The Basic Requirements of News Writing for Dafa Practitioners (Part 2)
3. Language in News Writing
1. Accuracy of Diction
Accuracy of diction directly relates to the authenticity of a news story. Therefore, we need to pay great attention to word choices. A reporter's misunderstanding of words, an overly soft tone or an overly sharp tone will make a news report lose its accuracy.
For instance, "say" is used very often in news reports. Actually, there are many synonyms that can be used for this expression. However, these synonyms give people slightly different feelings and meanings. For example, "point out" carries a more determined and authoritative tone, where as "state", "express" and "mention" carry a lighter tone. "Admit," "imply," "guarantee" and "assert" give readers a different feeling about the person's tone and attitude. If a person only "said" something, but the news report indicates that he or she "emphasized" something, then readers will be easily influenced and therefore misunderstand the person's actual tone and meaning.
2. Clear and Concise Diction
News readers are society's general public. Many people in today's society read news reports in a hurry. When they come across long and difficult-to-read news articles, they probably take a few glances and simply decide not to read it. In terms of this, when writing a news article, we should write short, concise and straightforward sentences. In addition, organization of sentences and organization of paragraphs should be clear and simple. People will immediately understand it when they read it and don't need to read it over and over again. Some people read news articles to relax and amuse themselves. If we "test their grammar and syntax," they might lose the opportunity to understand the truth.
Of course, in order to write a news article with concise and clear sentences, the first requirement is that the author has to demonstrate clear thinking and understand the story he or she is working on and what kind of message he or she is conveying. In doing so, he or she will be able to use appropriate words and get right to the point.
Take the article entitled "Falun Gong Practitioners from Around the World Hold Large-Scale Appeal Activities in Geneva," (http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2003/3/19/33500.html) which was published in March of 2003, as an example. This article talks about how practitioners from around the world converged in Geneva for the fourth time to oppose the persecution and held large-scale peaceful appeal activities during the UN Commission on Human Rights' annual meeting. The first paragraph of the article was written in the following way:
"The 59th United Nations Commission on Human Rights began its annual meeting on March 17, 2003 in Geneva. In order to bring the attention of the UN to the Jiang regime's brutal persecution of Falun Gong, practitioners from around the world convened in Geneva, Switzerland as they have in previous years on the first day of the human rights convention. Practitioners want to appeal to the people of the world, in the hope that they can work together with Falun Gong practitioners to stop the Jiang regime from persecuting innocent Falun Gong practitioners. Over a thousand Falun Gong practitioners from more than 40 countries held a grand and solemn parade on March 17 in Geneva."
As an opening statement, this paragraph carries a very strong message, which is good. But the description is neither concise nor brief. Moreover, there are shallow and redundant superficial words ("as they have in previous years," "grand and solemn" and "convened in Geneva"). It did not use the facts or the main characters' words in the report to express the focal point. Therefore, the readability of the report was diminished.
If we modify it on top of the original structure, for example, if we modify it to:
"As the United Nations Commission on Human Rights began its meeting on March 17, 2003 in Geneva, over one thousand Falun Gong practitioners representatives from forty-plus countries held a parade and press conference. The spokesperson of the Swiss Falun Dafa Association said: 'The persecution has made tens of thousands of people become victims and hundreds of thousands of families suffer.' This is the fourth time since 1999 that Falun Gong practitioners from around the world have come to Geneva and asked China to stop the persecution."
This makes it more subjective and neutral. Readers will find it easier to read. Besides, people who resent the Chinese government's bureaucratic, official tone will not be struck by conflicting thoughts before reading the report about the facts and therefore lose an opportunity to understand the situation. If fellow practitioners are interested in this, you can practice this on your own and rewrite this article using the facts and information provided in this article. There may be better ways to write this article. With different angles and standpoints, the writing may be different.
3. Reduce the Usage of Adjectives that Express the Author's Subjective Judgment and Emotional Touch
Using many adjectives, unconfirmed numbers and repeated exclamation points to exaggerate the facts is a reflection of an author's emotional touch and values of judgment. It not only makes the report unauthentic, sometimes it can also have an entirely opposite effect. Most people think that they have independent thinking and judgment and don't like to be preached at or indoctrinated. Therefore, when they feel that an author has added a lot of subjective elements and emotional touch to an article without presenting sufficient facts and objective messages, they will be reluctant to read the article. We must pay attention to this way of thinking.
