Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lessons In Language

Since I have spent my entire adult life in a TV newsroom, I have learned many lessons (patience is still not one of them). I learned a new writing tip this week and it reminded me of one early in my career that has stuck with me. I've recruited my friend, Bart Simpson, to illustrate these tips.
I don't remember the actual story - or even if I was the one writing it - but I do remember this lesson well. My 70-something news director/anchor decided to give us a lesson on how to use hang. It went like this:
A person is hanged. Hung refers to a male's anatomy.
I remember standing there with at least one co-worker and watching the senior man walk away. I have never said that a person was hung (well, not in a news story) since then. I say "hanged." I cannot get that story out of my head when that word comes up. It doesn't come up often, as suicides are not generally news. That tip is a freebie!

The other language lesson came this week.
I was called into the boss's office and asked to read through one newscast. My specific assignment: find and destroy all uses of the word "multiple." I responded with, "Yeah. That word is not specific. It's cop speak. It doesn't add anything." What I heard next made me laugh out loud.
The only time I want to see that word in a script is if it's followed by the word "orgasms."
VERY good point. Also, not likely to happen in a script - unless it's during ratings. I spent that day whispering "multiple" in my best Brick voice. I am happy to report that I only found that word use once in the newscast. I kind of hope the boss would put what he told me in a memo. Maybe fewer people would use it. Instead, I share it with you people here.

You're welcome.
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