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Read this now

January 21, 2011

For your general reading: a brilliant piece in the Guardian by Tim Radford with 25 tips for any journalists. (Thanks to Mark Hamilton’s Twitter feed for the heads up.) Unlike some such lists, most of these are just as applicable whether one is writing in Yak, or is a Fleet Street hack.

My favourites:

3. So the first sentence you write will be the most important sentence in your life, and so will the second, and the third. This is because, although you – an employee, an apostle or an apologist – may feel obliged to write, nobody has ever felt obliged to read.

6. And here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says “Nobody has to read this crap.”

21. Remember that people will always respond to something close to them. Concerned citizens of south London should care more about economic reform in Surinam than about Millwall’s fate on Saturday, but mostly they don’t. Accept it. On 24 November 1963, the Hull Daily Mail sent me in search of a Hull angle on the assassination of President Kennedy. Once I had found a line that began “Hull citizens were in mourning today as …” we could get on with reporting what happened in Dallas.

23. Beware of all definitives. The last horse trough in Surrey will turn out not even to be the last horse trough in Godalming. There will almost always be someone who turns out to be bigger, faster, older, earlier, richer or more nauseating than the candidate to whom you have just awarded a superlative. Save yourself the bother: “One of the first …” will usually save the moment. If not, then at least qualify it: “According to the Guinness Book of Records …” “The Sunday Times Rich List …” and so on.

But you really should read them all.

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