By Gregg McLachlan

Sometimes we forget to write for our readers in terms they understand. Sometimes we use a single word that really doesn't say much. Other times it's a phrase.

I remember a headline that said Council upbraids fire chief over extra charges. I did a straw poll among the newsroom. "Does anyone know what upbraids means?" I asked. (see definition below.) Everyone shook their heads. Instead of upbraids, a better headline would have been Council criticizes fire chief over extra charges. Now there's a headline we can understand.

(Merriam Webster Dictionary: Upbraid: 1 : to criticize severely : find fault with; 2 : to reproach severely : scold vehemently)

Sometimes we write in a way that more resembles Morse Code. Journalism is a craft. It's not a language.

Be aware of over-the-top journalistitis.

Read the following news report:

John Douglas today threw his hat in the ring and will soon head out onto the campaign trail.

The area resident has been embroiled in a dispute with the county, but will not let that take centre stage in his re-election bid. He says his workers are chomping at the bit to get the word out.

Details are sketchy, but Douglas plans to start the first leg of his campaign next week. He's anticipating large support from rank-and-file workers in his home town. He hopes to bask in the glory of victory.

Douglas, who's fit as a fiddle, reported that he is pinning his hopes on a landslide triumph. If he doesn't, he says he'll bite the bullet and return to factory work.

The 57-year-old has had his back to the wall before. In 1999 he took the gloves off in a fight with the county over recycling oil. It resulted in bad blood. He says that dispute is now water under the bridge.


Let's interpret. 100% accuracy is not guaranteed.

Paragraph #1: John Douglas can do magic with a hat and will soon ride a horse or chuckwagon on trails.

Paragraph #2: He lives in an area, not a town. He will get on a stage and will fasten a horse bridle to his mouth.

Paragraph #3: He has artwork. He will only use one leg to start the campaign trail which means he will likely be hopping. He hopes for support from people. He looks forward to glowing after victory, kind of like the guys who put out the fire at Chernobyl.

Paragraph #4: He's sticking a pin in something (ouch!) during a landslide. He may bite a bullet and return to work. Maybe it's an ammunition factory. He's fit but appears wooden.

Paragraph #5: He has puthis back against a wall. Maybe it was during yoga. In 1999 he started to strip off clothing during a fight over recycling oil that became bad blood. Oil that turns into blood? And hey, why has now turned to water and can be found beneath a bridge?