, between the headlines and the story
proper, in bold-face capital letters, the amazing line: “Suicide No.
3.” The printer who made up the page had neglected to throw away the
guide line. Since then the copy readers on that paper have taken care
to “slug” stories discreetly.

The text of the story is put into type on one or more linotype
machines, while the top head, at least part of which generally must
be set by hand, goes to another department of the composing room. For
this reason the guide line that appears on the story must be duplicated
on the copy for the head, in order that no mistake may be made in
assembling the two. A story that carries a minor head, which may be
written in the clear space left by the reporter at the top of the first
page, need not be “slugged” unless there is some special reason for
labeling it.

The guide line is used to bring together all the stories that go into
one department. Thus all items intended for the sporting page are
marked “Sport.” Sometimes a story is to be followed by one or more
related stories. Take for example the account of a widespread flood,
of which reports are received from several towns. The story which is
to come first is marked “Lead Flood” and all other items bearing on
the same general subject are labeled “Follow (generally abbreviated
to “folo”) Flood.” If “folo” items are to appear in a set order, they
should be marked “First Folo,” “Second Folo,” etc. The term “folo”
should not be confused with “add.” An “add” to a story is tacked on
without a break, while a “folo” is a separate story, with its own head.
A dash somewhat shorter than the regular news size is used before
the “folo” and usually the head is of a special type to indicate the
dependence of the story on what has gone before.

In the example given above, “Fire No. 2,” the numeral shows the style
of head to be written. Heads are numbered or lettered, each office
having its own system. Usually the most important head is called No. 1
or A, the next No. 2 or B and so on. A ring is drawn around the guide
line, or any other direction to the printer, to show that it is not a
part of the text.


Having noted any directions marked on the story, the copy reader
proceeds to the business of making it ready for publication. With
an eye to detect imperfections, he goes through the story, adding a
word now and then for the sake of clearness, attacking bombast and
obscurity, transposing misplaced words and phrases, perhaps even
picking up a feature from the end and putting it in the lead.

The beginning of each paragraph is plainly indicated, either with
the paragraph mark (¶) or in the manner shown in the illustration.
Short paragraphs are favored as an aid to the reader’s eye. Seldom is
a newspaper paragraph longer than twenty lines, or about 150 words;
the conservative Springfield (Mass.) _Republican_ sets a limit of 400
words. Follow the style of the newspaper in this respect.

When several words are cut out of copy, it is a good practice to bridge
the gap with a curving line connecting the ends of the matter which is
left standing. By following this line with his eye, the compositor is
enabled to skip rapidly over the omitted portion. Never leave a single
word standing marooned with a long deletion on each side. Scratch out
the word and rewrite it at the beginning or the end of the erasure,
where there is no chance that the type-setter will overlook it.

[Illustration: Specimen Page of Edited Copy.]

Use the caret mark (^) to denote an insertion. Three horizontal lines
drawn under a small letter indicates it is to be set as a capital; a
diagonal line through a capital from left to right makes it a small
letter. A ring around an abbreviated word means it is to be spelled
out. But if there is any danger of misunderstanding (as in the case of
“Co.,” which may stand for county or company), write out the word as
you desire it set. Vice versa, a ring may be drawn around a complete
word to show it is to be abbreviated. To make the period plain it may
be encircled, or a small cross (x) may be used instead. An inverted
caret mark (v) is sometimes drawn under an apostrophe to distinguish
it from the comma. The same method may be used to make quotation marks
stand out plainly. Two short parallel marks are used for a hyphen and
a single longer line for a dash. Transposition is denoted by lines as
illustrated in the cut.

To run two paragraphs together draw a “run-in” line from the end of the
first to the beginning of the second paragraph. When a page ends on a
sentence but not on a paragraph, draw a diagonal line from the last
word to the lower right-hand corner and a line on the next page from
the upper left-hand corner to the first word. Make the paragraph sign
at the end of a page when it closes with a paragraph.

Never write up and down the page in the margin. If what you have to
insert cannot be written between the lines, put it on another piece
of paper and paste it in the copy at the proper place. Lines written
the vertical length of the page are sure to make trouble for the copy
cutter, who cuts the copy into small “takes” for the linotype machines.
The operator, too, is bothered by having to stop and turn the page so
he can read it.

See that the pages are numbered and that the story is closed with
an end-mark. Any mark that plainly denotes the end will answer the
purpose. Some of the symbols used are “30” enclosed in a circle, a
cross made of parallel lines and a mark like the letter H. A common
error in copy reading is the omission of quotation marks at the end of
quoted matter; be careful on this point.

In general, copy should be marked with a view to simplifying the work
of the printer as much as possible. Too many marks are worse than too
few. Never put the printer’s ingenuity to the test by an intricate
maze of lines to indicate a transposition; if there is any chance of
confusion, cross out and rewrite. Neatness in copy is desirable, but it
should never be allowed to stand in the way of making the intent of the
writer perfectly clear. Anything to be omitted should be crossed out
so unmistakably that there will be no possibility of its being set. Be
equally careful not to cross out too much.


Not all stories come to the copy reader completed. As press time draws
near, important stories are taken from the reporters page by page
and rushed to the composing room. No confusion need result if the
copy reader marks each piece properly. Assume that you are handling
a late wreck story, which is coming to the copy desk bit by bit. The
first installment sent to the printers is “slugged” “Lead Wreck,” or
perhaps simply “Wreck.” At the end be sure to write the word “more.”
This informs the copy cutter, who receives the copy in the composing
room, that the story is still running. The second installment should be
marked “First Add Wreck,” the next “Second Add Wreck” and so on, the
word “wreck” being repeated each time. At the end of each installment
up to the last the word “more” should be written plainly and the last
should be closed with an end-mark.

Often the process is somewhat complicated by the necessity of making
insertions in the story. Matter to be inserted is generally lettered,
as “Insert A Wreck,” “Insert B Wreck,” etc. If possible, the point
at which the insertion is to be made should be noted on the copy, as
“Insert A Wreck after first paragraph.” Otherwise, the place should be
designated on a proof sheet. At the close of the “insert,” as the trade
slang has it, write “End Insert.”

The terms “A Copy,” “B Copy” and so on are sometimes used to mark
sections of a story which are sent over in advance of the lead. The
copy reader then designates in the lead where these sections are to be
placed. For example, he may write at a certain point, “Here pick up
and insert B copy,” and at the end, “Pick up A copy.” An “add” may be
sent out with the guide line, “Add Fire, lead to come,” but when the
story is broken up into several parts it is simpler to use letters as

“Turn rule for add” is sometimes written at the end of a story when
more is expected. This means that an inverted rule, which in proof
shows as a heavy black line, is to be placed after the story to
indicate it is incomplete.

A story is marked “Head to Come” when for any reason the copy for the
head is not sent to the composing room with the text. A story intended
for publication in a certain edition is so marked, as “First Edition,”
“Rush for Home Edition,” “Up-State Edition.” Often a story is brought
up to date with a new lead after running through one or more editions.
This matter should be “slugged” “New Lead,” and the changes marked on
a clipping of the story or a proof sheet. “Must” on a story indicates
that under no circumstances is it to be killed.

