No serial comma: Bleacher Report follows the AP Stylebook with comma lists. Instead of using a serial comma (aka Oxford comma), B/R omits the comma before the coordinating conjunction in a list of three or more items. Example: “Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy will start the first three games of the World Series for the Red Sox.” Use a serial comma only if omitting it would cause confusion, as in: “I’d like to thank my parents, Hillary Clinton and God.”
Names: When you mention someone in an article, provide the full name on first reference and then stick to the last name or a nickname for all subsequent references. With some prominent players, especially in the NBA, a first name may stand as a nickname. “LeBron” can work for LeBron James, for example, but “Kevin” cannot work for Kevin Durant. In some cases, you may want to provide the full name again for rhetorical effect or to work around two players sharing the same last name, but the key takeaway here is to use a person’s full name on first reference and never use the first name again unless there’s a good reason.
Proper credit: Don’t rely on parentheses to give the source of your information credit unless you want to give a hat tip to a site for directing your attention to the original source. That original source should still be named and linked in the text. A common scenario for this is a report based on a quote from a radio interview. Example: “According to KFNS radio in St. Louis (h/t SportsRadioInterviews.com), Fisher discounted Bradford’s miserable, injury-plagued 2011 campaign in which he clearly regressed from his rookie season.”
It’s “top 10,” not “Top 10″: When referring to the top 10 (or any other number) of something, whether it’s a stat or your own opinion, don’t capitalize “top.” We only capitalize something like “Top 25″ or “Top 10″ when referring to an official poll like the AP Top 25 poll. Only hyphenate a construction like “top 10″ if it’s lowercase and directly modifying a noun, like “he’s a top-10 quarterback.” Otherwise, it’s “He’s one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league.” If it follows the article “a,” that’s a good indication you need to hyphenate.
Toward, not towards: Words that end in “-ward” (e.g. toward) do not need an S at the end. Same goes for the “-st” in words like “among.”
Long hyperlink strings: Don’t hyperlink more than five non-attributive words when sourcing. Anything more than that tends to look excessive.
Names that end in S: To form a possessive with a word or name that ends in S, only add an apostrophe. For words that end in any other letter in the alphabet or any numeral, add an apostrophe and an S. To be explicit: Names ending in X or Z take an apostrophe and an S. Example: “James’ best game proved to be one of Ramirez’s worst.”
Italicize titles: One big way we differ from AP Style is that we italicize “works” like books, magazines, newspapers and musical albums. Note that we don’t italicize website names, as we view them like company names. Names of chapters, articles and songs should be presented in quotation marks without italicization.
Headline style: Another key difference is our headline style. The AP writes headlines in sentence case, but our style is closer to that of the New York Times, with most words capitalized—always the first and last words of a headline, for example. Not all words, though. While we have an auto-format tool to help with capitalization as you type in the headline field, it isn’t always perfect. Here’s our full guideline:
All words in a headline should be capitalized, with the exception of articles (“a,” “an,” “the”), coordinating conjunctions (“and,” “but,” “or”) and prepositions (e.g. “in,” “vs.”). Note that short nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs (“is,” “it,” “out,” etc.) SHOULD be capitalized. Same goes for the first and last words of a headline—they should always be capitalized, regardless of the part of speech.
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Tim Coughlin is the Editing Manager at Bleacher Report. Content Moderator Nick James contributed to this post.
Every great story starts with a great idea. That means that hashing out new story angles is half the battle when it comes to sportswriting.
Over the last two months with Bleacher Report’s Advanced Program in Sports Media, I’ve come to realize the importance of creating original, creative material.
In a world where trends rule and a dozen or so media outlets report the same news, it’s important to produce story angles that allow you to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.
And over these last two months, I’ve made a conscious effort to think creatively to better serve my audience.
The beauty of writing for Bleacher Report is not having restrictions on the content we can write about, beyond the restriction that it has to be about sports. Unlike a local beat reporter, we aren’t confined to reporting on recent injuries or depth-chart changes.
