The war over words in the journalism world

When writing an article for the Royal Purple, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. We are taught to put the most important information first and trickle down throughout the story, similar to an inverted pyramid.

Journalists swear by The Associated Press Stylebook and we constantly check and double-check that our articles are stylistically sound in the eyes of the AP.

When I write editorials, I’m told that my diction should be that of an eighth grade reading level. We do this to increase flow and readability for our readers, but I think it’s insulting.

As an English major, I am a bit of a words geek and this rule is hard for me to follow. We are speaking to college students and faculty, all of whom have stumbled upon big words in tedious textbooks before.

Writing readable articles is very important to me. It just bothers me when I’m asked to replace a word because it’s too long or big. Sometimes, there is only one word that can be chosen and when I must replace it, the meaning of the piece is altered.

Reading an editorial shouldn’t be like reading a textbook, but it should have colorful word choice and be an enjoyable read for the audience.

While editorials and features are the place for diverse diction and language, we are still holding back. It’s frustrating to have a word that describes something better but have to stow it away due to its “complexity.”

The truth is, students at UW-Whitewater are capable of reading beyond an eighth grade level. I understand and respect the thought behind the guideline, I just don’t agree with it.

I’m not sure if our readers notice our lack of $5 words or not. I’m not certain you will care very much about a nerdy writer quibbling about his lack of word freedom.

We are essentially told to dumb down our writing for college students. For you.

UW-Whitewater has a campus filled with intelligent individuals and there is a way we can write fluidly but at the same time with colorful words that will excite and interest our readers.

But I know that rules probably won’t change despite my frantic pleas.

At our weekly meeting,  while everyone else on staff is excitedly discussing content for the week’s paper, I’ll be the glum one in the corner of the office, mumbling sadly that I had to replace “stagnant” with “sluggish.”