"If you are not asking yourself every couple of years how to once more scare yourself to death, then you are living something of the coward’s life. Ain’t no room for cowards in journalism at this moment in time."
"The lawn started at the beach and ran towards the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sundials and brick walks and burning gardens — finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch."
An excerpt from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
'That’s how the former New York Times language guru Theodore M. Bernstein described overly fastidious rules and usage myths a grade-school English teacher might invoke to keep her pupils’ prose on a very narrow path.’
Thanks to Bernstein, I will continue to use “And” at the beginning of my sentences, only now it will be a guilt-free exercise.
"Handling obits and breaking news stories against deadline, the rewrite bank reveled in camaraderie. During lulls, when we weren’t on meal breaks or playing cards or working on outside writing projects, we analyzed the early edition—the stories deserving praise and those we deemed mediocre. And we griped about the latest petty edicts of the reigning editors.
What most earned our ire were the periodic cost-saving measures, particularly one about economizing on the soft-lead Ebony pencils we relied on for taking notes. This essential tool of our trade, we were informed by memo, was costly and must be rationed. To obtain a new pencil, a staffer had to turn in at least one-third of a used pencil to the city desk clerk. One night, when the clerk who kept all pencils locked in his desk drawer left early, our rewrite staff was confronted with a shortage.
By the time our shift ended, we were so infuriated that we rounded up every used pencil we could find—nineteen of them—grinding them down in the sharpener to stubs one inch long. We put all the stubs into an envelope, and addressed it to Frank Adams with a note signed by each of us: “We need twenty new pencils to replace these nineteen stubs. We regret that we lost the twentieth in the sharpener.” The pencil edict was revoked.”
An excerpt from City Room, a memoir by Arthur Gelb.
"Introductions rank high among the essentials of newspaper writing even if we call them nothing but leads. Many a story is saved by its lead and by the same token many a story is sunk by its lead — dull, heavy-witted, inadequate for its subject which may be itself very interesting.
In essence, I should say the very first requisite for a lead is directness. Directness means going straight to the ‘it’ of the news — the one fact that makes your story worthwhile writing and perhaps fit for the front page. So far as The Times is concerned, it wants to know (first of all) in every important story “what happened.” And this one thing should be told right away without elaboration.
Directness is the most natural method of expression by a normal human being. If a man, coming from a railroad wreck, met a friend, would he say to him, “A horrible event has just occurred downtown?” Or would he say, “The chief of police has just announced that,” etc.? Would he say, “Much grief has been caused to the people of the city as a result ,” etc.? Of course, he will say nothing of the sort. He will assert in imperative words that “ten persons have been killed in a head-on collision” and then the details as he knows them. As a rule, one sentence can convey the essence of the story it is your privilege to tell. It is real art to make every word count weightily in producing the final effect.
Another relative of directness (perhaps a first cousin) is concreteness. This is the summons for a sharp and distinctive statement which abhors generalities as a pestilence (which they are). I suppose there are more failures in fashioning a good lead, due to wandering off into the byways of generalities, than can be blamed on almost any other way of writing….Simplicity has always had a charm for me as a news element worth the striving for…Then you are kindred in spirit, even if only a humble disciple, of the Bible, and on to Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill.”
-Wilson L. Fairbanks, Telegraph Editor, The New York Times
An excerpt from City Room, a memoir written by Arthur Gelb.