As a sportswriter for Bleacher Report, you’re given an incredible platform to write on. Gone are “notebooks,” sidebars and standard game-recap stories.
Take advantage of what is given to you.
I was lucky enough to meet ESPN’s John Clayton in February during Super Bowl media week. He told me that he made his mark by studying and understanding the NFL’s salary cap during the 1970s, when other sportswriters were turning a blind eye to it.
He made himself valuable by finding an angle that nobody else was writing about. Consider yourself in competition with other media members looking for cutting-edge news angles and story lines, and look for what other people may be ignoring.
Don’t write about mainstream topics. Dare to be different. Never hesitate to make suggestions or go to the opposite field with your story ideas. It could pay dividends and drive your readership.
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One Thing You Need to Know is a series in which we ask members of the Bleacher Report Advanced Program in Sports Media to write about just that: One thing they’ve learned that they would pass along to other aspiring writers.
In a live chat on Poynter.org a few months ago, Roy Peter Clark, one of the best writing teachers in the business, made a mention of the musical concept of “grace notes” as a way to make short writing shine.
Clark is the author of many books on writing. His latest is “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.” For purposes of the book, “short” means up to 300 words, but his advice can be useful however you define “short.” Bleacher Report values concision, so for us a good definition of writing “short” would be: As short as the piece can be while saying what it needs to say.
In the chat, a commenter was asking about how to write effectively in a tweet. That’s short!
Comment From Divya Kumar: Do you have any tips on how to get better at wit, focus and polish while tweeting things as they unfold?
Roy Peter Clark: Divya, in music there is something called a “grace note.” As you play one note on the piano, you lightly flick the note next to it. It is not necessary to the melody, but is often considered a lovely decoration. One of the things that contributes to both wit and polish is to select just one special word that stands out from the rest, that gives a sense that the writer really cares.
Here’s a video that gives a more thorough explanation of what grace notes are in music.
I like what Clark’s saying here, but I actually don’t like his use of the term “grace note” because that denotes something extra, ornamental.
It’s a dangerous game to start decorating your writing with “ornamental” words. That way lies the path to purple prose, to flowery, wordy gunk that’s the exact opposite of concision.
But I do love the idea of using “just one special word that stands out from the rest, that gives a sense that the writer really cares.” Even in a short, straightforward piece, if you can find a way of saying something that’s a little different, that shows some thought and some wit, it can give even a simple piece a bit of shine.
I always knew that I wanted to pursue writing of some kind during my life, but I never thought I could do so as a career. I figured that one day, after saving up enough money, I would escape to the Colorado wilderness, where I could live in Denver Bronco country, let my beard grow and write my first novel.
But I discovered Bleacher Report over Thanksgiving break in 2010, my sophomore year of college, and after a month of being a daily reader, I realized I might be able to call myself a writer sooner than I had thought.
During Christmas break, while recovering from a candied ham hangover, I noticed that B/R was accepting applications for writers. After penning an “audition” slideshow on something related to the current state of the Broncos, I was accepted as a low-level writer and allowed to publish pieces. To say I was excited is an understatement, and while I had no idea at the time, this role would end up shaping my college and professional career.
Perhaps one reason I feel so attached to Bleacher Report is because we have grown together. When I started writing nearly three years ago, B/R was an independent site that few of my friends had heard of and I was a 19-year-old learning how to write a solid headline.
Bleacher Report is now a part of Turner Sports. It’s the sports outlet for CNN, and I rarely run into anyone who hasn’t at least heard of it. And while I’m not ready to declare myself Writer of the Year, my ability and confidence as a writer are also a long way from where they were three years ago.
I got more and more involved with Bleacher Report. During the summer of 2011, I participated in the B/R Writing Internship, which I cannot speak highly enough of. It’s undergone some changes and is now the Advanced Program in Sports Media.
