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Lesson No.1 – how to write like a toff

When I was eighteen I had my first article ‘published’ online. I went to review a Paloma Faith gig in Manchester. I stood at the back and took extensive notes, writing down things like the intricacies of the set and diversity of the audience.

I went home and created what I thought to be a true work of art. It was beautiful. It went up online and I was so proud of myself. I decided I was really really clever. I thought; I am an artist, I am a word artist.

Here’s an extract;

“My preconception of Paloma Faith would lead me to expect The Academy to be full of young girls styling dramatic hair and lace with the odd theatre loving thespian due to her strong affiliation with fashion and the arts”

and

“The cover of At Last by Etta James advocated the strong jazz influence and created a scene usually found in an underground bar of classy uncorrupted musicianship with the piano complimenting vocals and vice versa making this the highlight of the evening”

I am an idiot.

It sounds like a headteacher is going through a mid life crisis, went to a gig and was so moved by the experience she decided to pen a sonnet as a tribute to her ‘wild night out’.

So lesson number one; creative writing and being able to write like a journalist have nothing to do with each other.

A journalist’s job is to convey a story as clearly as possible.

– Don’t use ten words when two will do. Every single word should be necessary for the article to make sense, delete everything else.

– Don’t use any academic words. See above example; preconception, thespian, affiliation, advocated. Fool.

– Don’t assume prior knowledge with the audience for anything. “The cover of At Last by Etta James” v. “The cover of At Last by Soul legend Etta James”

Taking these points on board it turns into:

“I thought The Academy would be full of young stylish girls and the odd theatre lover to see Paloma Faith.”

and

“The cover of At Last by Soul legend Etta James was the highlight of the night and the piano brought a welcome injection of musicianship.”

Still not great, but you get the idea.

If you can’t part with your quill, ink and thesaurus go write a book or poem. Don’t be a journalist.

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About Rhian Jones

I am a freelance music business journalist based in London. My career began when I saw an apprenticeship with freelance education journalist Janet Murray advertised in the Guardian. I applied, and after a gruelling two-day Alan Sugar style assessment, got the job, quit university and relocated to London to pursue my dream of a career in the media. The apprenticeship ended on a high when I secured my first journalism job at Music Week. I spent my week days writing news stories, interviewing and learning all about the fast paced nature of putting together a weekly magazine, all while gaining invaluable insight into the inner workings of the music business. After three years and a few promotions, I left my position as news editor to go freelance in 2015. Alongside two regular gigs as London correspondent for US trade rag Hits, and contributing editor for Music Business Worldwide, I've written for publications including Company, Grazia, The Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, The Independent, Music Ally, Billboard, The Journalist and Music Teacher.

One response »

  1. ‘creative writing and being able to write like a journalist have nothing to do with each other’. I vehemently – and that’s an ‘academic’ word – disagree. Especially within the music journalism industry, there is much room for creativity. The greats of music journalism, like Kent and Bangs, distilled literary works into their writing; how else can you describe music accurately?

    Reply

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