Not infrequently the copy reader keeps two or even three stories
moving in sections to the composing room at the same time. While he is
waiting for an “add” to a fire story, he may edit the first installment
of a dispatch from Washington, prepare an “Insert Murder” and in the
intervals write heads and take care of several small items. The example
is extreme, but it illustrates the condition of stress under which the
copy reader often works. To seize and retain the main facts of a story,
so he can write the head after the copy has left his hands, he must
keep his mind keyed up to the highest notch of efficiency. Names above
all must be closely watched. A moment’s wandering of the attention
may lead to the statement in a headline that Jones killed Smith, when
in fact Smith killed Jones. Plainly the day of the irresponsible
“Bohemian” in journalism is at an end; the modern newspaper demands
clear-headed, alert, dependable workmen.


Copy reading has its lighter side. Gems of unconscious humor come
to the desk over the wire, through the mails and now and then from
the “cub” reporters in the local room. Witness the following, taken
verbatim from a story that did not get into print:

    Patrolman Prim of Twelfth District Station suffered two broken
    knuckles of his right hand, when he struck Charles Wilson, of
    No. 2324 B street, yesterday afternoon on the nose. Wilson
    resisted arrest and the fight followed. The latter’s nose was
    slightly scratched, and is held at the station.

A volunteer correspondent wrote:

    Sneak theaves made away with the contribution box Sunday
    eavning just after there had been a liberal donation from the
    congregation of some fifty dollars at the Methodist Church.

    It seams that no one was paing eny atenshion to the
    countribution box after the colexion was taken.

    It setting in easy reach of a good many on the alter.

    The person or persons that speited it away was very boald as
    well as slick, at eany rate it was taken while the congercation
    was still in the house.

    Some say they think they know who took it and there will be a
    clost watch on them for the next fiew days.

A suburban correspondent contributed this:

    John Angel, the man who was rescued from a horrible death last
    Thursday night by being killed by a passenger train, passing
    over his body, by Fred Anderson, is yet in a very serious
    condition but is somewhat improved from his condition on Friday.


On a printed form the copy reader keeps a record of all the stories
he handles, giving the name of the writer, the style of head, the
estimated number of words and the time. A sample entry would be:
“Jones--Fire--No. 4--250--8:30,” meaning that Jones, a reporter, wrote
a 250-word fire story, which the copy reader sent to the printer, with
a No. 4 head, at 8:30 o’clock. Such a record enables the editor at any
time to trace an offending item to its source.



    The art of arts, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of
    the light of letters, is simplicity. Nothing is better than
    simplicity--nothing can make up for excess or for the lack of
    definiteness.--WALT WHITMAN.

Newspapers in Greeley’s day were judged by their editorials; to-day
they are judged in large measure by their headlines. Big type is
associated in our minds with the sensational. The paper that habitually
uses scare heads is put down as yellow, while the paper with subdued
heads is regarded as conservative in its policies. The distinction
does not always hold good: a newspaper with conservative heads may be
essentially yellower in its treatment of news than one which spreads
a banner across the top of the first page to catch the eye of the
possible buyer on the street. But as a rule it may safely be said that
the style of heads mirrors in a general way the newspaper’s character.
It would be going too far, of course, to assert that yellowness is in
direct proportion to the size of the headlines, but it is true in the
main that small head letter stands for conservatism and glaring type
for so-called yellowness, with the average American newspaper in the
middle ground.

Whether or not headlines are an index to news policy, they are one of
the most important features of the modern newspaper. Properly written,
they enable the busy reader to grasp quickly all the essential facts
of the day’s news. The head is nothing more nor less than the story
in tabloid form. (See Figure 1.) In this it differs radically from
the title of a book or a play, which merely suggests the theme. The
newspaper head is written to pique and gratify curiosity at the same


The head is an advertisement, and like all good advertisements it
should be honest, holding out no promise that the story does not
fulfill. It should be based on the facts as set forth in the story
and nothing else. The head writer is bound by the same rules as
the reporter; neither is permitted to “editorialize” or to draw
conclusions. If Smith is merely accused of murder for killing Jones,
the fact that space is limited does not excuse the statement that Smith
murdered Jones. As the story is qualified so should the head
be. A libelous statement in a head is cause for a damage suit, even
when the story itself is not libelous.



       *       *       *

    Chancellor of Exchequer
      Hero of Britain, Eclipsing
      Asquith--Men to Return
      to Work at Once and No
      Discrimination to Be

       *       *       *


       *       *       *

    Representatives of Workmen
      and Employers in Equal
      Numbers, With Impartial
      Chairman, to Have Supreme

    Figure 1.--St. Louis _Post-Dispatch_ head. This form of head
    is well adapted to giving a synopsis of a big news story.]

Like the story, the head should be simple. Here again the short
Anglo-Saxon words are the best. Indeed, the head writer is put to the
necessity of using short words if he would make the head tell the
story. The head is a mosaic. Words must be fitted into a certain fixed
space, in such a way that the meaning will not be obscured. This is the
head writer’s chief problem--to meet the mechanical requirements of the
head and at the same time make the thought so plain that none can fail
to understand. (See Figure 2.)

A cardinal rule of head writing is expressed in the curt injunction:
Get action into the head. Make the head a statement of fact, not a
mere label. Never say “Shocking Accident” or “Terrible Fire,” but tell
what happened as specifically as possible. Try to get a verb in the
head, either expressed or implied. This rule, like all others that have
to do with newspaper work, is not to be applied literally under all
conditions. Exceptions may often be made in handling the feature story.
But in nine cases out of ten the best headline is one that states a
complete thought in the simplest possible manner.



           *       *       *

    Others Escape Winthrop Fire in

           *       *       *

    Some of Them Suffer from Slight

           *       *       *

    Loss Is $50,000 on Cottage and

           *       *       *

    Beach Section Threatened and Boston Gives

    Figure 2.--Conservative type of head, from the Boston
    _Transcript_. Notice that the second line of each deck
    after the first consists of a single word.]


As many ideas as possible should be crammed into the head. Hence the
omission by most newspapers of “a,” “an” and “the,” and the rule
against repeating important words. An article is used now and then to
fill out a line, but rarely at the beginning of a line unless it is
part of a title. The rule against the repetition of nouns, adjectives,
verbs and adverbs, which is enforced by practically all newspapers,
not only makes for variety in the head, but insures definiteness by
compelling the copy reader to seek out descriptive words to fit the
idea. For example, the top part of a head chosen at random reads:
“Graham to Give Value for Taxpayers’ Money.” The second deck says:
“Banker Candidate Promises to Apply Business Methods to Office if He Is
Elected Mayor.” Notice that the name Graham is not repeated, but that
identifying words are used instead; he is the “banker candidate.” The
head is thus made more specific and an additional idea is introduced.
The statement that he will “give value for taxpayers’ money” is
amplified and explained in the sentence following.

The copy reader’s ingenuity is often put to the test when it becomes
necessary to use synonyms in the head to avoid repetition. He should be
on his guard against using interchangeably words of similar meaning.
To call a modern hotel an inn or a woman a “member of the weaker sex”
verges on the ridiculous. A cat is a cat or an animal, never a “feline.”


