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TMI: Leave it on the cutting room floor

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From The Rapidian staff

Each week, a Rapidian staffer will publish a piece related to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site. Click here for past editorials.

From Rapidian staff: When presenting information to your audience, don't pile it up. Deconstruct it.

It happens all the time in classes, at conferences, at public events. With so many questions fizzing from the audience, participants feel like they have one shot, so they load up their question. Pretty soon, no one is sure what the question is. There are so many preconditions, it's not clear whether the speakers know what they're supposed to answer.

Being able to evaluate the relevance of information is an important part of solid reporting.

To begin with, let your readers know what they're getting into with a short but descriptive headline. In the first several sentences, clue your audience in to the takeaway of your piece. An easy way to think of this is as your thesis statement.

A common theme that comes up for our editorial mentors is wordiness in written pieces. In the spirit of transparency, reporters want to lay out every piece of information for the audience to examine. It's a good mentality, but when judging whether to include a detail, consider if it is excessive information. Does it actually add to, hinder or have no effect on an audience member's understanding of your piece? If the answer is one of the last two, cut it.

We also see repetition throughout reporters' pieces. It's pretty clear that doubling up is meant to reinforce the takeaway. However, trust that your audience is engaged enough to follow your presentation.

A radio broadcaster once gave me a great piece of advice: The key to good radio broadcasting is to keep it to one idea per sentence, and don't clutter those sentences. This is also true in writing: Keep it to one main idea per paragraph. Be succinct.

Paraphrasing is also part of your reporter tool belt. Ideally, if you're quoting someone for text, you're capturing complete sentences. However, that's not how most people speak. Fascinating ideas are wrapped in fragmented sentences and odd pauses. This is where paraphrasing comes in handy. Quotes are valuable as first-person perspectives but should be used judiciously to add new information.

If detailed context or multiple aspects are important for full understanding, consider divvying up your piece into subsections with subheads. This allows the audience to maintain a tidy understanding.


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I really appreciate these weekly editorials from The Rapidian staff.  They have helped me a lot in my own writing, and this latest from Denise is no exception.