Waterhouse on style

The late, great Keith Waterhouse had some very strong opinions about journalists’ writing. Press Gazette has published some of them. I liked this one.

The standard Fleet Street excuse for shoddy or silly writing has always been that the offending story was written against the clock.

It usually isn’t so.

Deadline fever encourages taut, crisp writing with a maximum of facts and a minimum of frills. The straightforward hard news story, phoned virtually straight on to page one, rarely displays any of the faults discussed in this book.

The truly awfully-written story, of the kind that ought to be hung on the walls of schools of journalism as an example of how not to do it, demands time.

The puns have to be sweated over, the laborious intro has to be reworked again and again until it cannot possibly be any more forced, the jocular references have to be carefully strung together like blunt razor blades dangling from a magnet.