Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"When you sit down to write, there is only one important person in your life. This is someone you will never meet, called a reader."

Thus begins possibly the most important list of 25 commandments for journalists. Tim Radford, a former Guardian journalist whose brilliant work this is, says he began compiling these commandments after he was invited to train some editors "because I had just asked myself what was the most important thing to remember about writing a story, and the answer came back loud and clear: 'To make somebody read it.' "

For media students who aspire to a career in journalism, obeying each commandment on this list will, I guarantee, make you a better journalist.
Journalism is important. It must never, however, be full of its own self-importance. Nothing sends a reader scurrying to the crossword, or the racing column, faster than pomposity. Therefore simple words, clear ideas and short sentences are vital in all storytelling. So is a sense of irreverence.

If in doubt, assume the reader knows nothing. However, never make the mistake of assuming that the reader is stupid. The classic error in journalism is to overestimate what the reader knows and underestimate the reader's intelligence.

There is always an ideal first sentence an intro, a way in for any article. It really helps to think of this one before you start writing, because you will discover that the subsequent sentences write themselves, very quickly. This is not evidence that you are glib, facile, shallow or slick. Or even gifted. It merely means you hit the right first sentence.

Words have meanings. Respect those meanings. Get radical and look them up in the dictionary, find out where they have been. Then use them properly. Don't flaunt authority by flouting your ignorance. Don't whatever you do go down a hard road to hoe, without asking yourself how you would hoe a road. Or for that matter, a roe.

Read. Read lots of different things. Read the King James Bible, and Dickens, and poems by Shelley, and Marvel Comics and thrillers by Chester Himes and Dashiell Hammett. Look at the astonishing things you can do with words. Note the way they can conjure up whole worlds in the space of half a page.

Read the post in its entirety here: "A manifesto for the simple scribe my 25 commandments for journalists".
  • Thank you, Maitreya Jagalur, for the alert.


  1. I've been reading your blog since last two months.Very valuable inputs for aspiring journalists.Thanks a lot Sir.

  2. Very helpful, thank you sir.

  3. Thank you so much! Read all 25 and I can tell you, each one of them is so true

  4. Will you please share your ? I've some doubts regarding journalism to be clarified.Thanks in advance.

  5. Mahesh:


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