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Jack Swift shares a few thoughts about writing

It is interesting how life turns out. If someone had expressed the opinion while I was a student at Johnson County High School that they felt that I would probably spend forty years in which writing would be a large part in my life, I probably would have laughed at that idea. My concentration in high school was more toward mathematics and science. Both those still interest me, but I have been long a student of writing. Before I came to work at the Tomahawk, I wasn’t thinking about words and their consequences. But my interest in words became a crash course when Derl and Gladys McCloud hired me in 1973 to work for them. It was awhile before I was entrusted to begin writing sports but after that, writing became a part of my duties at the paper. It then became a must for me to learn as much about proper and appropriate word usage as I could.

I don’t claim to be an expert in the art of writing, but in the following part of my column, I want to express some of my thoughts about writing. First of all, the purpose for writing is to communicate to the reader. No matter the correctness of the grammar of the writing nor the spelling nor how beautiful the words, if the reader doesn’t understand it, it is for naught. I realize that there are different kinds of writing: poetry, news reports, and technical work to name a few. there is of course writing to convey information and writing to convey entertainment. There is a difference between the two and each type of writing has its own characteristics. Writing for entertainment often uses more eloquent words than writing for information. Except in works such as novels, short stories etc., normally the best word to use is the short more commonly used word that has the right connotation. Few or no folks want to have their reading interrupted by a word that is rarely used or not commonly known.

Of course, writing such as a newspaper column differs from hard news writing that comes from a reporter. In news copy, it is needful to write the most important information at the top of the story. Who, what, why and when should be at the top of the story and descriptive and less important information further down in the story. I read once that in the old days of newspapers, type was set on machines that used type made of lead. If the was too long to fit the space, the editor would cut off part of the bottom of the story to make it fit the space. That is rarely if ever done today.
In a daily or weekly column there is more leeway. I try to read several newspaper columns each week. I read them whether they are politically right, center or left. I think the only way to accurately describe something is to see it from several angles. Reading about both sides of an issue often gives a better view of the issue itself.

Poetry is unique because it allows more freedom of expression as well as contractions that would not be used in prose. Reading poetry often causes the reader to have to think about what the poet is trying to convey. There is a certain satisfaction in that “aha” moment when you finally realize the poet’s intent. Good poetry is something you can take with you through life. I can still recite bits of poetry that I studied when I was in high school. And that’s been a while ago.