Difference between writing and editing
To be effective editors must understand the difference between writing and editing. On one level, the difference between writing and editing is simple: writing produces the words in a document, and editing changes them.
Editing a report
The final stage in the process of writing a report is editing and this stage is a significant one. Thorough editing helps to identify:
- spelling mistakes;
- awkward grammar;
- breakdowns in the logic of the report’s organisation or conclusion;
- if you have really fulfilled the requirements of the report and answered all parts of the question.
Grammar and punctuation
Every language form has its own conventions and rules. The language used in news writing and reporting similarly has some conventions and rules that differ somewhat from the way things are done in other varieties or dialects of the language.
Some of the common grammatical problems of news writing are:
Word order: The words in English sentences are arranged in a consistent manner. In the most common sentence structure, we find nouns first, verbs second and another noun after the verb: the familiar arrangement of subject + verb + direct object, like this:
Example- Subject- The President , Verb- addressed, Direct Object: The Congress
Normal word order: This word order has distinct advantages in communicating, because it is normal, usual and familiar. Listeners or readers encountering a noun/subject are able, because they recognise familiar word order, to know what is coming. Because sentences are put together in this way are straightforward, simple and understandable, they are commonly used in news writing. If we study the front page of almost any newspaper, we will find that probably four out of five news stories begin with sentences that consist of a subject + verb + direct object order. Beginners too should follow this pattern and strive for clarity and conciseness.
Special effects: Occasionally, for effects, we change things around and arrange words in a way that is a little out of the ordinary. We change emphasis and with it some elements of meaning.
Putting the adjective at the beginning instead of at the end of the sentence has the effect of emphasizing the key word, rare. Note the difference when the sentence is restructured and its elements put in normal word order:
Obviously the opportunity to use this kind of sentence, and make sense, doesn’t come along every day. But there are occasions when a shift in normal word order can be useful.
List of names: Newspapers frequently have to publish lists of names in news stories: names of dead and injured in accidents, names of people elected to office, names of people competing in various events, names of people charged with crimes. A useful journalistic device is a reversal of normal word order.
Few readers would wade through that list of names if it preceded the verb-as it should in normal word order. In presenting lists of names, a non-normal order works best. Many newspapers, including some of the most carefully edited, accept these inverted constructions. Other newspapers prefer normal word order and introduce lists of names like this:
Those charged with murder today are…..
The dead are…
Sequence of Tenses:
Ordinarily the principal verb in a sentence determines the tense of the verb that follow it. For example:
He tried to do a good job whenever he was asked.
He does whatever he likes.
This is a normal and expected usage. But sometimes strict adherence to normal usage can cause confusion in meaning. For example:
The Governor said that his state was rapidly becoming an urban state.
The sentence is correct if we follow the normal use but with a little reconstruction the sentence would sound more grammatically correct and logical-
The Governor said that his state is rapidly becoming an urban state.
The Passive Voice: The active voice has its place but the passive voice is also highly useful. In the example that follows, the first sentence is in the passive voice, the second in the active voice. Which in this instance is the more usual?
Smith was struck by a pitched ball.
A pitched ball struck Smith.
Clearly, for the subject matter, the first sentence is the more usual it is in the passive voice, a construction that gives the injured player the emphasis. Because the elements closest to the beginning of the sentence get the most attention, the writer had to decide which element to emphasise and then select the grammatical construction that will do the trick.
Placement of modifiers: Although modifiers can be placed either before or after the words they modify, their placement is guided by meaning, not whim. A modifier in the right place means one things. In another it may mean something entirely different.
Right and wrong words: The selection of the right word is very important in news writing. The right word communicates- the wrong word fails to communicate or communicates the wrong message. It may also mark the writer as careless or illiterate or both.
Parallel construction: This device is used a great deal in news writing and is neither mysterious nor difficult to execute. Examples of parallel construction include itemized leads listing dead and injured, lists of itemized names of one kind or another in the body of a news story. For example:
Promotions effective with the beginning of the fall semester:
James Smith, instructor, to assistant professor.
Some common punctuation problems:
Linking punctuation: The colon, the dash, the hyphen and the semicolon are used to link words and parts of sentences.
The colon: It is used to link an introductory statement and a list that follows in a separate paragraph or paragraphs. It also links an introductory statement and a list or itemization of points. It is also used to link an attribution or speech tag to quoted material.
The dash: A single dash is used to connect the main part of a sentence with a subordinate part.
The hyphen: The hyphen is used to link two or more words together, to link numbers and words, to link letters and words and to link prefixes to words.
The comma: The comma is commonly used to separate figures. It is also used to separate words in a series, but in news writing the final comma before and and or is omitted.
The semi-colon: The semi-colon is used to separate the lists to separate items grouped together- for example, in lists that include names, ages, addresses, titles or other descriptive items.
Parentheses: Paired commas or paired dashes can be used to set off parenthetical matter. Parentheses are most used for enclosing and setting off single words, initials or brief interpolations.