The Anchor: 5 old-school rules for today’s writers

03 Sep,2012

By Vidya Heble


#1 Your story got laughed at.

You wrote that fancy intro – and the editor read it out, mockingly, to the rest of the newsroom staff who chuckled while you stood there red-faced. This is exactly what happened to me, and I remember which story it was as well as the lavender prose that I thought made a great opening paragraph. Lesson: There’s a difference between lyrical and laughable, and the quicker you learn it, the better.


#2 Your story got mangled.

Maybe your language wasn’t clear. Did you try to write fancy? If so, the sub-editor didn’t get it. The end result – your story ends up very different from what it was supposed to be. Lesson: Write simply and clearly.


#3 Your story died.

There were times when your carefully composed prose just vanished. Was there a black hole into which it had gone? Yes, it was called the news editor’s dustbin, and if you asked why that had happened, you got sat down for a lecture, if you were lucky, or more likely ridicule. Lesson: If you want it to survive, write it well.


#4 Your big story of the day was an obituary.

Newbies were taught the hard way, and the deceptively simple obituary or death notice was among the starting courses. You had to get it right, and if you didn’t, you got – yes, ridiculed. Lesson: No job is too small, no story too simple.


#5 You rose the hard way.

You worked your story well, you wrote it well, you cooperated with the editing desk to make it look good. And when it shone, you got that boost. Not like today where one rises at the job almost as easily and quickly as one rises in the elevator. (By “pushing the right buttons”? Wicked.) Lesson: It may seem as if hard work doesn’t pay, but you get a reward that the easy risers don’t.


Vidya Heble is Deputy Editor at


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