Heads are usually written in the present tense unless they relate
to a future event. (See Figure 3.) This is the historical present,
used instead of the past tense for the sake of greater vividness.
“Defies His Accusers” drives home the recency of the occurrence. The
reader feels that he is getting something new. “President Speaks at
Albany” means that the President has just spoken, either on the day
of publication or the previous day. It is news--the latest thing the
President has done that is of public interest. It must not be inferred
from this that the past tense is barred from the head. On the contrary
there are occasions when it would be absurd to use anything else.
The copy reader would write, “William Smith Dies” or “William Smith
is Dead,” but in giving details of the dead man’s life it would be
manifestly foolish to say, “Is Born in Missouri,” “Is a Civil War
Veteran.” While the copy reader must observe the style of the paper
that employs him, he is not expected to apply any rule slavishly in
defiance of common sense.


    2 HURT, 50 ROUTED

           *       *       *

    Tenants of Apartment-House
      Are Driven to Street in
           Night Attire.

           *       *       *


           *       *       *

    Youths Finally Slide to Ground
        on Rain Pipe--Fire Loss
              Is $25,000.

    Figure 3.--Four-deck head from the Chicago _Record-Herald_;
    a well-balanced, typographically neat head built according
    to a general plan followed by many newspapers.]

The Kansas City _Star_ and _Times_, recognized as one of the most
carefully edited newspapers, affords a striking exception to the
general practice of putting the head in the present tense and omitting
the articles. The _Star_ prefers the past tense when it can be properly
used and encourages sentences with all the articles supplied. For
example: “A Tennessee Wreck Hurt 21--Two Coaches Were Burned, but Sixty
Persons Escaped.” Most newspapers would have said: “Tennessee Wreck
Hurts 21--Two Coaches Are Burned (or Burn), but Sixty Persons Escape.”
Without arguing the relative merits of the two types of heads, it is
worth noting that the _Star’s_ departure from custom in this and other
respects has given it a distinct individuality that no reader can
overlook. (See Figure 4.)

Whichever tense is used, take care to make the head consistent
throughout. Don’t switch from the present to the past, or vice versa,
without reason.


    TWO ROBBERS GOT $10.523

           *       *       *


           *       *       *

    Money Intended to Pay Off the Men of
       the Sheridan Coal Company, Near
         Pittsburg, Was Taken--Could
              Have Had $30,000.

    Figure 4.--Typical Kansas City _Star_ head, using
    the past tense.]


The divisions of a head are known variously as lines, decks or banks.
A two-line or a two-deck head is one divided into two parts by a dash.
The word “line” in this sense means a complete division of a head, no
matter what its length in type lines. The top deck, which is set in the
largest type, should contain the leading feature of the story. This is
amplified and minor features are added in the other parts. Most papers
require that each division of a head shall state a complete thought,
having a verb expressed or implied; or, to put the rule negatively,
that no sentence shall be continued from one division into another.
The other type of head--the running head--is shown in this example
from the Cincinnati _Enquirer_, the dashes indicating the divisional
breaks: “Pomp--Waits on Humility,--As Dignitaries of a Great Church Bow
in Prayer.--Impressive Scenes Witnessed at Music Hall--When Episcopal
Triennial Convention Opened.”

All heads are made local in their application. The word “here” in the
head on an out-of-town story means the city in which the paper is
published, not the place where the story originated. Time is given, in
the head with reference to the date of publication. Thus a story dated
May 9, is published in the morning paper of May 10, and “to-day” in the
head means May 10.


Alliteration occasionally may be used with good effect in a head, but
unintentional alliteration--as “Commercial Club Considers Cleaning
Contracts”--should be avoided. Slang, unless apt and timely, has no
greater justification in the head than in the story.

Some newspapers forbid the head that asks a question, except perhaps on
stories of a freakish nature, on the theory that a newspaper’s business
is to inform, not to ask questions. Others permit the questioning head
as a means of qualifying a statement. Thus a report which has not been
verified may be headed with a line followed by an interrogation point,
as “Revolution in Cuba?” This style of head writing may easily be
overworked. Seeing several question marks on the same page, the reader
might jump to the conclusion that he had better subscribe for a paper
that can tell him something instead of one that appears to deal mainly
in rumors.

Another style of head discouraged or forbidden altogether by some
papers is the unintentional imperative. This is a head beginning
with a verb in the third person plural form, which may be read as
an injunction to do something. “Kill Thirty Men” may be the head on
a story of an insurrection. It means, of course, “They Kill Thirty
Men,” but the form, when the subject is not expressed, is also the
imperative. Only a few newspapers bar this head altogether, as there is
seldom any possibility that it will be misconstrued. An iron-clad rule
forbidding it can be justified only on the ground that the rule is
part of a newspaper’s arbitrary style.



       *       *       *


       *       *       *

    Rides Up the Tall Tower Along With Some
      Tourists--Then Visits the Senate’s
      New Office Building and Says He’s
      Having Fun Like an Excursionist.

    Figure 5.--New York _Sun_ head. The _Sun_ style demands
    that in this head the last line of the third deck shall
    end flush at the right.]

Trite phrasing should be avoided in the head whenever possible. “Score”
and “probe” and “rap” are handy words for the copy reader because
of their brevity and are liable to overuse. The head that contains
worn-out expressions or that fails to get anywhere is, in the office
vernacular, wooden. Woodenness is an unpardonable sin. Try to give the
head a swing and an element of originality. (See Figure 5.)

Avoid negative statements in the head. Tell what happened rather than
what didn’t happen, unless a negation is the feature of the story.

Other things being equal, the active voice is better than the passive.
“Jones Defeats Smith for Mayor” is preferable to “Smith Is Defeated by

Avoid the monotony of beginning each division of a three or four-deck
head with the same subject. The following is an extreme example of this
fault: “She Died To-day--Esteemed Lady Passes Away at Her Home West of
City This Morning--She Was 85 Years of Age--She Leaves Five Children
and Thirteen Grandchildren.” An even more glaring defect in this head
is the omission of the name. The reader learns only that “she” died.

Don’t build any part of the head on a fact that is tucked away near the
end of the story and hence may be pruned off in making up the paper. In
handling a story that is likely to be cut down between editions, base
the head on features well toward the beginning so that the head will
not have to be changed.


Each head must be written according to a fixed typographical plan.
There is a definite limit to the number of letters and spaces each type
line will contain, and the copy reader who exceeds that limit is sure
to be reminded, sarcastically, that “type isn’t made of rubber.” “Long
heads”--heads that will not fit into the allotted space--are a source
of vexation and delay if they are not repaired before being sent to the
composing room. The copy reader should take pains to make each head
fit the pattern before it leaves his hands. Until he has familiarized
himself with the heads he must write, he may find it convenient to keep
at hand a style card on which is pasted a sample of each head used,
with notations showing the number of letters and spaces to be written
in the different divisions. Each type line is said to contain so many
units, counting spaces as well as letters. All the letters of a line
set in “caps” are one unit each, except I, which is one-half, and M and
W, which are one and one-half each. The line, “WILLIAM SMITH DIES,”
contains 17½ units (not counting the quotation marks). A unit beyond
the usual limit may be crowded into the line by thin-spacing--that is,
by allowing less than the regular space between words. The same system
of counting is used for a line set in capitals and small letters,
allowance of course being made for the greater width of the capitals.

