No Legalese

via 1.bp.blogspot.com

via 1.bp.blogspot.com

When I first started at the Chronicle, I had a hard time “dumbing” things down in my writing.

For one, I really wasn’t confident in my writing, but that’s another post.

I didn’t know enough about what I was writing about then. It took me a long time to figure it out.

It is hard to explain, but I’d like to compare it to physics class in high school.

We had to do experiments and, at the end, write up our “reports” on what happened, how it happened and to explain each step that we did “so a fifth-grader could read it.”

For some reason, that comparison always stuck with me and I think it fits pretty well.

Not all of our readers are lawyers, scientists or health care professionals.

As reporters, it’s our job to take the information, digest it and “spit” it onto the paper in a way that both makes sense and is easy to read.

Sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s impossible.

I’ve been asked probably 100 times to make something sound simpler. You read something enough and you know it like the back of your hand. Our readers don’t have that luxury and they aren’t paid to understand what I’m writing about.

Each time I’m asked, I usually know what I have to do. It’s almost funny because the staff knows what it means, but it needs just one more time through (in rewriting) for our editors to okay it. It’s all a part of the job.

You have to get creative sometimes, but, at the end of the day, the story has to make sense.

Getting rid of the legalese or science stuff makes you a better writer.

It’s going to be hard and stressful at times, especially with deadlines, but it gets better. It’ll make you a better writer and a better “talker.”

Also, it’ll help  you outside work as you break things down, in your everyday life.

That’ll come soon enough.

Jonathan

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