Friday, May 15
Be Careful Reporters, You're Running Out of Adjectives
Bleak. Painful. Historic. Uncontrollable. Calamitous.
Yep, we're in a real panic situation.
Or, rather, a PANIC!! situation.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a goldmine for media organizations as they attract more viewers, sell more papers and earn more downloads thanks to a public that's hungry for the latest news about the crisis and its effects — nay, sweeping effects.
It's also been a gift to those writers and editors prone to the hyperbolic and the hysterical.
When they're teaching you to write (as if writing could actually be taught, but that's a topic for another post), you learn to use adjectives judiciously, sparingly. The same goes for adverbs. Stephen King, in his excellent tutorial On Writing, pointed out that "the road to hell is paved with adverbs."
Somebody ought to remind today's reporters of that.
Part of the reason the general public has such contempt for the press is that we have an annoying tendency of describing the news rather than simply reporting it. People do not need to be told that the pandemic and its effects are bleak or painful or unprecedented in our time. And they really don't need to be told that it's calamitous. It's a pandemic. How exactly would a pandemic not be calamitous?
Dear fellow journalists: Please stop trying to impress us with your talents for hyperventilating and your large vocabulary. Just give it to us straight.