The head should be symmetrical, but it is not required that it fit the
pattern with absolute exactitude. Insistence on mechanical perfection
would cause waste of time and might result in hiding the meaning. Sense
should not be sacrificed to form. As between a mechanically exact
head that is not clear and a head that is less symmetrical but tells
the story plainly, the copy reader should choose the latter. For each
line of a head there is a maximum and a minimum limit, and if the copy
reader keeps within these the head will be as near to the standard as
can be expected.



       *       *       *

    President Schurman Talks on
      Character to Victorious
           Cornell Crew.

    Figure 6.--Two-deck head consisting of drop line in caps
    and pyramid in caps and lower case.]

Figure 6 shows a two-line head with the top deck set in 30-point
condensed Gothic type and the second deck in 12-point Wayside. The
top deck here is a drop line: the sentence drops down from one type
line into another. The second is called a pyramid. In writing such a
head a word in the first deck should never be divided. In the second
deck division is permissible, but the head is better if it can be
avoided. Fifteen to seventeen units in each line of the top deck make a
symmetrical head, when both lines are approximately the same length. In
writing the pyramid the copy reader after a little practice can tell at
a glance whether a sentence will fit. Care should be taken not to place
an indivisible word where it will cause trouble. For example, if the
first line of a pyramid, set with the usual spacing between words, ends
on the letter “m” in “Schmidt,” the word must be shifted to the second
line, with the result that too much white space appears in the first.
The dash is generally used to separate distinct ideas in the same deck
of a head. (See Figure 5.)

Various arbitrary rules affecting the mechanics of the head are
observed by different newspapers, and the copy reader going from one
paper to another is likely to find a brand new set of patterns to
work by. These mechanical details, however, are easily mastered after
one has acquired the knack of putting the story into terse, meaty
sentences. The only way to learn how to write heads, after one knows
the general principles, is to write them.


=Overline.=--Head over a cut. When the name appears under a cut (this
being an _underline_), it is not repeated in the overline, which must
be an identifying sentence. “Banker Who Is Running for Congress” and
“Woman Who Shot at Burglar in Her Home” are typical overlines.

=Box Head.=--Head enclosed in a border. Many overlines are set in this

=Banner.=--A headline extending across the top of a page.

=Jump or Run-Over Head.=--Head used over the continuation of a story
that runs over (jumps) from one page to another. Some newspapers
require a new head for the jump; others use the top deck of the
original head set in smaller type.

=Freak Head.=--Special type of head used over freakish news stories.
(See Figure 7.)


        SUES FOR $25,000._

       *       *       *

    _Woman’s Shoulder Injured on
       Street Car and She Asks
         Damages of Company._

    Figure 7.--Freak head from the New York _World_, set in
    italics to distinguish it from other news heads.]

=Sub-head.=--A head, usually one line, placed within the text of
the story to avoid the monotony of an unbroken front of type. Most
newspapers use sub-heads in stories running half a column or more. “Two
sub-heads or none” is the rule in some offices. A sub-head is based on
the paragraph immediately following.


Type, in the printer’s vernacular, is _upper case_ (capital letters)
and _lower case_ (small letters). A word that is capitalized is said to
go _up_. A word not capitalized is put _down_. When both capitals and
small letters are used in a line, it is said to be in _caps and lower
case_ (abbreviated l. c.). A line set in capitals is _all caps_.

The general practice is to capitalize all nouns, pronouns, adjectives,
verbs, adverbs and interjections in the head, as in the title of a book
or play. This is a detail left to the compositor, who is guided by the
newspaper’s typographical style.



    A vast deal of the slipshod and prolix stuff which we are
    compelled to read or to listen to is, of course, born of
    idleness. When, as so often happens, a man takes an hour to
    say what might have been as well or better said in twenty
    minutes, or spreads over twenty pages what could easily have
    been exhausted in ten, the offense in a large majority of
    cases is due, not so much to vanity, or to indifference to the
    feelings of others, as to inability or unwillingness to take
    pains.--From an address, “Culture and Character,” delivered
    before the University of Aberdeen by the RIGHT HONORABLE H. H.

The following list of “Don’ts” has been compiled from a considerable
experience in reading newspaper copy and in directing the work of
students in journalism classes. Practical application is made of some
of the principles discussed in preceding chapters:

1. Don’t think it necessary to call a child a “tot.”

2. Don’t hesitate to repeat a name for the sake of clearness. Too many
personal pronouns lead to confusion.

3. Don’t say a wedding “occurred.” Things occur unexpectedly; they take
place by design.

4. Don’t use “loan” as a verb. The verb is “lend.”

5. Don’t say “Smith graduated,” but “Smith was graduated.” A school
graduates its pupils; they are graduated.

6. Don’t say “a number of” when you can avoid it. Nothing could be
more vague. Try to give the exact number or at least an approximation.
“Several” is usually better than “a number of.”

7. Don’t advertise a particular revolver or other manufactured article
by naming it in your story, except for special cause, as when this
information may furnish a clew to a person’s identity. Also it is
seldom desirable to give the caliber of a firearm.

8. Don’t use “amateur” when you mean “novice.” An amateur is not
necessarily unskilled; he is simply not a professional. An unskilled
beginner is a novice.

9. Don’t make the mistake that appeared in this published headline:
“Audience of 5,000 See Aëroplane Flight.” An audience hears; spectators

10. Don’t spell “forward,” “backward,” “toward,” “homeward” and
similar words with a final “s.”

11. Don’t use stories that are not fit for any member of any family
to read. If a mob makes such a demonstration against a man accused of
criminal assault that the story has to be covered for that feature, a
mere hint will be sufficient to cover the revolting part.--From the St.
Louis _Star_ Style-Book.

12. Don’t use “burglarize.” The dictionary contains no such word.

13. Don’t say “he had his arm cut off.” That means literally that he
got someone to perform the operation of cutting off his arm. Say, in
case of accident, “his arm was cut off.”

14. Don’t say “Smith sustained an injury.” To sustain is to bear up.
Say he “suffered an injury.”

15. Don’t use “over” in the sense of “more than.” Say “more than 300
persons heard the lecture.”

16. Don’t use “party” for “person.” “Party,” outside of legal
documents, means a group of persons.

17. Don’t leave out essential words, trusting that the copy reader
will be able to guess what you mean. The omission of the little word
“not” may cause serious trouble. Whenever possible go over your story
carefully before turning it in.

18. Don’t use a word in different senses in the same paragraph.

19. Don’t use “state” for “say.” A statement is formal. Most persons
merely say they are going fishing.

20. Don’t divide a word at the end of a page.

21. Don’t fail to read your story in print and note the changes that
have been made. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

22. Don’t use “purchase” for “buy,” “remainder” for “rest,” “portion”
for “part” or any long word when a short one can be found.--From the
Springfield (Mass.) _Republican_ Rules.

23. Don’t confuse “beside” and “besides.” “Beside” is never anything
except a preposition; “besides” can also be used as an adverb, in the
sense of moreover.

24. Don’t use “female” for “woman.”

25. Don’t confuse “plurality” and “majority.” A winner in an election
has a plurality over his nearest opponent; he has a majority if his
vote exceeds the combined vote of his opponents.

