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Ministry of Education.

The language of news stories

News writing tends to be:

  • impersonal to make it appear objective (to distance the reporter from the story) hence:
    • written in the third person
    • use of direct speech or indirect speech which is attributed to someone other than the reporter.
    • some use of passive verbs but usually only when someone who is being quoted wants to distance themselves from an issue and to show their objectivity about an issue. 

  • about something that has taken place so mostly written in the past tense

  • simple - in fact close to the way we talk - so relatively short sentences and words and some use of cliches which the whole audience understands. 

  • punchy - it must grab the reader's attention so often uses:
    • short rather than long words
    • active verbs
    • relatively short sentences
    • concrete rather than abstract vocabulary
    • See this Assessment Resource Bank resource on Types of Nouns (ARB username and password required to view this resource)
    • sometimes emotive and colourful vocabulary
    • some use (but not overuse) of adjectives
  • but also relatively formal hence:
    • no use of contractions
    • sentences written in full 

  • sometimes imagery is used to help create a clearer mental picture for the reader. 

  • often including the reporter's bi-line and/or a date.

Published on: 18 Dec 2010