A wise, old weatherman once told me, “write like they talk and talk how they listen.” In this case, “they” are the audience. Most of their friends don’t talk like news anchors and reporters. So, when you say these things you’re subliminally telling the viewer, “I’m a robot.”
If you remove these phrases from your scripts, you will make a better connection with your viewers. People will say things like, “you’re such a strong writer” or “you’re so natural on the air.”
I also recommend you follow Tired TV Terms on Twitter.
1. “They fled on foot…”
WHY IT’S DUMB: Have you ever heard anybody say that who wasn’t on TV? Years ago, a standup comedian did a bit on this. The punchline was something like, “could you imagine someone saying, ‘Oh, look what time it is! I gotta flee!”
SAY THIS INSTEAD: ran away, took off, took off running.
2. “The white stuff” or “the wet stuff”
WHY IT’S DUMB: You wouldn’t call the Sun “the yellow thing,” would you? I know you’re trying to avoid using the same word over and over but nobody talks like that.
SAY THIS INSTEAD: Snow or rain. That’s it.
3. “So-and-so is speaking out.”
WHY IT’S DUMB: Theoretically, anybody who appears in the newscast is speaking out. “Police are speaking out about the accident on Main St., today.” “Jim’s speaking out about the weather.” At the same time, nobody actually speaks out. Also, how exactly does one speak out? Bottom line: it’s lazy writing.
SAY THIS INSTEAD: Just tell the viewer what the person said or did. Instead of “A local woman is speaking out about working conditions at the widget factory ” try something like, “A local woman says the owners of the widget factory are abusing and ripping off workers.”
4. “Cup of Joe”
WHY IT’S DUMB: Legend says the phrase was coined during WWI when Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels banned alcohol on Navy ships. Anybody who was alive when “cup of Joe” was clever passed away long ago.
SAY THIS INSTEAD: Coffee. Period.
BONUS TIP: Stop reporting on studies about coffee. While we’re at it, throw out chocolate and red wine too.
WHY IT’S DUMB: There is a very good chance you’re using it incorrectly. When something is unique it is the ONLY one in the world. There is no other.
SAY THIS INSTEAD: If something is truly unique, then say so. But if it’s just cool, different or clever then say that.
MORE WORDS TO BAN:
Firearm. It’s a gun. Fatalities. Deaths. Dead body. A live body would be a person. Just say “body.” All for a good cause. Just tell us what they did and who it’s helping. Those, as in “helping those affected by the floods.” They’re people. Call them people.