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So you want to write? - part 2 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Published 01/11/2007

Creative Words

Many photographers are persuaded to enter the profession by compliments when they show friends their pictures - the "These are so good you should try it for a living!" response. No such equivalent is around for words - when was the last time a friend brought out a sheaf of foolscaps and asked if you would like to see what they wrote while on holiday? Many people will have a view to express about the merits of a picture, far fewer would pass comment on the merits of a piece of writing.

The route to becoming a writer is therefore slightly more complex. This should not, however, put you off. Write about things you know and understand, an unusual hobby, craft, or item of local interest, for example. If you have a set of unique and interesting images of something, an editor will soon knock the words into shape if the subject is truly of great interest to their readers. If you have the only pictures ever taken of the 'cross-gender smoke box of the Hogwart's Express' somebody will polish your words if you provide factually accurate notes! You can also get help, there are lots of creative writing course available at local colleges; the Bureau of Freelance Photographers correspondence course also covers captioning and writing (see the call-out box and note that they do not fully endorse what is said above - it's a free world, we would not presume to hide a difference in approach from you!). When looking amongst your friends for a critical response to your writing try, journalists, librarians or English teachers who are friends or acquaintances. You are unlikely to receive a response from a busy editor - we are an overworked bunch (sound of distant violins being played!).

"The benefits of being able to produce tightly written, informative copy cannot be over-stressed" says Tracy Hallet in the introduction to The Bureau of Freelance Photographer's Project Book.

When captioning, remember the rule that 'the caption should add information to the image'. Do not caption an image of Blackpool Tower with, 'Blackpool Tower', everybody can see what it is! Add value by saying 'Blackpool Tower, built in 1894 is 518 feet high and is presently owned by Trevor Hemmings who also owned Grand National Winner, Hedge Hunter'. It took me under two minutes to find that out, by the way, using the web.


Accuracy

The importance of accuracy cannot be over-emphasised. We include advice from Professional Imagemaker's copy editor, Shirley Lamb, in a call-out box, but factual accuracy is also important. You would be amazed by the collective length of memory of a readership, and how quick they will be to point out the errors of your ways when they catch you out!

Accuracy of spelling and correct English (or language) are vital in business literature. Without repeating the words of Shirley Lamb, just remember this - if a spelling error causes you to lose a commission, that single event will wipe out the cost of having the document professionally proof read in the first place. You may be oblivious and insensitive to poor spelling but if you are the last of two proposals on the table for a commission, and somebody is rooting for your opponent, rest assured that poor spelling will tip the balance - people like to make decisions on tangibles and spelling errors are absolute and unequivocal; they make the process easier than arguing over the merits of picture 'a' or picture 'b'.

There are a number of references for use of English. We use the Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors and The Guardian Style Book along with the usual array of dictionaries and thesauri. Shirley Lamb has an even more impressive shelf of reference works (it is her job at everythingwrite!).


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1st Published 01/11/2007
last update 07/02/2018 11:58:24

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