Part 13 of Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report. Click here for more information and to download all of Playbook for free.
A compelling authorial voice goes a long way toward convincing readers that what you have to say is worth listening to. But what exactly does “compelling” mean?
As a start, you should use vivid language to announce emphatic opinions in a professional tone. At the same time, you need to avoid the kind of flowery or overwrought style that distracts readers from the substance of your writing—because distracting readers runs counter to your interests as much as theirs.
More concretely, here’s what B/R evaluators focus on when it comes time to judge your voice:
You know how some fans refer to their favorite team as “we” or “us”? That would be a prime example of an unprofessional lapse. Other examples include self-aggrandizement or discreditable self-presentation—something along the lines of “I’ve smoked a lot of dope myself, so I can understand where Ricky Williams is coming from.”
A passive verb construction is one in which the subject of a sentence “receives” the action indicated by its predicate. “Mistakes were made on the field” is a classic example. As a general rule, passive voice produces bland and ambiguous prose. Note how the sentence in the example obscures the identity of the players who made the mistakes. So you should be conscientious about eliminating passive verbs from your writing wherever possible.
If you’re like most writers, you probably tend to fall in love with your adjectives and adverbs. If you’re like most good writers, you know that your readers don’t enjoy your modifiers anywhere near as much as you do, and you make a point of trimming the unnecessary ones. If a modifier can be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence, it’s a great candidate for deletion.
“I think/feel/believe” statements
It’s no secret that the opinion statements in your articles represent your own thoughts, beliefs and feelings. If you insist on saying “I think” every time you say something you think, your voice will be sluggish and self-indulgent. And if your voice is sluggish and self-indulgent, it’s a good bet that readers won’t stick around to hear you finish your thought.
At least we think so.
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If your audience were telepathic—if readers knew what you meant without your having to tell them—you wouldn’t have to worry about niceties like tone and verb choice. Until further notice, though, the impact of what you say will depend in large part on the effectiveness of how you say it. That’s why the best sportswriters are always the ones who pay the closest attention to detail, and why you’d do well to assess your own voice with a critical ear every time you speak your mind.
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Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report Writers is an 18-part series outlining the metrics and criteria of B/R’s objective Writer Evaluation system. The system complements the subjective assessments made by members of our Editorial Team, which means that a solid evaluation is a necessary but not sufficient condition of success with B/R. You can find more information and download the full Playbook for free at this link.
Playbook Table of Contents:
Three story types
News Report Story Angle
News Report Narrative Structure, Information Aggregation
Argumentative Articles: Thesis, Rhetorical Structure, Factual Evidence
Ranked Lists: Ranking Logic
Ranked Lists: Topic, List Composition
Attribution and Hyperlinks
Sentence and Paragraph Structure
B/R Style and Formatting
Common Mistakes: General
Common Mistakes: Three Article Types