What hasn’t changed is that in addition to helping you find your voice as a writer through vigorous and assorted assignments, the program gives aspiring writers the chance to form relationships with Bleacher Report writers and staff members from across the country. As these professional relationships turn to friendships, more opportunities come from them.
For me, one of these opportunities was being hired as a Moderator on the Community team, where I currently work, in addition to being a Denver Broncos Featured Columnist.
I sometimes miss the days when Bleacher Report was just an up-and-coming site and I was just a college sophomore, creating slideshows from the couch in my apartment.
As quickly as life moves, though, the world of sports journalism is moving just as quickly. Anyone who doesn’t want to keep up will be left behind, so it’s crucial for new writers to ask themselves where they want to be in the future, and more importantly, how they will get there.
Many of my friends questioned me in college when I would spend countless hours writing for an unknown website for no pay; many of those same friends now envy me for my occupation. Whether sports journalism turns out to be my career or a stopover en route to my final destination, I will always know that without it, my foundation as a writer would have been incomplete.
And as we all know, a building without a strong foundation never stands for very long.
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Joe Rapolla Jr. is a Comment Moderator on the Bleacher Report Community team. He’s also a Denver Broncos Featured Columnist.
This week’s Shoutouts start with a wild few days in the NFL.
In the wake of two head coaches collapsing within the space of a few days, Lead Writer Mike Freeman‘s NFL Coaches: ‘You Have to Be Certifiable to Do What We Do’ looked at the factors that may have led to the health problems for John Fox and Gary Kubiak, and certainly affect the health of all 32 head coaches and many of their assistants. Freeman also weighed in on the ugly situation in Miami with Sources: ‘Rookie Tax’ at the Heart of Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin Hazing.
A Week in the Life of Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden by Dan Pompei, publshed before either of the health scares, offered more insight into the coaching life.
A question: What are the 20 things that, if they all happened, would make for a perfect year? In The Anatomy of a Perfect 2013-14 NBA Season, Josh Martin offers a fun read by identifying those things and then finding examples of them from previous seasons.
More NBA pieces: 12 Takeaways From Friday Night’s NBA Action by Adam Fromal was a fine example of how to wrap up the day’s news effectively for readers. And What Some People Are Forgetting About the Chicago Bulls gets Kelly Scaletta acronym of the week honors for his theory about why people are overlooking the Bulls: “This is because of an epidemic that exists in today’s sports media: the oft-ignored and underreported ‘Postseason and Offseason-Induced Neurally Transmitted Logical Evaluation Suppression Syndrome,’ or POINTLESS for short.”
In Part 2 of our three-part series on common errors and issues Bleacher Report copy editors see, we’re going to take a look at numbers.
Here’s Part 1, where we addressed verb and pronoun agreeement. We’ll finish up next week with a grab-bag.
Again, much of the language we’ll use in addressing these frequent errors comes directly from the B/R Stylebook.
Numbers 10 and above (and 10th and above) are presented as digits unless otherwise noted in the Style Standard Clearinghouse. Numbers in headlines are also presented in digits, even if they are under 10.
Numbers that begin a sentence should be spelled out, except for years. (“Sixteen teams are still in the running.” “2013 belonged to the Miami Heat.”) Starting a sentence with a year in digit form is correct, but awkward, so if you can gracefully recast the sentence, you should.
Percentages are (a) always presented in digits (even for numbers under 10) and (b) indicated by the word “percent” instead of the percent symbol (%)—except in stat lines and tables, where B/R style calls for the symbol.
Dates are presented with the month (abbreviated per AP Style or spelled out) followed by the day (in digits, as a cardinal number). Both January 1 and Jan. 1 are acceptable. British grammar and spelling conventions use the day before the month (1 January).
Abbreviated decades use an apostrophe before the number but not after. (“In the ’90s, the Bulls dominated the NBA”).
