Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers (Pimlico)
£16.99 (as of February 21, 2018, 3:10 am)
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Don’t write “remunerate” when you mean “pay”. You will have to “send” not “transmit” and “help” but not “facilitate”. Take care with meanings too. If you are “disinterested” you’re not bored, you’re impartial. “Less” is not interchangeable with “fewer” and a “principle” is different from a “principal”.
Harold Evans, editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981 and then of The Times for a year, first wrote his Newsman’s English and News Headlines in the 1970s. In an age of more and more sloppy English, Evans’s books acquired the status of classics with their condemnation of dangling participles and gratuitous adjective and adverbs. Now they’ve been edited, updated and merged into a single new volume by Crawford Gillan. The emphasis, which hasn’t dated at all, is still on the need for plain muscular English which says what it has to say in as few well-chosen words as conceivable.
The book has at least three uses. First, it generally is a text book for trainee journalists, especially given the large number of published verbose examples Evans quotes and then rewrites as demonstration pieces. Second, it has a number of advice for experienced journalists and editors trying to write better. Third, it is full of useful advice for anyone–beyond the media–who wants to write more coherently.
Essential English certainly raises awareness. You probably won’t read it without feeling obliged to double back and delete your redundancies the next time you write something. In the common expression “depreciate in value” the last two words, for instance, can go without loss of meaning. You don’t want “gainful” in front of “employment” either and Evans lists dozens of other examples. And be brutal with tired expressions such as “wealth of information” or “pillar of the church”, he advises. He also provides an intriguing thesaurus for headline writers on the lookout for pithiness. For “harmonisation,” try “accord”, “bargain”, “compact”, “pact”, “peace”, or “truce”, he says. —Susan Elkin
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