This edition of “The 5s” sounds ominous because it is. There’s a good reason I’m flashing the danger sign. Inspired by and paraphrased from a much longer list by award-winning sportswriter David Kindred, the following situations can hamper or derail your writing.
1. Never misspell a name. Unless you’re John Smith or Jane Brown, you probably have had your name butchered. It might just be the worst writing mistake.
2. Never quote the terminology without putting it in plain English. Jargon is deadly. It slows down reading and comprehension. It strangles the life out of copy.
3. Never leave an interview without getting a telephone number or email address for the questions that will come up during the writing. It’s difficult to process exactly what you have and what you still need until you get back to your office. Set up the expectation that you may need to follow up.
4. Never leave home without extra batteries (for tape recorders, cameras, etc.). Early in my career I suffered battery failure during a recorded hour-long interview with a company president. I had to write the feature story based on incomplete notes and my imperfect memory of what he said.
5. Never drink a coke while standing near your laptop. I won’t even place a mug of coffee on a desk or table if my laptop is nearby. My laptop is my mobile office. Sometimes paranoia is a good thing.
Never completely trust spellcheck. Never think someone else will catch any errors.
What else? What are your “nevers”?