Numbered items should be presented as No. 1. The number itself is a digit even when under 10. (“Duke earned a No. 1 seed.” “Kobe Bryant wears No. 24.” “Carlos Beltran was batting in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.” “Brandon Marshall has proven to be a No. 1 wide receiver.”)
For slide titles and numbered subheadlines, start with “1.” for a line like “1. David Ortiz” rather than something like “No. 1: David Ortiz.”
Sport-Specific Number Presentation
Spell out downs and distances when isolated, but use digits and hyphens when used in combination. (“The short gain on third down led to a 4th-and-5.”)
“Week” is capitalized when followed by a number, and the number is presented in digits. (“They have spent all week preparing for their Week 6 showdown.”)
Yard numbers are (a) presented in digits and (b) separated from the word “yard” by a hyphen. Note that numbers indicating quantities of yards (gained, lost, etc.) are presented according to B/R’s normal rules for number presentation. (“The 30-yard reception gave him a total of 96 yards on the day.” “The 5-yard line is five yards from the goal line.”)
Hits and at-bats are presented in digits and separated by “-for-” except in non-adverbial constructions. (“After going 2-for-3 on Saturday, David Ortiz had a hit in two of five at-bats Sunday.”)
Lineup spots are presented as No. 3, batting third or the 3-slot.
Thirds of an inning should be presented as decimals or as a hyphenated phrase. (“He pitched 6.1 innings after only going for four and two-thirds in his last start.”)
Positional numbers are presented as digits. (“Victor Oladipo will be used as a 1, but he could also see minutes at 2-guard.” “The Lakers are looking for stability at the 3-spot.” “Ryan Anderson has filled the role of stretch-4.”)
Boxing and MMA
Round is capitalized when succeeded by a number, and that number is presented as a digit. (“After an evenly matched second round, the fight ended with a Round 3 knockout.”)
Numbers for plus/minus stats are presented as usual, with a hyphen between the number and the word “plus” or “minus.” (“Alex Ovechkin has a minus-five rating, with the leader coming in at plus-11.”)
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There are plenty of other guidelines that may not come up as frequently, like how “3 and 2″ is a proper way to present a match score in golf, so make sure to consult the B/R Stylebook whenever you’re wondering how to use a particular number—or any other style point. There are hundreds of entries in there, plus a form for requesting additional entries or clarifications, so make sure to bookmark the page and visit it frequently. It’ll make your copy editor happy.
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Nick James is a Content Moderator at Bleacher Report. Editing Manager Tim Coughlin contributed to this post.
But while using vivid language is important, my time with Bleacher Report’s Advanced Program in Sports Media taught me the importance of a different saying: A picture is worth a thousand words.
Most of the sportswriting I did prior to joining B/R was for my high school and college newspapers, which is to say that photos, videos and tweets were rarely a concern for me.
I’d written for some blogs before and understood conceptually that pictures are interesting for readers to look at, but B/R has really taught me how helpful different kinds of media can be when making an argument.
When I started writing for B/R, I’d write first and then find videos or tweets to support my views. That resulted in some strong arguments, but sometimes it felt like I was including them just to meet my requirements and not actually make them a part of my articles.
Gradually, I started looking for the media I wanted to include before I started writing. All of a sudden, I found it much easier to point out specific failings by a quarterback when I had spent time pouring through video clips of a previous game and picking out the exact spots where criticism is warranted.
I really feel like the program made me a better, more thorough writer, and learning to emphasize media was a huge part of that.
Writing for a website like B/R means you aren’t constrained by just words on a page. If you need to make an emphatic point, you can use a video, GIF or tweet to help you do so.
It all leads to one final cliché: Show, don’t tell. That’s what the program has helped teach me, and it’s definitely one thing you need to know.
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One Thing You Need to Know is a series in which we ask members of the Bleacher Report Advanced Program in Sports Media to write about just that: One thing they’ve learned that they would pass along to other aspiring writers.
