100 articles – ‘The Write Stuff’

18 June 2010

Written by: Lawrie Zion

‘The Write Stuff’ by Les Carlyon

Nothing, to me, is more invigorating than sub editors sitting around desks at night arguing the toss about words.

Why don’t we hyphenate compound adjectives when the first word ends in ‘ly’? Where does the apostrophe goes in April Fool’s (Fools’) Day? What is the difference between due to and because of, or fewer and less?

Les Carlyon, Australia’s prince of journalists, is right. We don’t seem to worry about the things that matter most – our words, as he points out in this written version of his acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement Quill award from the Melbourne Press Club .

We forget why we’re in the business – because we’re curious and we love the written word. The flesh and bones of journalism are too often being ignored.

Once, when Internet and email was down in our office, a young colleague asked ‘What are we supposed to do, we can’t get stories?’

Never has there been a more important time for us to be good at what we do. Starting with the words we use. 

Rob Harris is a journalist who grew up in country Victoria, working at a handful of regional newspapers and the ABC. He is now a sub editor for Northcliffe Newspapers in the UK. You can find him on Twitter @rharris334

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