Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tips for Success

Be concise! You may need to, "kill your darlings," or eloquent, long sentences.  But, you can still have style in your writing when being simple.  Making big concepts easy for everyone to understand is just good writing.  Hopefully though, in full sentences.   
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Be sure to read the Washington Post each day instead of waiting until the day before class so you are able to retain more of the information and be informed of current events! – Mary-Margaret Koch

If you have trouble reading on  a screen, they have the Washington Post in the basement level of the library every day!  I would also highly recommend getting both the Washington Post app as well as the CNN app, and signing up for the updates that show up on your lock screen to get constant updates. – Grace Goulding

It’s really easy to lose points for silly formatting things, and it will be a lot easier to keep those points if you just commit to learning all of the style conventions as soon as we go over them. – Lindsey Grutchfield

Make sure to always reach out to Professor Piacente with any questions you have. He is more than willing to teach you the tricks of the trade and how to critically read articles online. If you ever find something interesting online and have questions about how it was written, definitely ask, he’ll provide you with good insights. – Andrew Eversden

Be sure to meet with Sarah even though you might be doing well in the class. She was very helpful in making you think out loud and recognize your mistakes. Also do not give up so easily, writing any news story can be hard but it does take a lot of practice. Look at your writing piece over and over again and catch for any silly mistakes. – Yaniza Creamer 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tips for Success in COMM-200

Practice, practice, practice. It sounds cheesy, but practicing each type of writing will help you rule out common mistakes. Also, getting them marked by the professor will help you get a feel for what your grade in the class is! There are plenty of examples of fact sheets in the textbook.

- Lauren Beeslee, Spring 2016

Tips for Comm 200

Writing for Communication is an essential and mandatory course for students in the SOC programs at American University. Professor Piacente provides a path to success in class as long as you do the following:

- Run multiple edits on your assignments
- Often times, writing assignments are follow-ups on previous assignments. Carefully review Prof. Piacente's comments to ensure success.
- Set reminders in your phone for random due-dates. Assignments are not always due during the next class period. For example, my class is Monday at 5:30 p.m., but sometimes work was due on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. Journalists have random deadlines, and so will you.
- Keep the AP Style manual handy. I bought the text edition, but the short-list he gives you in class is very helpful.
- Pay special attention the grammar lectures. These are probably the most difficult for students, but will really help you in the long-run.
- If you are struggling, utilize office hours! Your professor is here to help you.

Enjoy your semester!

-Emily Foster

How to Succeed in Writing for Communication

The best advice that I can give about this class is to take your time but to not overthink. You have all read news stories before, and you have all seen news broadcasts before. This class is just letting you see those things from the other side. Write your stories like you would want to read/hear them. The writing you will do in this class is the type that is meant to be consumed with pleasure. It's not supposed to sound awkward, wordy, or redundant. Before you write, make sure you have decided what information is important. If you know the general outline of your piece, it can write itself. Also, consult the AP Styleguide for any questions you have. All you have to do is Google your questions and you can nail your grammar and style easily. And last but certainly not least, WRITE "-30-" AT THE END OF YOUR ASSIGNMENTS!

Advice for next semester

Something that really helped me be more successful in this class was to proof reading. Most of the time you lose points on assignments because of silly mistakes that could easily be fixed if you look over your work more than once. Also, I would say understanding that practice makes perfect is a big part of this class. News writing is not the most natural type of writing and you're not going to get it right the first time. Keep practicing and definitely read your professor's comments on any work that you hand in so you don't repeat mistakes.

Class Tips

Hi guys!

Congrats on taking the class! It most definitely will be an extremely helpful and beneficial part of your semester and learning experience.  As a non-comm major, I definitely struggled to catch up to the pace of the class. I would highly suggest seeking out help as soon as possible.  Sarah Baker is very knowledgable and so is Professor Piacente.  However, what you get out of the class is what you put in.  Sarah and Professor are only good resources if you actually use them! So, seek them out, ask questions and be open to suggestions.  The only way to improve is through practicing and being open to feedback.  Take every opportunity to hear other classmate's suggestions, take note of Professor's assignment feedback and go to Sarah if you need some extra help.
Good luck!

Tips for next semester's class

Welcome to Comm 200! This is a great class and you'll learn a lot. Make sure you read the news EVERYDAY because trying to catch up on a week's work of news the day of the quiz is really not easy and the quizzes are a big part of your final grade. If you're having difficulty remembering the news stories you've read throughout the week, make an outline with the headline and the general gist of what the article said an then review your outline the day of the quiz.

As for the class assignments, Professor Piacente's critiques are really helpful and clear. Read his comments thoroughly and you will learn how to improve and see what you can do better for next time. If you're having difficulty definitely reach out to him, he was able to sit down with me and clear up questions I had on an assignment. The writing tutor is also a great resource for assignments and stories. Best of luck and enjoy Writing for Communications!