Gaspar, Bleacher Report’s Featured Columnist of the Month for her work covering the Texas Longhorns, had her first professional interview get off to an auspicious start. Things got messy at the Cowboys’ 2008 training camp in San Antonio as Gaspar, a University of Texas student interning for ESPN’s local affiliate, interviewed Davis, a former Longhorn standout.
“When I was interviewing him, he still had his mouthguard in and he was kind of playing with it in his mouth,” Gaspar says. “While he was talking, he accidentally spit and it was like slow motion going right toward my face—and he’s this huge guy.
“It hit me right between the eyes and he was like, ‘Oh, my bad.’ It was horrible. I didn’t know what to do. Should I wipe it off? So we had this super awkward interview that went horribly, and it was my first ever interview.”
In spite of Spitgate, Gaspar’s fledgling career across various media has flourished. Her work has taken her to ESPN, TBS and Orangebloods.com, to name a few. Her work with the latter, which is a part of the Rivals.com network, got her on the radar of Bleacher Report’s college football team, which she joined in August.
Her coverage of the Longhorns so far this season already has editors singing her praises.
“Taylor is everything we want in a B/R Featured Columnist,” College Football Editor Thomaselli says. “She writes as a fan with great passion for the team she covers, yet she writes with the objectivity of a seasoned pro.
“Her professionalism on the beat has been outstanding and her work ethic is second to none. Between the debate over whether longtime coach Mack Brown should stay to the quarterbacking issues and more, Taylor has been all over it.”
Gaspar said that when Bleacher Report approached her, she was intrigued not only by the website but by the idea of a gig that would focus solely on honing her writing chops. Her previous and other current work revolves around a combination of radio, television and writing work.
“I had never really done a full-blown writing role,” she says. “I figure the more you add to your résumé, the harder it is to get fired.”
Given her Mission Viejo, Calif., upbringing in a household rife with sports, her desire to work in the field is hardly surprising. Consider: her father, Rod Gaspar, was a rookie outfielder on the “Miracle Mets” in 1969. Her older brother Cade, a pitcher, was the No. 18 overall pick of the 1994 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers.
The youngest of five children in a sports-centric family, Gaspar says she watched so much baseball growing up it’s hard to believe now. Childhood memories include being forced to play goalie in street roller-hockey games with her brothers while they peppered shots at her, and being taught by her brothers how to block the plate as a catcher when she played softball … as a 7-year-old.
She eventually went on to flourish in soccer, basketball and track. She never really embraced softball, in part because, as she puts it, “My dad told me softball was too boring.”
When starting at Texas in 2006 as a history major, Gaspar contemplated working toward law school. Then she dabbled in a pre-law class, reality set in, and she realized the law wasn’t for her.
Instead, she took an internship with ESPN Radio and began covering everything imaginable. Her first assignment? A bull rodeo.
When she graduated in 2010, Gaspar used her experience to land a full-time gig with Orangebloods.com.
The key to her success, not surprising for someone who has both covered rodeos and been spit on as part of the job, is persistence.
“It’s very rare that people right out of college land their dream job and make tons of money,” Gaspar says. “I interned at so many different places and stuck with it because I knew it was what I wanted to do.
“Stay persistent, and ultimately things will work out.”
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Sean Swaby is Bleacher Report’s Featured Columnist Coordinator. Here is more information about the FC program.
There’s an old joke about what happens when you assume things. Basing your stories on assumptions, rather than on facts, can also make an ass out of you and me. We saw it in action this week with coverage of the sideline behavior of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on Sunday.
Bryant appeared to throw a couple of tantrums late in the Cowboys’ 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions, drawing scolds across the media. Here’s a particularly sharp rebuke by Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, who wrote, “Put him in timeout. Because what Dez Bryant did Sunday was act like a 3-year-old.” Bleacher Report writers were less harsh and more supportive of Bryant, but did use the words “diva” and “childish.” The TV talking heads were all over Bryant.
