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Five rules I'm not losing sleep over: #3 Repetition

To recap: I'm thrilled with the Associated Press changing its rule on "more than" vs. "over" and I have no problem with question headlines.

These are two of five things that have been die-hard rules in journalism that I'm not losing sleep over.

It's time to let go of some of those rules that we tie ourselves in knots over that readers couldn't care less about.

And now, on to No. 3:

Repeating words repeatedly

Somewhere along the way, we started frowning on repeating words in new stories.

Has anyone ever received a complaint from a reader suggesting we use "white stuff" instead of "snow"? Or a suggestion that you write "American's favorite pastime" instead of a"baseball"? I can't image anyone has.

So why do we persist in using euphemisms? Because we're bored with writing these stories and we find it entertaining. It does nothing for the reader other than slow them down.

I posted a little story about the weather on the other day. Here's one section:

AccuWeather says 160 tornadoes hit 14 states, leveling buildings, displacing thousands and killing 37 people.

The most powerful tornadoes were in Arkansas and Mississippi. On Sunday, April 27, 2014, an EF3 tornado with a 30-mile path charged through the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, flattening numerous homes and buildings. The very next day, an even stronger tornado struck Jackson, Mississippi, at a force ranking it an EF4.

In the span of two paragraphs, I used the word tornado four times. Did that jump out at anyone? I suspect not.

The same is true for weather, sports, people, towns ... the list goes on.

I can hear you arguing that sometimes you want to get additional info. For example, instead of writing Chicago, you'll refer to it as the Windy City or the City of Big Shoulders. I'd counter that, if it's important info for readers to have, just write, "Chicago, which is also known as the Windy City, is where Teresa lives." I'd also challenge you to question why readers need to know that and put that info in context rather than just casually slipping it on.

Plus, there is added value in search engine optimization. All other things being equal, a story with Chicago in it 10 times is going to show up higher on a Chicago results page than a file with Chicago in it two times.

If the word fits, use it. And use it again. And then again.

Tomorrow: State names

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