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.

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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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