The problem was that by Monday night, NFL Films had released audio of Bryant’s “tantrum” that revealed it had been no such thing. Bryant had been loud and animated, but, as he’d said himself after the game, “I’m not saying anything bad. It’s all positive.”
So it turned out the tantrum assumption wasn’t a good one. We’d already had some hints at that in the postgame statements of Bryant’s teammates. In a piece published Sunday night, the Detroit News had quoted Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo saying the same thing:
“He’s a competitive guy,” Romo said. “He’s never complained to me about getting the ball. He knows that the ball is going to go where it’s supposed to.
“When you guys sometimes see emotions from Dez, it’s just trying to ‘rah rah’ more than it is being a ‘me’ guy.”
Commentators around the country had watched the soundless video from the game broadcast and made assumptions about what was going on. They were pretty good assumptions.
They just happened to be wrong.
There’s an argument that can be made that Bryant’s behavior was not optimal. Maybe he could have expressed himself better. His injured teammate, DeMarcus Ware, seemed to be saying that when he appeared to be trying to calm Bryant down in the midst of Bryant’s second eruption. Maybe. I made that assumption on Sunday. But Ware confirmed that reading to Will Brinson of CBS Sports Tuesday.
It’s easy to fall back on assumptions. If you’re not vigilant, you can find yourself doing it without even realizing it. An assumption repeated often enough can begin to feel like a fact. For an example of that, read this remarkable Poynter.org piece by Kelly McBride. Headlined “Bullying is not on the rise and it does not lead to suicide,” the piece explains how two popular media narratives, repeated over and over, are simply not true.
Regular readers of this blog ought to know what I’m going to say about making sure you’re not basing your articles on assumptions: Follow Bleacher Report’s Attribution Guidelines and, better yet, live by Lennay’s Law: Tell us what you know is true, and tell us how you know it.
It’s that time of year when the traditional Big Four North American sports are all active, and that’s represented in this week’s Shoutouts.
We start with a nod to the Bleacher Report debut of NBA National Columnist Ric Bucher. His informative read on the pressures NBA GMs face, NBA GMs’ Chief Preseason Concern? Keeping Owner Expectations Tempered, included a classic-style “And One” section with news and notes from around the league.
After Marcin Gortat Trade, It’s Playoffs or Bust for Washington Wizards by D.J. Foster: The Wizards traded a top-12-protected 2014 first-round draft pick and Emeka Okafor to the Phoenix Suns for Gortat, Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee. Foster breaks down exactly what that means for Washington, which is summed up perfectly in the headline.
NFL Week 8: Expert Takeaways from Sunday’s Action by Gary Davenport: In this weekly feature, Davenport serves as the host as B/R Lead Writers talk about the week’s storylines and issues. A nice mix of viewpoints and writing styles.
Marcus Smart Fuels Rivalry with Andrew Wiggins, Kansas at Big 12 Media Day by C.J. Moore: The Oklahoma State star yapped a bit about Kansas’ freshman phenom, and Moore treated the situation with the solemnity it called for: “This is what’s fun about the preseason. It’s a time to overreact to any borderline bulletin board material.”
Did Jon Lester Load Up in Game 1? Sure He Did, But He Did It Wrong by Dirk Hayhurst. The big-league pitcher turned author turned Bleacher Report guest columnist turned TV commentator has returned to B/R this postseason, and this was his take on the green-goop controversy from Game 1. As usual, Hayhurst’s insider knowledge and creative angle added something of value to a conversation that had already been talked to death by the morning after the game. Sample: “I love it. Because I did it myself. I had to, frankly. I was a terrible pitcher and needed every edge I could get—and I still sucked!”
How Much Does Your NHL Team Really Matter? by Jonathan Willis: There hasn’t been much talk of hockey in the Shoutouts posts. Willis, a relative newcomer to Bleacher Report, ends that streak with a terrific slideshow ranking the NHL franchises based on history, fan engagement and recent track record.