I’m mad…

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Language is a wonderful thing but it also has a very distinct way of being annoyingly vague. To make any headway as a writer, it is extremely important to have a grasp of language; not only what a word means, but the nuance it carries. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when I read something that could be better described just through a slightly different word choice. Below I have listed five of my least favourite “vague” descriptors:

Mad – Are you angry, frustrated, livid, full of rage, insane or just a little miffed?

Pretty – Is it (he/she) stunning, handsome, striking, elegant, beautiful or maybe gorgeous?

Good – Why not try something like excellent, extraordinary, alright… or when talking about character traits, why not kind, saintly, or loving? Big-hearted?

Fun – Is it a person? Are they funny? Hilarious? What makes them fun? A situation can be extreme, intense, enjoyable or maybe even entertaining?

Smart – There are so many different types of “smart.” There’s intelligence, street-smart, book-smart, scholarly, or learned. Smart can also be used as slang for pain. Describe the pain. if it smarted, was it a pinch, a twinge, a bump, an ache, or something else?

These are some of the simplest examples that I could come up with off the top of my head (Thank you to my lovely fiancé for helping me with some synonyms), but the message stays true. Just like with tattoos, think before you ink. When you revise your drafts, ask yourself whether you have used the best descriptor. As someone who has written hundreds of second, third, fourth and even fifth drafts, I can tell you that my first work is never, EVER my best work. Most likely, yours isn’t either. First drafts are for getting ideas onto a page. Revisions are where you turn those words into things of beauty. Plus, with the advent of computers, you have infinite opportunities to arrange and rearrange your words into their ideal form.

One final example:

The pretty woman was mad that someone interrupted what should have been a very fun evening.

OR

The stunning woman was livid that someone interrupted what should have been a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Each sentence includes 16 words. Which describes the situation better? Which one paints a better picture? Which one evokes more emotion?

Words sell. Always remember to write, rewrite, ask for outside opinions and write some more. Putting in the time to find perfect descriptors pays off in great dividends.

AI

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Toronto: The Rob Ford issue and why we have yet to reach media fatigue

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As a writer and general follower of news and politics, I have naturally been interested in following the Rob Ford scandal. We are in day 20 of this 50-car wreck of a story and it seems that every time we may be reaching a point of media fatigue, Ford does something else that is the metaphorical equivalent of 10 more cars slamming into the back of this mess.

First, I will explain what I mean by media fatigue; I have borrowed the term from where I first heard it, Drew Curtis’s book, It’s not news, it’s Fark (www.fark.com). The main concept of media fatigue is that when reporting on a large news item, the media has a tendency to take things too far and generally run the story into the ground, so much so that they start reporting on whether they have been reporting on this subject for too long. It’s very common in the media world but I don’t believe it has been happening in this case.

Usually by day 20 of any story, there is nothing new to report. Journalists start regurgitating information, creating sidebars and generally doing anything that could sell more papers. With a large scandal like this one, it’s not uncommon for stories to outrun their course because, hey, who doesn’t like a good scandal? The big difference here is that, unlike most other people who would have crawled into a hole somewhere to let this blow over, Ford has not only stayed in the public eye but has been followed by a continuous stream of incriminating evidence and buffoonish comments, giving the media more to write about without exhausting the well.

Here is an abridged timeline of the scandal starting Oct. 31, 2013 (information from http://www.thestar.com):

  • Toronto police have the “crack tape” in their possession. (Oct. 31)
  • Rob and Doug Ford radio show: apologies for drunkenness, but refuses to step down or take a leave of absence. (Nov. 3)
  • Ford admits to crack cocaine use and apologizes, but again refuses to step down; blames the media for why he didn’t admit it in May (stating that they did not ask the right questions). Ford also states that he smoked the crack in one of his “drunken stupors.” (Nov. 5)
  • Ford video rant hits the internet. (Nov. 7)
  • Ford admits to buying drugs in front of council (Nov. 13)
  • More allegations of Ford’s drunken behaviour surfaces (Nov. 13)
  • Ford makes sexually inappropriate comments in front of media about sexual harassment allegations. (Nov. 14)

For media fatigue to truly set in, there has to be no development in the story for an extended period of time. Ford has managed to beat fatigue by continually doing things that no public figure should. Also, the ford story has seen a true (journalistic) cornucopia of allegations, videos and other incriminating situations come to light. In all seriousness, the media just has to sit and wait for a couple days and boom, another comment. Another flub. Another mistake. This man cannot keep his nose out of trouble.