Becca Hernandez

Future Tips for Students

Dear future students for the Writing for Comm class with Prof. Piacente,

Some tips I would like to give you to do well in this course. Firstly, make sure to read the Washington Post daily to succeed in the current event quizzes (make sure to not try to read a weeks worth of news right before class). Secondly, understand the feedback Professor Piacente gives you on all of your assignments, as they will be really helpful for future writing exercises. Make sure to also see Sarah Baker, the class writing tutor, she gives really helpful advice, especially for any necessary rewrites that you may have to do. Finally, make sure to do practice writing responses (which can be found in the textbook), they will really help build on your expertise with the in-class writing assignments. 

Wish you all the best of luck and make the semester worthwhile!

Feiras A.R.

Advice to new students

Future students taking Writing for Communication with Professor Piacente,

First off, I want to extend my congratulations on taking this course!  Make sure to take full advantage of the resources offered in this class.  You should always make time to meet with with Sarah Baker, and be sure to ask the guest speakers plenty of questions!  Make sure that you reach out to Professor Piacenete if you need any help, but never forget to also ask your classmates for guidance.  I received great advice from my classmates throughout the course of the semester that helped my performance in the class.   Finally, don't be afraid to try writing responses to the prompts that won't be graded.  The experience that you can gain by just practicing will pay off in the long run.  

Enjoy the semester, and make the best of it!

Nicholas Kram Mendelsohn

Advice for New Students

First of all, always look at the feedback on your articles because it really does help you with your next articles. Professor Piacente's different pointers are always clear and it will not only improve your grade, but your writing skills as well. The other piece of advice I would give is to take the time when you're writing your articles to go back through and confirm with the AP style guide that you have formatted things correctly. This is a silly way that I lost many points this semester and it can be fixed easily by putting in the effort to double check. Best of luck!!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tip for success

Dear future student in Prof. Piacente's Writing for Comm course,

There are two points of advice I'd like to give. First, something I learned the hard way: read the Washington Post every day. It is way, way easier to do briefly every day then to spend more than two hours (and it will take more than two hours) on Sunday catching up, and you'll find yourself becoming far more informed and connected to the region.

Second: take advantage of the amazing resources Prof. Piacente provides. Ask guests good questions, and prepare for guest lectures by researching the person. You'll be able to appreciate them a lot more.

Have a good semester!
Ben Goldstein

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Class 4/25

Opening Exercise 
We each wrote one broadcast lead on the board.  The could be from the colon cleanse, Hassell DaJudg, or tornado stories. This activity acted as a "writing bootcamp" before the final which includes a broadcast story.  When writing leads, remember to...

  • Write the lead in present tense
  • Include the gist of the story, or "nugget" of most important information
  • Prioritize the most important news at the beginning of the lead
    • ex) Results of the colon cleanse, not that a study was conducted 
  • No not use quotation marks or parenthesis for phrases
  • Exclude unneeded  information so as not to dilute the strength of the message
    • ex) Damage to three houses is not as vital as the death of nine-year-old

Discussion on "Study: Poor Writing Skills Are Costing Businesses Billions"  
This article spoke to the importance of being a good writer.  Over $3.1 billion is spent annually on remedial training for adults even after their college educations.  The report showed that employers  noticed a lack in writing skills among college graduates, and during hiring they now assess resumes and cover letters for accuracy.  There is immense value in being a good writer, and it is a skill any business needs.  

Videos on Importance of Being Prepared 
We watched two short interviews that showed what happens when a reporter is prepared, and what happens when he/she is not.  

The first scenario showed a woman interviewing John Cusack and talking about his performance in American Beauty, a movie he is not in. She was caught off-guard and thoroughly embarrassed because she did not do her research.  

The second showed a high school reporter interviewing a government official on the issue of funding towards education.  After the official boasted his support to the program, the student was able to pull out records of when the official voted against it. The ordeal caused the official to be so flustered that he walked out of the interview, and it was a clear win for the student. These examples being prepared and informed is essential in communications.  

Writing Exercise on Pictionary  
We wrote broadcast stories about fight in Brasco State Psychiatric Hospital leading to a prison stabbing.  New developments were released two separate times prior to the piece being published, when the inmate was stabbed and when he died.  Our stories needed to change and be updated three times within a half hour, which worked on our versatility and ability to adapt.  This lesson reinforced the need for a lead to state the newest, most important information  These stories were printed or saved for us to reference when studying. 

Final Exam Next Week
The final will take place next week, Monday, May 2 at our regular time, 5:30 pm.  We will be given two fact sheets and must write one press release and one broadcast story.  The AP Style Manual may be used during the test. Professor Piacente gave last-minute tips to ensure success... 

  • Read past posts from the blog, important chapters from the textbook, and feedback from old work.
  • The press release will be held to a higher AP style standard because it would be sent to media outlets. 
  • Formatting, including the headline and one-sentence-leads, are essential points that should not be missed. 
  • Remember that when writing a press release you are an advocate not journalist, and you are the organization.  
  • The broadcast story MUST be in present tense.  
  • Be sure to make multiple rounds of revisions, each time for a different type of mistake.  Check for...
    • Grammar
    • Flow
    • Word Choice
    • Punctuation/ AP Style
Good Luck! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Class 4/18

The first part of class today was a writing exercise where we wrote a broadcast story update on Stefanie Ferguson and her saga. This portion of the story focused on her arrest near the Canadian border. After, we took the last current events quiz of the semester and discussed the broadcast story we had just written. Some of the things we talked about are:

  • "Authorities demand that she return home" is out of date news that has been outpaced by current events. Therefore, we can leave it out of the updated story.
  • We should make sure we start with the new news, then circle around to the background information.
After discussing Stefanie Ferguson, we brainstormed leads for our homework for next week (See below).

