Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Art of Writing

Between writing scripts for the newscasts, my freelance work and this blog, I spend a lot of time writing. I spend even more time reading other people's writing, mostly news, but also magazines and when I have more free time (what's that?), books.

I write in the shower, while I'm driving, even while I'm running, not physically of course, but in my head, I'm often drafting something. If I get inspired, I start to craft the words, even if I don't have anywhere to write them down at the time. In this way I've started to see writing as an art. I'm far from the Picasso of the written word, but in the way that it comes from a creative and expressive place, I see the artistic quality of writing.

Like tone-deaf singing and dancing with two left feet, there is flat-out bad writing. But in the way you might prefer impressionism to cubism, ballet to jazz, and Mozart to Beethoven, writing can be subjective to the reader, i.e. many who love Dickens may not love Kurt Vonnegut.

Personally I like to read writing that is witty, but not forced humor, smart, but not pretentious, and most importantly, easy to understand. I have no desire to re-read a paragraph three times just because the writer was trying to sound intelligent. I love writing that almost makes you forget you're reading.

The problem is, it seems writing has become a lost art for many. We're so used to condensing our thoughts into 140-character tweets and quick smartphone emails that we may discount the importance of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, much less creativity. Having been through a rigorous grammar boot camp of sorts at the Medill School of Journalism, it's almost impossible for me not to think about these things. But apparently it's not being taught everywhere, because I have been shocked by some of the writing I've seen in newsrooms where I've worked.

I may have been born in the wrong generation; I prefer real newspapers and books the electronic versions. So call me old-fashioned, but I will always be a champion for quality writing. And future reporters beware, if your error-riddled script ends up in a show I'm anchoring, I'll likely take to it with the proverbial red pen!

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