Quality Writing: If The Term Fits, Then Use It

Writing clearly and compellingly doesn’t come easily.

Every word and every punctuation mark brings a new decision. Which word to use next? Is this really the moment to whip out the semi-colon? Should I pose a third question in this rhetorical series?

In the quarter-century since I began writing for publications (or should I simply say 25 years? since 1984?), my appreciation for–and quest to accomplish–skillful writing has steadily risen.

To compound the challenge, stories have to be written in rapid-fire fashion–even more so than in years past, since the news cycle is a relentless 24/7. When I was in a newsroom throughout the 1990s, my deadline usually was simply by the time I headed home. Now it matters if the story gets online by 2 p.m. vs. 5 p.m. vs. 8 p.m.

These musings are tendered to provide sympathetic context to a word choice in an otherwise-well written USA Today story on Powerball winner Neal Wanless in South Dakota.

Quoting from the story: “The ticket was sold at an Ampride store in Winner, S.D. — an ultra-ironically named town about 35 miles from Wanless’ home outside the small town of Mission, S.D. — late last month.”

Is it just me, or would not “ultra-fittingly” be a more apt term here than “ultra-ironically”? (Personally, I would do away with the needlessly breathless “ultra” and just go with “fittingly.”)

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