I am tired of hearing about Ford in many ways; the entire world now understands he is a fool and Toronto is no longer getting invited to parties, but everything that has happened up to this point has managed to stop the story from getting tired.

I am interested, however, in what will happen over the coming weeks regarding the scandal. He has been stripped of much power and left like a clown that no one wants to hire. The world has pointed and laughed. The “Rob Ford should step down” angle has been taken time and again (Even MP Jason Kenney seems to be getting on the bandwagon now). This is the point that will determine whether the media will let sleeping dogs lie or whether they will beat this poor sucker into the ground. I am leaning toward the latter. Why? Remember when Cheney shot his buddy in the face (Again, thank you Drew Curtis of Fark for the example)? It was such an outlandish accident that it took on a mind of its own after initial reports. Ford has made buffoonish remarks mixed with social faux pas and a smattering of illicit substance use. Better yet, he spread it out over almost 20 days; this story may never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope to see the media leave this alone… but I doubt that will happen.

AI

  • Shortly before he was stripped of many of his mayoral duties, he likened this situation to a coup d’état, suggesting that this was like when the US attacked Kuwait and threatened to make the next election a bloodbath (Nov 18)

http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2013/11/19/rob_ford_97_allegations_against_the_mayor.html

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Toronto/ID/2419135766/

Why you shouldn’t do something for nothing (pulled from ashleyidle.com)

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I pulled this post over from www.ashleyidle.com because I feel it follows the theme I would like to set for this blog. For those new to the blog, enjoy. For those that follow Feelin’ good, Lookin’ good, enjoy again!

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Would you ask an engineer to build a bridge for free, just so that he/ she could get “exposure?”

I hear you scoff, but people are asked to use their skills every day with no remuneration, just the promise of exposure or public recognition. It seems to be the huge arts/ science divide that brings this to light, too. Artists are expected to struggle, and because of that, people ask them to provide their services with no compensation offered other than the opportunity that someone, somewhere might see their work and they will be “discovered.”

A bigger problem yet is that these opportunities (if you can call them that) get snatched up almost as quickly as paying gigs. Young artists (writers and journalists included) are so desperate to get their name out there that they are willing to take any and all opportunities that come along, paid or not. I see this as a huge issue. While people are willing to give something for nothing, we all lose out on paid opportunities. Who will pay for something when they don’t have to?

The only way to make this exploitation of writers (and all other artists) change is for the majority to stop taking these unpaid “opportunities.” If the free talent pool dries up, many will be forced to pay and the problem will be, if not fixed, much better. Unfortunately, j-school teaches new writers  (not incorrectly) that they are going to have to give themselves, their creative selves, away for nothing to even have a chance at gaining employment in their field.

I see this as an unforgiveable situation in the arts world but also as one that isn’t going to change. As long as young journalists are told they have to give themselves away and greedy people are willing to exploit young writers the cycle will continue.

There are some situations where pro bono is not the worst thing in the world (small start-ups and certain independent/non profit works) but when larger groups, especially larger corporations get into the mix of taking something for nothing it really bothers me.

I know this isn’t my normal post, but I think it needed to be said. As a young writer, this is something that I have dealt with since graduating.

AI

www.ashleyidle.com

G’day

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G’day.

I understand that it’s a little ironic that a writer would choose slang as the first word ever published on her blog, but that is the beauty of language. Whether the words are listed in the OED or we choose to speak in well-scripted gibberish (see: Lewis Carroll, “The Jabberwocky“), the English language and its colloquial derivatives can do so much more than express a simple action such as saying hello. A single, well-chosen word can express warmth, depth, nuance and create a friendly, approachable demeanour or infer exactly the opposite.

To me, g’day suggests:

  • familiarity
  • friendliness
  • warmth
  • It suggests the Australian people, who are generally known for their outgoing, kind nature.
  • It’s informal

The informal friendliness and familiarity of the greeting is disarming and will more likely bring a response with the same openness and warmth, allowing me to better get my point across (once I decide to make it).

That is the true beauty of language. One well-chosen word can speak volumes.

That is also why skilled, trained writers are so important, whether it be the language used in a book or what we hear on the evening news. Our expectations can be raised, dashed or completely misguided by the type of language an individual decides to use.

Writers are more than just people who blather and throw around words hoping to get noticed. We are wordsmiths. We labour over a sentence to have it convey exactly what we hope. We sell our souls as piece-work and pray to be appreciated for the skill we use to craft our art.

I have been a freelance copywriter and journalist for two and a half years. This blog is where I plan to share my ruminations about writing, freelancing and the state of the job market for those in my field.

Please share this journey with me.

AI

www.ashleyidle.com