AN EDITOR recently wrote to tell me one of his reporters suggested a headline that included a word most readers might not understand.
The editor changed the word. His note goes on:
“He [the reporter] was upset and said we should be educating the reader.”
My reply to the editor:
“It is NOT our job to educate the reader. It is our job to inform the reader. If he thinks he is an educator, that means he’s in the wrong business. Let him go teach.
And, remember: if you’re the editor, you have no obligation to run headlines as reporters offer them. They are suggested headlines, not headlines that must be used. It’s your job to make sure readers get the news in a form they can easily understand. That means using simple, clear language. Short words in short sentences in short paragraphs in short stories.
Your reporter needs to get off his high horse and mingle more with the unwashed masses.”
It reminded me of the time I was working on the copy/production desk (yes, we actually edited copy back then!).
A reporter wrote a sentence that included the word “ubiquitous.”
I asked him what the word “ubiquitous” meant. He said: “It means ‘everywhere…universal.’”
I rewrote the sentence, using the word “everywhere.”
Why would we use “ubiquitous” when “everywhere” will do? Are we trying to impress? Are we trying to educate?
Saying “The desire for freedom is ubiquitous,” for example. Why?
Let’s say it simply, as the Rascals did in 1969:
“…people everywhere just wanna be free.”