The verb "to participate" has many synonyms. We can use "is present," "is at the scene" or "visit," but each has a different strong or light flavor, with some being more casual while others are more serious. If it is a parade with five hundred participants, we should not subjectively approximate it to "almost a thousand" simply because we strongly support the event.
4. Number, Verbs and Number of Words
An accurate number can often draw readers' attention, and if used properly, it is a great help when you explain something. But we have to be careful to indicate the background when we deal with numbers, in order to give meaning to the numbers. For instance, when we talk about the number of Falun Gong practitioners that have died because of the persecution, if we don't mention the time period involved, people who still don't understand the truth will not be able understand the cruelty of the persecution or the urgency of the rescue efforts.
News reports cannot use a literary style to impress readers. Therefore, verbs become a good tool to make the report more vivid, visualized and non-stereotyped.
Conciseness of description has a lot to do with the number of words. Don't use ten words if you can explain something with five words. Otherwise, you do not increase the quantity of your message, you only get an extra nuisance and a touch of un-professionalism. Of course, we reduce the number of words with the express purpose of explaining things clearly. If we fail to explain things clearly because we want to reduce the number of words, it is like putting the cart before the horse.
For example, in the title "Additional Information on the Torture Death of Dafa Practitioner Mr. Li Jianhao at the Deyang Prison in Sichuan Province" (The Chinese version can be found on http://www.minghui.org/mh/articles/2003/8/30/56531.html and the English one from http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2003/9/17/40382.html), since this is additional information, there must be past articles reporting on this. Then, "Dafa practitioner" and "Deyang Prison in Sichuan Province" (at least the word "Sichuan") must have been clearly indicated in the previous article. Simplifying the sentence and reducing the number of words into "More Information on the Torture Death of Mr. Li Jianhao at the Deyang Prison" can state the same thing.
5. Pay Attention to Consistency of Word Choices and Be Considerate to the Reader
News reports mainly target the general public, namely, people who are not practitioners. Therefore the words we choose to use should be words that are not against Dafa principles but are also easy for the public to understand and accept. For example, Dafa practitioners often use "fellow practitioners," "disciples" or "practitioners" to refer to each other, the meaning of which we all understand. Nevertheless, to the public, these references are not only strange and distant, but also difficult to understand. It's best that we use friendly words that are easy to understand, namely, "Falun Gong practitioners" or "Falun Dafa practitioners," and so on.
Consistency of word choice is also important. When referring to the same thing in the same article, if it has the same meaning, we should use the same description. The same is true for numbers. Otherwise, an article might look messy and unorganized.
Some words are special terms which are probably familiar to Dafa practitioners. These words are collections of important information. Some practitioners probably think that the persecution has been going on for four years and so has our truth-clarification efforts, so people should have had a considerable understanding of the truth by now. Sometimes, they write news report as if they are writing for practitioners who already understand the truth. Actually, for the past four years a lot of truthful information has been made widely known. However, our news articles are written mainly for people who need to understand or further understand the truth, so we need to keep everyday readers' characteristics in mind. We should add one or two sentences when necessary or add some footnotes in order to explain the true situation, expose the evil and eliminate doubt. In doing so, the whole article will achieve a better effect.
Moreover, our articles are also presenting new viewpoints, new ways of thinking and pure and righteous ideals. But we are facing complicated reading groups. For example, some readers may be reading one of our articles for the first time, while some may have been following our articles for some time. Some may support us, while some others may misunderstand us. Some observe and study our direction and developments, some have doubts, some have ulterior motives and want to quote us out of context. Some spies are collecting information for further persecution, and so on. Consequently, we should choose words that are capable of explaining profound concepts in simple everyday language. For instance, we should consider atheist readers' special mental barriers and not use the expressions that are easily misunderstood by them. Otherwise, the evil will easily take advantage of this loophole.
Dafa's inner meaning and cultivation principles are by no means something non-practitioners can understand after reading a few articles. Therefore we should not be anxious to get results. Instead, we should pay attention to using the language that is easiest for readers to understand. We should base it on the angle of being considerate to them and explain only the Fa principles they need to understand and recognize. If we talk a little higher or keep using special terminology without considering that some in our audience may not understand the true situation and can easily be affected by emotion and notions, we may in turn push them away. If a person only gets one chance to read about us, isn't this a chance of utmost importance for his future? Consequently, we must consider our readers' situations, truly think about their future and be responsible to them.