December 05, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Ever wonder why subediting becomes monotonous over a period of time? Well, that's because the subs get to edit and rewrite much the same stuff each day. Their creativity hardly comes into play.
However, some of the world's top newspapers have shown newspaper reading and writing can be an interesting and educating experience. These papers, among other things, really care about their language.
Talking locally, our editors and subs need to rethink their usage of sentences like, “Police arrested one Mohammad Aslam ... Disappearance of one Yasin Shah …,” and so forth.
Using ‘one’ with the name of an unknown common man in news stories is an old-school practice some of our senior editors insist on.
This does not read well. Seeing this construction in Dawn yesterday, I asked the Guardian style editors about it and here's what they said:
"'One' with someone's name, eg "I had a tweet from one Arsalan Altaf, is at best patronising and at worst downright insulting."
Asked whether we should avoid it, they said: "Unless you actually want to insult someone ('the chancellor, one George Osborne...')."
So the editors better keep their sentences short and sweet, and not insult the people they write news about.
Here are the six elementary rules of good writing from George Orwell’s 1946 essay on "Politics and the English Language":
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
(The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad. He currently works for Radio Pakistan)
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