Service Journalism: Stay Away From a “You Must Do This” Tone

The idea of service journalism is to help the reader decide what’s worth doing or seeing or buying and the role of the editor of service pieces is to put yourself in the shoes of the reader: Is the writing clear? Is the tone helpful? Sort of like advice from a good neighbor.

What I sometimes found, and fixed, was service writing I thought was almost Germanic in tone: “You must do this…”

Nobody likes to be ordered around by a journalist. Most advice can be given in a gentler way, more a suggestion than a command.

P.S. When I found a writer using the “You must do this” tone there was always a flashback to World War Two movies and the writer as a Nazi ordering people around.

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