26. Don’t use two or more words where one will do as well, as “put in
an appearance” for “appear.”

27. Don’t overwork the word “secure.” It is often loosely used where
“get,” “obtain,” “procure,” “collect” or some other word would more
exactly express the thought.

28. Don’t say “tried an experiment.” Experiments are made.

29. Don’t say “the above statement.” “Above” is an adverb; “foregoing”
is the right word here. You wouldn’t write “the below statement.”

30. Don’t say “at the corner of Ninth street and Broadway.” “At Ninth
street and Broadway” is sufficient unless you desire to specify one of
the four corners.

31. Don’t use “suicide” as a verb. Say “he killed himself” and tell how.

32. Don’t use a foreign word or phrase when English will answer the
purpose--and it nearly always will. “A dollar a day” is better than “a
dollar per diem.” Don’t mix languages, as in “a dollar per day.”

33. Don’t say “fifty people were present.” Use “persons.” “People,”
according to Webster’s Dictionary, means primarily “the body of persons
who compose a community, tribe, nation or race; an aggregate of
individuals forming a whole; a community; a nation”--as “the people of
the United States.” “Persons” refers to individuals.

34. Don’t say “united in marriage” or “joined in the holy bonds of
matrimony.” Say they were “married.”

35. Don’t use “depot” when you mean “station.” A depot is a storehouse
for freight or supplies; railway passengers arrive at a station.

36. Don’t call a fire a “holocaust” or a “conflagration” unless
circumstances warrant. Consult the dictionary.

37. Don’t call the wife of Dr. Jones “Mrs. Dr. Jones.” She is simply
Mrs. Jones. A woman does not gain a title by virtue of her husband’s
rank or profession.

38. Don’t make a practice of using a man’s occupation as a title, as
in “Barber Smith.” He is “Smith, a barber.” Certain exceptions are
permitted by most newspapers, as in “Policeman Riley.”

39. Don’t fall into the habit of describing every bride as “blushing,”
or every five-dollar bill as “crisp” or every gold piece as “bright,

40. Don’t say “among those present were ... and others.” Leave out “and

41. Don’t tell the reader “this is a pathetic story.” If it is, he will
find it out for himself.

42. Don’t overwork “well-known” and “prominent.” In revolt against
a long line of “well-known grocers” and “prominent saloon keepers,”
some newspapers have prohibited the use of these words altogether in
referring to persons. It is always better to identify your characters
specifically. Tell how a man is prominent.

43. Don’t say “Jones was present at the meeting and spoke.” Of course
he was present. Simply say he spoke.

44. Don’t call a dog a “canine.” “Canine” is an adjective. You wouldn’t
call a cow a “bovine.”

45. Don’t call a body found in a stream a “floater.”

46. Don’t use “lady” for “woman” under the impression that you are
paying a compliment. “Woman” is a good, stanch word at which no real
woman can take offense.

47. Don’t write anything in violation of confidence.

48. Don’t say “an old man 80 years of age.” It’s sufficient to say that
he is “80 years old.”

49. Don’t say “5 o’clock P. M. yesterday afternoon.” Say either “5 P.
M. yesterday” or “5 o’clock yesterday afternoon,” according to the
style of your paper.

50. Don’t write “at an early hour this morning” when “early this
morning” will do as well.

51. Don’t say “completely destroyed.” “Destroyed” is sufficient.

52. Don’t say “he was presented with a gold cane.” “A gold cane was
presented to him” is the correct form.

53. Don’t say “the money was divided between Smith, Jones and Brown.”
It was divided among them. Use “between” in reference to two only.

54. Don’t overwork “that.” Some newspapers favor its omission in
indirect discourse when the meaning is plain without it, as in the
sentence: “He said (that) John was his friend.” Never omit, however, at
the sacrifice of clearness.

55. Don’t call every girl pretty. If a girl is pretty, you are usually
justified in telling something more about her.

56. Don’t say “less than fifty persons were there.” Use “fewer.” “Less”
refers to quantity, “fewer” to numbers.

57. Don’t make a collective noun plural unless you mean to convey the
idea of plurality. The word “audience” is singular when you mean the
audience as a unit. It is plural when you have in mind the individuals
that compose the audience, as “the audience waved their hats.”

58. Don’t call a policeman a “minion of the law.”

59. Don’t use “enthuse.” There is no such word.

60. Don’t waste your energy on trivialities.

61. Don’t use “illy” for “ill,” which may be either adjective or
adverb. “Illy” does not exist in good usage.

62. Don’t overwork “very.” Through abuse the word has lost much, if not
all, of its force. “He’s a very good man,” as spoken, usually gives the
idea that he is only passably good. “He’s a good man” is stronger. Be
sparing in the use of superlatives.

63. Don’t use dialect to the disparagement of any nationality. Don’t
use it at all unless you are sure of your ground.

64. Don’t color your story with modifying words that imply approval or

65. Don’t write 300 words when you are told to keep your story within

66. Don’t say “at the present time.” Say “at present” or “now.”

67. Don’t say “Miss Smith presided at the piano.” She merely played the

68. Don’t say that “this town was thrown into a state of great
excitement,” “business was entirely suspended,” “a great sensation was
created,” or any other of the conventional things. They are usually
untrue and never interesting.--From the Chicago _Record-Herald’s_
Instructions to Correspondents.

69. Don’t speak of “tasty” decorations. They are tasteful.

70. Don’t fall into a groove in sentence building. Seek variety.
A series of three or four sentences each beginning with “the” is

71. Don’t begin a story with “there is” when you can find a better way.

72. Don’t try to show superior knowledge by writing above the heads of
your readers. News writing should express, not conceal, thought. Leave
stilted phrases for the campaign orator.

73. Don’t use technical terms that are not generally understood.

74. Don’t say “he plead guilty.” The past tense of “plead” is “pleaded.”

75. Don’t use “further” referring to distance; the right word here is
“farther,” as “a mile farther east.” “Further” should be used in other
senses, as “further, he said, etc.”

76. Don’t say “partially” for “partly.” “Partially” means with
prejudice. A building is partly of brick.

77. Don’t use an abbreviation that can be misunderstood.

78. Don’t say “a man by (or of) the name of Smith.” Say “a man named

79. Don’t confuse the words “prohibition” and “temperance.”

80. Don’t say “the then governor.” “Then” is an adverb.

81. Don’t begin a sentence with figures. Spell out, or re-cast the

82. Don’t say “his whereabouts are unknown.” “Whereabouts” is singular;
so also “politics.”

83. Don’t say “in our midst.”

84. Don’t use “inaugurate” for “begin.” A movement is begun; a
president is inaugurated.

85. Don’t abbreviate names, as “Geo.” for “George,” “Jno.” for “John,”

86. Don’t contract “all right” to “alright.” There is a good word
“already” (not of the same meaning, however, as “all ready”) but
“alright” has no justification.

87. Don’t say “one of the most unique.” “Unique” expresses an absolute
condition; it has no degrees.

88. Don’t use an apostrophe before the “s” in “its” (possessive of
“it”), “hers,” “ours,” “yours,” “theirs.” “It’s” means “it is.”

