Maybe I will use algebra afterall

We all did it.  We sat through a myriad of high school classes wondering why.  What was the relevance of knowing all of the elements on the periodic table?  Was the order of the United States Presidents necessary to memorize?  Will I ever use algebra?

Our teachers told us to listen.  They gave us homework, tests and those dreaded Regents exams.  They promised us we would eventually need this information one day.

I tuned them out.  What do teachers know anyway?

School isn’t the real world.  Or is it?

Yesterday (10/15) in journalism class we discussed the proper way to attribute quotes.  Professor Biehl seemed to repeat herself as she kept explaining that the simplest form was best.  “Just say ‘he said’,” she said.  We also reviewed, again in detail, the necessity of leaving out our personal opinions.  She reminded us not to judge but just to report.  She instructed us to leave the emotional adjectives out.

I listened.  I thought about it.  I tuned it out.

I am going to be a feature journalist with any luck.  My opinion matters and adjectives are my friend.  Windy sentences filled with overly dramatic and descriptive words will fill my fabulous, journalistic future.

Enter: real world (a necessary cliche to explain my point).

After class I had an appointment to see my editor, Geoff Kelly, at Artvoice.  The purpose of our meeting was to review the articles I had submitted for print.  And wouldn’t you know it: Professor Biehl was right!  As I sat in our meeting it felt like class all over again.  He torn apart my writing (as I am told good editors do) and his major points of concern were my insertion of personal emotion and my ability to attribute my sources. He, in many cases, repeated Professor Biehl nearly verbatim.  Leave out the flowery words, don’t tell the reader what to think, kept it simple and just use “he said”.  Deja vu!

I better pull out that math book.

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One response to “Maybe I will use algebra afterall

  1. Content: 4 Not everyone can weave algebra, “just say said,” and Artvoice into a few paragraphs, but you did it with skill and humor — and without overloading the adjectives. Bravo.

    Glad to hear you have a good editor working with you. I was worried when you said your first article got printed with little editing. Work with and for him. Ultimately, you’ll be the one who benefits most (along with your readers).

    The lessons can sound repetitive until you catch yourself making the mistakes I warn about. Then they become real.

    Feature writing does not give you license to go flowery. The best feature writing remains tight and succinct. I’d be happy to share examples if you are interested.

    Links: 3 These links are fine. You could have taken me somewhere fun on the math angle, but oh well.
    Grammar: 3 (one typo — torn should be tore)

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