Quick Takes: Avoid cliches like the (zombie) plague

A few quick-takes while reading college sports media across the country.

sufferNot a big fan of teams ‘suffering losses’ regardless if defeat is by 1 point or 49 points, unless players got hurt during the game. You can see the definitions of suffer in the picture to the right that includes the following descriptions: “to feel pain or distress” and to be subjected to “anything unpleasant,””and to “experience.” But these definitions are really indicating real physical and mental pain. If a team is truly suffering, then use this word – but then you must also investigate and offer that story line. Don’t use ‘suffering’ blithely or the word will lose its meaning and become yet another meaningless sports cliche.

Don’t write that a team shot 28 percent from the floor. Where else would they be shooting from? Just write: Shot 28 percent. If you want to address 3-point shooting, you can write something like: converted (or made) 38 percent of 3-pointers.

Clarify esoteric terms for readers. The Arizona Wildcat offers this: “On the mound, Fowler struggled with command as she walked 83 batters in 66.1 innings. Off the mound, injuries took their toll and forced her season to end due to thoracic outlet syndrome.” Most readers, including myself, won’t know anything about this medical condition. So add a sentence, clause or phrase to explain it. For example, this reporter could instead write: “Off the mound, injuries took their toll and forced her season to end due to thoracic outlet syndrome, a compression of nerves and blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest that cause pain and numbness in the arm and hand. This ailment forced Chris Carpenter to retire from the Cardinals a few years ago.”

Delete cliches like the (zombie) plague. Take this lede for instance: “Junior guard Malcolm Brogdon was taking names at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina back in the summer of 2010, when Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett watched the well-spoken Atlantan hoop for the first time. Bennett could already see what made Brogdon so good on the court — and since then, he has also come to know Georgia’s 2010-11 Mr. Basketball as a person.” This story, ultimately, is both interesting and informative, but, had I not used this story as an example, I would have stopped reading because cliched writing usually indicates equally lackluster content. In this case, fortunately, the writer immediately veered from worn, hackneyed phrases. Many potential future employers will also cease reading when cliches rear their ugly head. So seek to replace jargon and cliches unless you are using these words and phrases in a creative manner.

Nice second-day story on Kentucky’s 1-point loss in women’s basketball that includes some good stat analysis, offered interesting story player insights and a clear storyline. A nice short take.


About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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