89. Don’t use “don’t” when you mean “doesn’t.” Be careful to place the
apostrophe between the “n” and the “t.”

90. Don’t call every little flurry a panic.

91. Don’t write “capitol” when you mean the seat of government--the
city. The building is the capitol; Washington is the capital of the
United States.

92. Don’t say “he walked a distance of a mile.” Omit “a distance of.”

93. Don’t begin your story with a general statement such as “a terrible
accident occurred last night.” Tell what really happened.

94. Don’t forget to use quotation marks at the end of quoted matter.

95. Don’t write it variously “street,” “Street” and “st.” Find out the
style of your paper and stick to it if you would gain the good will of
the copy reader.

96. Don’t try to save money for the office by crowding your copy on a
sheet without margins. Leave plenty of white space at the top and the
bottom so the sheets can be pasted together.

97. Don’t say “he secured a position as janitor.” Most persons simply
get jobs.

98. Don’t make the mistake of the reporter who wrote of a
“three-cornered duel.” A duel (from the Latin duo) is a fight between
two persons.

99. Don’t speak of a climate as “healthy.” Persons are healthy, places

100. Don’t use “gentleman” for “man.” “Gents” is atrocious.



    Contrary to the opinions of many, the newspaper has saved its
    readers from that modern perversion of our already forcible
    English, slang. It has pruned its language of affectation,
    fine writing and indiscriminate and excessive use of
    adjectives.--From an address by the REV. WILLIAM B. NORTON, of
    Evanston, Ill., as reported by the Chicago _Evening Post_.

If a reporter is lazy or inclined to “fine writing” he has only to
reach into the grab-box of his memory to draw out a word or phrase,
all ready to his hand, that seems to suit the occasion. Was the horse
running fast? Then it was going at “breakneck speed.” Did the young
woman who was pulled out of the river fall in love with her rescuer?
Then “her gratitude melted into love.” It was the “old, old story.” She
became his “blushing bride” and the news of the marriage was to the
discarded suitor “like a bolt from a clear sky.” “A host of friends”
attended the “nuptials” and the “happy couple” were “showered with

Handy, cut-and-dried expressions will creep into copy unless the
reporter is always on the alert to find the right word. Many of
the figures of speech in this category doubtless possessed charm
and piquancy at one time, but through long usage they have sunk to
a meaningless level. They have become part of the stock in trade of
the “fine writer,” who seeks to confound the reader with large words.
Other words and phrases are merely trivial or in poor taste. The news
writer should study to fit his words exactly to the meaning he intends
to convey, instead of lazily giving way to the temptation to draw on a
ready-made stock.

“Bromides” is the name given by the newspaper man to this stock of
handy expressions. The term is thus defined in a bulletin issued by a
metropolitan newspaper for its copy readers: “A bromide, in a newspaper
office, is a word, phrase or expression, or turn of style, that is
especially lacking in originality--overworked, hackneyed--a ‘chestnut.’
The daily travail of the editor and the copy reader is in scouting for
errors of grammar and skirmishing with inaccuracy and awkwardness. But
it is a massacre of libel; a war of extermination against bromides.”

The following list of “bromides” includes both trite and grandiose
expressions which the news writer will do well to avoid and the copy
reader to eliminate if they are passed on to him. The list is intended
to be only suggestive of the evils of “bromidic” writing. It is far
from exhaustive. Almost any newspaper man could add similar expressions
which have come within his experience:

    admiring friends
    agent of death
    ancestral domain
    and many others
    angry mob
    arch culprit
    avenging justice

    battle-scarred veteran
    beautiful and accomplished
    bereaved widow
    better half
    beyond peradventure of a doubt
    big mogul (locomotive)
    bleeding, mangled form
    blunt instrument
    blushing bride
    body of the deceased
    bolt from a clear sky
    bonds of matrimony
    bosom of the briny deep
    bourne from which no traveler returns
    brand from the burning
    breakneck speed
    break the news gently
    breathless silence
    burden of bluecoats
    burly negro
    busy marts of trade

    carnival of crime
    catch of the season
    caught like a rat in a trap
    caught red-handed
    certain party (for person)
    challenge contradiction
    checkered career
    city bastile
    city’s fair escutcheon
    clutches of the law
    commercial emporium
    conspicuous by his absence
    contracting parties (in marriage)
    conventional black
    cool as a cucumber
    cowering poltroon
    crisp ten-dollar bill
    crowded to its utmost capacity
    culminated in the nuptials
    cynosure of all eyes

    Dan Cupid’s dart
    dastardly assassin
    day of reckoning
    delicious refreshments
    demure miss
    devoted slave
    devouring element
    diabolical outrage
    divine (for preacher)
    divine passion
    dull, corroding care
    dull, sickening thud
    durance vile
    dusky damsel
    downy couch

    ebbing life blood
    effected an entrance
    eked out a bare existence
    elegant creation
    entered a state of coma
    evening repast
    exigencies of the occasion
    extended heartfelt sympathy

    facile pen
    failed to materialize
    fair sex
    fair women and brave men
    fateful words
    feast of reason
    feathered songster
    fell design
    festive occasion
    fever heat
    few and far between
    fiery steed
    first fall of the beautiful
    fleeting breath
    foeman worthy of his steel
    for it was none other than he
    formulated a design
    fragrant Havana
    frenzied finance
    furtively secreting

    gathered to his fathers
    general public
    genial boniface
    gilded youth
    goes without saying
    grand old party
    gratitude melted into love
    great beyond
    grewsome spectacle
    grim reaper
    groaned under the weight of toothsome viands

    hairbreadth escape
    happy benedict
    heartrending screams
    hied himself
    high dudgeon
    high road to recovery
    host of friends
    human freight
    hungry flames
    hurled defiance
    hymeneal altar

    immaculate linen
    in a clerical capacity
    inclemency of the weather
    inner circles of society

    jury of his peers

    kind and indulgent father
    knights of the grip

    large and enthusiastic audience
    last but not least
    late lamented
    launched into eternity
    leaden missile
    light collation
    lingering illness
    lion of all social gatherings
    little blind god
    located his whereabouts
    lodged in jail
    long sleep (death)
    lull before the storm
    lurid flames

    made good his escape
    man of parts
    maze of mystery
    minions of the law
    modicum of notoriety
    mourned their loss

    natty suit
    neatly engraved invitations
    neat sum
    never in the history of
    news leaked out
    nice manners
    nick of time
    nipped in the bud
    notorious crook and police character

    old, old story (love)
    oldest inhabitant
    one fell swoop
    one fine day
    own inimitable way

    pale as death
    pangs of poverty
    phials of his scorn
    piercing shriek of anguish
    pillar of the church
    police dragnet
    populace was up in arms
    portals of his living tomb
    portent of evil
    prepossessing appearance
    present incumbent
    presided at the piano
    prominent (of persons)
    public prints
    put in an appearance

    quiet home wedding

    raging torrent
    rash act
    recipient of handsome and costly presents
    remains (for body)
    rendered a widow
    ripe old age
    rising young barrister
    rooted to the spot
    rumors are rife
    rushed post haste

