Skip to content
Jun 8 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: I think I feel that I believe this. You should too …

“I think the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series next year.”

“The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series next year.”

Each of those statements might seem equally ridiculous outside of Wrigley Field, but only one leaves the door open for objectivity. The first sentence tells readers that this is merely an opinion. The imagination immediately travels to a “Loop” sports bar conversation where one too many Goose Islands may or may not have been imbibed.

Readers don’t often take time for articles with nothing more than wild, unsubstantiated opinions. They can go to the bar for that, where at least there’s beer available too.

On the other hand, the second statement is sure of itself. It implies that the writer is going to continue the thought, and that some sort of logic is about to be shared. Those optimists who agree will read on to see why. Those who disagree should be intrigued enough to indulge their “yeah right” reaction. Maybe they’ll even take the time to enlighten you with a negative post on your Comments section.

However, each of those assertions are lost to the wind if the writer simply makes the statement and then walks away.

As a Bleacher Report writer, you shouldn’t use “I think/feel/believe” statements within your stories. After all, your name is already on the byline, thereby implying that whatever you write is your opinion.

Those statements don’t reinforce your opinion or show objectivity. Rather, they’re dead wood that implies you’re either unsure of the premise (and are apologizing for it in a roundabout way), or that you can’t back it up with actual evidence.

It’s equally important to remember that you are a sports columnist at B/R, not a sports blogger or message-board poster. Those mediums absolutely have their place (you’re reading one right now, after all), but only the best of the best are able to make and prove assertions in the minuscule allotted word count. Instead, they often allow the writer to simply make a point and walk away without elaboration or proof.

There can be no “throw away” lines in your articles. Every statement, whether factual or objective, must be self-contained, advance the story in a tangible way and be provable.

This isn’t about turning your editorial prose into dry science. Rather, it’s about looking yourself in the mirror and proving why your opinions have enough weight and relevancy to share.

Readers can’t, won’t and shouldn’t simply take your word for it. Someday, when you’re a genre’s living icon of sports analysis, glaze-eyed followers may accept your every utterance as canon law.

Until then, “gut feelings” mean nothing. You have logic, evidence, insight and analysis to legitimize each observation and opinion.

P.S. It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t actually think I feel like I believe all that stuff I said about the Cubs …

* * *

Joel C. Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Sportswriting Internship Program Feedback Editor. Along with fellow editor Greg Pearl, he develops B/R interns by providing feedback and mentoring, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog here.

  • Max

    I edit for B/R and I completely agree with this article. Every time a writer writes “I think” more than a few times, I make sure to include it in my feedback. To me, it is a given.

    On a similar note, I was wondering if you agree with me on this topic:

    Articles with headlines that say, for example, “Why the Cubs Will Win the World Series” really bother me. Clearly you are going to inform the reader about WHY the Cubs will go on to win the World Series—why do you feel the need to include the “why” in the headline when you can just say “The Cubs Will Win the World Series”?

    The “why” just seems unprofessional, unorthodox and characteristic of B/R alone—a mark of amateurism, perhaps. In my experience, it seems to be an indicator of a fan with a smart pen—someone who has no grounds for making such a claim other than his or her own speculation. A truly journalistic article would say something like, “With the addition of Pitcher X, Chicago Cubs Increase chance at World Series run.”

    The only exception to this is a Top 10 List, which could easily and understandably have a headline like, “Top 10 Reasons the Chicago Cubs will Win the World Series.” But traditionally-styled articles free-ride off of slide headlines, which has resulted in less journalistic articles and headlines.

    Max R

    • Joel Cordes

      I know what you mean, but I think it can be taken in multiple different ways. When I see “why” in the headline, my mind says, “this article is focusing on the factors that could cause this.” I recognize that it is speculation, but that’s okay. When I see an assertive, declarative headline saying “that they will…”, I assume that article will include factors why, but will ultimately be more about the destination than the journey. Listing the reasons is tickles the curiosity: I say, “I can think of six, but 10 is just freakin’ crazy… I wonder what this yahoo came up with?”

      My guess is, the textbook has definitions for the “do and don’t” with each of these. Readers probably make up their own meanings as they wander along…

  • Maxwell Ogden

    Can’t help but agree. If you’re writing it, you clearly think, feel or believe it. No need to be redundant.

    • Joel Cordes

      thanks for your feedback!