Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You can't learn style from a book

When you're in high school and college you are often given textbooks that teach you the basics of grammar. Hopefully by the time you graduate and are ready for the real world you'll have mastered said basics and you can go on camera without speaking with Yoda's tortured syntax.

Problem is, just about everyone coming out of college has read the same books, and sounds the same.

I see this in just about every cover letter I critique. While they're pretty much all grammatically correct and have been spell checked, many lack the style that can set them apart from the others.

So where's the book on finding your style for the television business? There aint one, McFly.

I find it funny that so many reporters are obsessed with being grammatically correct when we work in a business in which grammar has gone out the window. We use phrases like this every day:

"Man killed in robbery. Gas prices through the roof. Film at eleven."

Go ahead, throw that phrase in your computer and hit the grammar checker. You'll get those little red lines all over the place.

People don't speak, for the most part, in grammatically correct sentences.

Sometimes, well, you know.

They just, I don't know.

Talk like this.


And so do you.

Somewhere, locked inside your brain, carefully guarded by your own personal muse, is your style. But unless you let it out, let it run through the goal line defense that grammar books have put up in your head, you are never going to set yourself apart from the rest of the flock.

First, turn off the grammar checker in your computer. Remember, you're talking to the viewer, not teaching English composition.

There are no rules in this industry. So find your inner style, let it out, and let it take you up the ladder. You must be yourself, and be different, if you are to succeed in this business.


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