    sacred edifice
    sad rites
    sad tidings
    scene beggared description
    seemed to spring from thin air
    serious but not necessarily fatal
    set the town agog
    shook like a leaf
    shorn of his accustomed affability
    shrouded in mystery
    silver-tongued orator
    sixteen summers (in giving age)
    smoking revolver
    snorting iron horse (locomotive)
    snug income
    sole topic of conversation
    spread like wildfire
    stepped into the breach
    sterling worth and high promise
    still evening air
    stood aghast
    storm king
    stung with remorse
    succulent bivalve
    suicide (as a verb)
    summoned medical aid
    sustained an injury
    swathed in bandages
    sweet slumber

    thickest of the fray
    this mortal coil
    tidy sum
    tiny tots
    tireless vigil
    tonsorial parlor
    took into custody
    took the bit in his teeth
    totally destroyed
    to the bitter end
    tried and true official
    tripped the light fantastic

    ubiquitous reporter
    unbiased probe
    under cover of the darkness
    unfortunate victim
    unique in the city’s annals
    united in the bonds of matrimony
    upholders of law and order

    vale of tears
    vanished as if the earth had swallowed him up
    vengeance his portion
    viewed the remains
    vouches for the authenticity of

    war to the knife
    waxed eloquent
    weaker sex
    wedded bliss
    wee sma’ hours
    weird scene
    well-known club man
    white as a sheet
    wildest excitement
    with becoming grace
    without fear of successful contradiction
    witnesses duly sworn



    Abbreviation, marks used in, 6, 186;
      care necessary in, 221

    Accuracy, importance of, 30;
      in observation, 31;
      in names, 33, 35, 179;
      in street addresses, 34;
      in spelling, 34;
      effort to obtain, 36, 225;
      in interview, 121;
      in business stories, 133;
      in correspondence, 151;
      essential in copy reading, 175

    Active voice, 13, 204

    Add, how marked, 188

    Advance copy, 123;
      notices by mail, 161;
      held for release, 168

    Advertisement, head compared to, 194

    Ages, style in giving, 217

    Alliteration, in headlines, 202

    Anglo-Saxon, words preferred, 13, 103;
      in heads, 196

    Asquith, the Right Honorable H. H., on prolixity, 211

    Assignment, defined, 2

    Associated Press, dispatch from, 70


    Bad taste, example, 27

    Baltimore _Sun_, story from the, 142

    Banner, in head writing, 209

    Beat, defined, 2;
      measured by minutes, 134

    Bible, as model for news writer, 9, 61

    “Bohemians,” no longer tolerated, 191

    Boston _Transcript_, head from the, 197

    Box head, defined, 209

    Brisbane, Arthur, on newspaper work, 17

    Bromides in writing, 224;
      list of, 226

    Bulletins, when to send, 157, 159, 166

    Business stories, care necessary in covering, 133


    Capital letters, how indicated, 186;
      in heads, 206, 210

    Cheap slang, example, 39

    Chicago _Evening Post_, stories from the, 126, 139

    Chicago _Inter-Ocean_, editorial on news, 41

    Chicago _Record-Herald_, stories from the, 72, 76;
      instructions to correspondents, 154, 220;
      style, 177;
      head from the, 199

    Chicago _Tribune_, order to correspondents, 157;
      news specialties, 160

    _Christian Science Monitor_, editorial on news writing, 79

    Cincinnati _Enquirer_, sporting news, 160;
      on promptness, 166;
      style of heads, 202

    City editor, has “nose for news,” 43;
      judge of story, 81;
      valuing news, 103

    Classified, see Department

    Clearness, necessity of, 9;
      in heads, 196

    Climax, first in news story, 57, 79

    Collective nouns, 218

    Compression, in news writing, 80

    Conciseness, why desirable, 11;
      in telegraph stories, 152

    Copy, defined, 1;
      how to prepare, 4;
      reading copy, 171;
      specimen page of, 185;
      “A Copy,” 189;
      schedule, 192

    Copy readers, duties of, 3, 171;
      qualifications of, 172;
      organization of, 174;
      must be vigilant, 178;
      work under stress, 190

    Corrections, care necessary in making, 5

    Correspondents, functions of, 150;
      pitfalls for, 154;
      alertness appreciated, 159;
      instructions to, 169;
      how paid, 170

    Court reports, to be watched carefully, 179

    Crime news, question of ethics, 131


    Damaging statements, 19, 133, 155

    Death stories, choice of words in, 38;
      examples, 38, 141, 142, 143;
      points to cover in, 130

    Deck of head, defined, 201

    Definiteness, in news writing, 22;
      examples, 94, 147;
      in heads, 197

    Department stories, 48;
      “slugs” given to, 182

    Dialect, use of, 23, 88, 219

    Don’ts for news writer, list of, 211

    Drop line in head, 207


    Editing, marks used in, 184;
      page of edited copy, 185

    Editorial comment, not permitted in news, 20;
      weakens story, 25

    End-mark, use of, 5, 187

    Expansion, in news writing, 80

    _Ex parte_ statements, danger in, 156, 180


    Fairness, essential in story, 18

    Faking, not tolerated, 82, 153

    Feature stories, defined, 3;
      examples, 29, 106, 108, 124, 127;
      treatment of, 47, 98;
      for entertainment, 101;
      suggestions for, 111;
      may be interview, 120;
      sending by mail, 168

    Fictional method, in news writing, 71, 99

    Fine writing, not wanted, 10, 103, 224;
      examples, 16, 38, 226

    Fire stories, general plan of, 79;
      examples, 72, 77, 89, 95, 139, 142;
      analysis of a story, 92;
      points to cover in, 129

    Flippancy, to be avoided, 23, 88, 103

    Follow copy, 6, 176

    Follow stories, 183

    Force in writing, how obtained, 12

    Foreign words, 215

    Freak head, example, 209

    Fulton (Mo.) _Gazette_, editorial on country journalism, 17


    Generalities, to be avoided, 21

    Good taste, essential in news writing, 22;
      illustrated, 109

    Gossip, beware of unfounded, 154

    Greeley, Horace, view of reporting, 23

    Guide line, in reading copy, 181


    Headlines (heads), defined, 3;
      old style, 62;
      written by copy readers, 175;
      danger of libel in, 179, 194;
      how designated, 183;
      newspapers judged by, 193;
      reproductions of, 195, 197, 199, 201, 204, 207, 209;
      not mere labels, 196;
      tense in, 198;
      local in application, 202;
      trite phrasing in, 204;
      various styles of, 208

    Hope, Anthony, on style, 113

    Horrible details, to be shunned, 23

    Human-interest stories, defined, 47;
      examples, 50, 72, 95, 109;
      value of, 102;
      prescription for, 103;
      uncovering facts of, 104;
      divergence in treatment of, 132;
      in demand, 161

    Humor, example of, 49;
      examples of unconscious, 191, 192


    Imperative form, in heads, 203

    Impersonality, in news writing, 20

    Inserts, in copy, 5, 187, 189

    Interview, defined, 113;
      when incidental, 114;
      as the story itself, 118;
      first steps in getting, 118;
      examples, 119, 120, 124-128

    Irwin, Will, on reporting, 1


    Journalism, personal era gone, 21;
      daily problem of, 132;
      sensational, 193

