In her latest blog post, Diane Nottle, a writing coach for international students at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, tackles the subtleties in reporting crime stories. Nottle highlights the imprecise language used in a student’s crime lede, below:
“On Wednesday at 1 p.m. police captured a man who allegedly stole in a shop in SoHo. The man was running on Prince Street near the subway stop when policemen started to run after him until he finally chased at corner of Prince Street and Mercer Street.”
Nottle highlights the verb “stole” because it’s a verb not a legal charge. She also removes the word “allegedly” because she writes, “it’s a meaningless word used to shift the accusation,” – a claim that the police, NOT the journalist, should be making in the first place. Nottle re-writes two variations of the student’s lede, below:
A man suspected of robbing a shop in SoHo was arrested early Wednesday afternoon after police officers chased him along Prince Street.
Or, in active voice:
Police arrested a man suspected of robbing a shop in SoHo early Wednesday afternoon after chasing him along Prince Street.
To see the blog entry in its entirety and learn the difference between robbery, burglary, larceny and theft – and how to write about them correctly – check out Nottle’s full blog post, here.
For a deep dive into the world of reporting, grammar and writing stateside, order Nottle’s book “American English for World Media,” available here.