Use of difficult English by journalists drives readers away: New book

By PTI  
Thursday, February 21, 2019

By Neelabh Srivastava New Delhi, Feb 21 (PTI) The use of heavy English or long winding ledes by Indian newspapers and agencies makes it difficult for readers to understand news, a recent research-based book has revealed. 'Newspaper English' by veteran journalist and media academician Kiran Thakur sheds light on how scribes, more than often, resort to a language that is not "plain and simple", but is heavily jargonised. "I have concluded that Indian journalists often use long-winded sentences, unnecessary words and bombastic language.... often write news that common readers find difficult to understand," Thakur told PTI. According to the book, journalists often used jargon, technical terms and words common readers do not use, thereby impeding the communication channel with the reader. Thakur embarked upon the journey of studying the language of English newspapers about seven years ago after reading "Essential English" by American British-journalist Harold Evans. A former head of the Department of Communication and Journalism of Pune University, he collected data from 620 post graduate students and faculty members of Journalism and Media Studies, English and management studies in various cities like Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, Srinagar and Tezpur among others to conclude his findings. While the book is certainly a resourceful read for journalists, it can also come in handy for anybody looking to know more about the art of writing. It explains how using the active voice, rather than passive, not only reduces the wordage of a lede, but also keeps it de-cluttered and helps attract the attention of the reader. Quoting writer Martin Cutts, who has also penned the foreword for the book, Thakur debated the need for the language of news to be simple but attractive. "Readers are busy people. They cannot and will not read everything we offer them. They scan and skim, choosing what to examine. So, the headline and any accompanying picture or cartoon must be tasty enough to capture their attention," the book said. It added that it was imperative for the first paragraph to provide the gist of the story to help them decide whether to read any further. "Nobody in the history of newspapers has ever read the second paragraph first. Readers only reach the second paragraph if the first has hooked them. If you don't get to the point immediately, your readers will go elsewhere," it said. Thakur, who has worked for three decades as a journalist, also talked about various readability tools which can be used to check if a paragraph is easy enough for the reader to understand, and if the story has a crisp intro. "I have always laid emphasis on the first sentence of news writing and how to keep the intro or the lede short and tight when I teach journalism students. "This is aimed to attract the ordinary readers towards reading more and more stories," he said. While the author has covered several aspects of news writing, in the book, he admitted that a large chunk remained uncovered including news about business, corporate, economy, sports and entertainment. "I urge journalists and journalism scholars to do more research on the language of newspapers. There are other interesting areas for study, such as the language that feature and editorial writers use," Thakur said. The book has been published by Pune-based Vishwakarma Publications, and is priced at Rs 225. PTI NES TRS TRS TRS

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