    Jump head, defined, 209


    Kansas City _Star_, departure from custom in the, 62, 71;
      stories from the, 71, 72, 75, 76, 108;
      style, 178;
      heads, 200

    Knapp, George L., on newspaper English, 30


    Lead, introduction of story, 2;
      method of writing, 57;
      what it contains, 59;
      styles vary, 62;
      kinds to be avoided, 63;
      police data in, 64;
      names in, 65;
      general rule for, 67;
      examples, 70-78, 147, 148

    Lecky, W. E. H., on style, 79

    Legibility, how obtained, 5

    Libel, danger of, 20;
      possible in names, 155, 179;
      rules about, 178;
      in headlines, 179, 194

    Lower case, defined, 210

    Lyman, Hart, on art of compression, 171


    Mail, how to send stories by, 168

    Make-up, defined, 4;
      methods of, 84

    Mechanics, of story, 84, 123;
      of head, 201

    Metaphor, use of, 15


    Names, must be watched, 6;
      misspelling resented, 33;
      in beginning story, 65;
      in business stories, 133;
      danger of libel in, 155, 179;
      style in giving, 221

    News, often pruned, 23;
      basic themes unchanging, 25;
      values, 41;
      how judged, 43;
      sensational, 45;
      plain, 46;
      feature, 47, 98;
      human-interest, 47, 102;
      department, 48;
      crime news, 131;
      ages quickly, 134;
      from out of town, 150;
      sporting, 162;
      told in heads, 194

    Newspaper, English often criticized, 8;
      fascination of work, 20;
      workshop unique, 25;
      safeguards against error, 36;
      its problem, 44;
      women readers of, 46;
      source of entertainment, 100;
      handling crime news, 131;
      telegraph service, 150;
      wants facts only, 154;
      variations in style, 176;
      headlines important, 193

    New York _Evening Post_, editorial on style, 7

    New York _Herald_, instruction, 84

    New York _Mail_, story from the, 127

    New York _Sun_, style a model, 50;
      stories from the, 50, 73, 99;
      head from the, 204

    New York _World_, stories from the, 95, 109, 124, 146;
      head from the, 209

    Norton, the Rev. William B., on slang, 224


    Observation, accuracy essential in, 31

    O’Malley, Frank Ward, story by, 50

    Originality, one secret of, 24;
      story lacking in, 28;
      example of, 106

    _Outlook_, comment by the, 55

    Overline, defined, 209


    Paragraphs, indentation of, 5;
      length of, 184;
      when run together, 186

    Pictures, with feature stories, 29;
      in Sunday magazine, 105;
      by mail, 162

    Pitfalls, for reporter, 154

    Place, as feature of story, 76

    Plain news story, 46

    Police stations, how named, 28

    Pronouns, care necessary in use of, 88

    Proofreading, not copy reading, 3

    Puns, on names, 23

    Pyramid, form of head, 208


    Query, defined, 163;
      blind, 165.

    Questions-and-answers method, example, 127

    Questions, in heads, 203

    Quotation, as lead of story, examples, 73, 74;
      preceding story, example, 75;
      when undesirable, 116;
      in beginning interview, examples, 119, 124, 126;
      should not be slavish, 121;
      indirect, 126;
      in telegraphing, 170;
      may be libelous, 180


    Reporter, his run or beat, 2;
      viewpoint of, 17;
      responsibility of, 19;
      must observe keenly, 31;
      place on newspaper, 42;
      must not “editorialize,” 89;
      idea of big story, 114;
      power to do harm, 133;
      seeking the right word, 224

    “Report of a Suicide,” 99

    Rewriting, 136;
      examples, 138, 139

    Running head, 202

    Run-over head, 209


    St. Louis _Post-Dispatch_, editorial on newspaper “endowment,” 30;
      story from the, 106;
      instructions to correspondents, 167

    St. Louis _Republic_, editorial on reporting, 17;
      on news values, 129;
      rules about libel, 178

    St. Louis _Star_, on revolting stories, 213

    Scandal, perverted idea about, 161

    Schedule, kept by copy reader, 192

    Scoop, see Beat

    Second-day stories, 134

    Sentences, preference given short, 14, 88;
      in lead of story, 65;
      avoid monotony in, 65, 220

    Signed story, exceptional, 20;
      example, 127

    Simplicity, keynote of news writing, 9;
      in writing of death, 39;
      in lead, 61;
      in head, 196;
      Springfield (Mass.) _Republican_ on, 214

    Slang, in news story, 10;
      two kinds of, 22;
      in head, 202

    Slug, name given story, 3, 181

    Space rates, for correspondents, 170

    Special correspondent, see Correspondent

    Speeches, how covered, 122

    Sporting news, instructions regarding, 162

    Springfield (Mass.) _Republican_, on paragraphs, 184;
      on short words, 214

    Story, defined, 1;
      qualities of ideal, 18;
      short feature, example, 29;
      kinds of, 46;
      plain, 46;
      feature, 47, 98;
      human-interest, 47, 102;
      lead of, 57;
      data from 100 typical stories, 68;
      body of, 79;
      mechanics of, 84, 123;
      often pruned, 85, 164;
      unlike novel, 87;
      for entertainment, 101;
      special types of, 129;
      telegraph, 150;
      marks in editing, 184;
      adds and inserts, 188

    Street addresses, must be closely watched, 34

    Style, three qualities of, 9;
      special rules of, 62, 175;
      variations in, 177

    Sub-head, defined, 210

    Suicide stories, examples, 71, 72, 146;
      motive a feature, 131;
      often ignored, 132

    Sunday magazine stories, 48, 105

    Superlatives, use sparingly, 219

    Swiftness, essential in copy reading, 173, 177

    Symmetry, desired in heads, 205

    Symposium, defined, 124


    Technical terms, to be avoided, 10

    Telegraph news, boiled down, 141;
      how gathered, 150;
      skeletonizing, 152;
      estimating value of, 153;
      what not to send, 156;
      what to send, 160;
      sporting news, 162;
      how to send, 163;
      handling big story, 165;
      instructions regarding, 169

    Telephone, used by correspondents, 163, 166

    Thoroughness, in covering story, 82

    Time, styles in giving, 39, 139, 217, 219;
      as feature of story, 75;
      “to-day” preferred, 134;
      in heads, 202

    Trite expressions, in heads, 204;
      list of, 226

    Trivialities, to be avoided, 26, 83, 153, 156

    Type, counting units in head, 206;
      illustration of Gothic, 207;
      upper and lower case, 210

    Typewriter, preferred for news writing, 4


    Upper case, defined, 210


    Verbosity, not permitted, 11, 185

    Viewpoint, must be unprejudiced, 17


    Washington _Herald_, editorial on newspaper English, 57

    Washington _Times_, editorial on news, 150

    Wedding stories, points to be covered in, 131

    Well-known, overworked, 217

    Whiteing, Richard, on daily journalism, 98

    Whitman, Walt, on simplicity of style, 193

Transcriber’s Note:

Words appearing in small capitals in the original publication have
been rendered as uppercase; italics denoted with underscores. No
known textual or punctuation changes have been made.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Writing of News - A Handbook with Chapters on Newspaper Correspondence and Copy Reading" ***

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