After the break, we listened to guest speaker Michael Edson, who has worked in the past as an exhibit designer with the Smithsonian and is now working with the UN to organize the creation of a new UN museum in Copenhagen and elsewhere. Edson is a strong advocate for using technology as a tool for the democratic flow of information.

Edson discussed the old model of information flow, that of the Smithsonian, where the so-called "experts" bring a passive but grateful audience through the doors so they can have information delivered to them. Edson feels a great deal of frustration with this model.

Conversely, Edson in his work now with the UN is focused on finding a new model, wherein everyone can have the chance to contribute to the gathering and distribution of information. This new UN museum is a tool to this end and is being built with the goal of reconnecting people with the original vision of the UN.

Homework for next week:
  • Read and think about this article
  • Write leads for the three stories we brainstormed for in class. Bring in a hard copy, and remember: dead children are more important than anything else.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Class 4/11

-       Current events quizzes
-       Verb tense quizzes

-Discussed WSJ article about basketball
            -we enjoyed how it related economics to sports
            -did not stray into cliché when describing Steph Curry

-Mr. Blount’s article
            -well written but less engaging than the basketball story
            -mixed opinions on how he censored the word “Redskins”
                        -equated “Redskin” with the N word
-good example of persuasive writing, but more intended for people that see no problem with the word

-Broadcast lead discussion
            -make sure to use present tense when saying what happened. Telling the backstory in past tense is acceptable
            -throwaway lead: quick attention grabber that leads into actual information
            -make sure to still include the unusual information

            -Broadcast journalism 4 C’s:
-Correctness- be accurate
 -clarity- be understandable, don’t be ambiguous
                                    -uphold rules of grammar
                                    -omit the ‘time element’ of the story unless it’s important
 -conciseness- don’t be wordy
            -stories are built on nouns and verbs
            -fire info in short sentences
-color- make it interesting
            -allow viewers to paint a picture in their minds
            -Dramatic Unity
                        -climax, cause, effect

-Clip from Broadcast News
            -about how stations are reporting news that isn’t really “news” or newsworthy
            -people are unqualified for their positions and pretending to be reporters
            -preaching to core audience

-Writing radio news leads
            -don’t go for the easiest choice
            -be creative
            -don’t forget 4 C’s, especially color

            -writing stories at the beginning
            -Research guest for next week
            -Michael Edson, head of digital for the Smithsonian

-Wrote broadcast story using new info in the Stefanie Ferguson case

Read these two pieces by Michael Edson.
Read whatever else you want about him.
Come up with two questions that you will ask in class.
Try for questions that can't be answered by anything you find online.


Again, arrive promptly at 5:30 p.m. next week. Julianna will receive and then print the assignment. This will be another broadcast story based on a new set of facts. You will have roughly 50 minutes to complete the piece.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Nicholas Kram Mendelsohn
April 4, 2016

What did we discuss with substitute teachers?
-Discussed leads for Feature stories
-Discussed purpose of feature stories, what to include, emphasize, and what to exclude

Review of Busdicker story:
-Think of how to expand the audience for the story
-What makes this story interesting is the ashes being buried in the clarinet
-If you don't have that in the lead, you have missed the story
-Stick to one sentence leads

Cardinal rule of broadcast lead:
-Check the handout "Sequence of Tenses" and the website Purdue Owl Writing Lab to help distinguish present tense

The website: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/601/01/

Class Note:
Verb tense quiz next Monday! (Closed book)
Instructions for the upcoming quiz:

If the tense of each underlined verb expresses the time relationship accurately, write S (satisfactory). If a shift in tense is not appropriate, write U (unsatisfactory) and make necessary changes.

Sample question: After Alice visits AU for the third time, she decided to apply.

So the example above would get a U.
The change would be, she decides to apply. That keeps the sentence in a consistent tense (present).

There will only be 2 more current events quizzes!!!!!

Powerpoint notes:
1.  Write for the ear, not the eye
2.  Has to be catchy and compelling right from the beginning
3.  Use present tense whenever possible (generally you will change was to is)
4.  Attribution not as necessary, if you need to use it have it come in the 3rd or 4th paragraph and start with it instead of ending with it as you would in AP style
5.  A benefit of broadcast is immediacy, so even if it is in the past we use present tense in order always appear current
6.  Don't confuse leads with headlines or teases ( a tease isn't a full sentence)
7.  Again, put attribution before quotes, not after.  Paraphrase, don't directly quote
8.  Use short, simple sentences
9.  Use active, not passive voice
10.  Don't use a lot of numbers, keep it simple
11.  Don't use abbreviations, spell out the words,

Thing's to remember:
a)  Your audience is in a hurry, so your writing should be brief.  Get to the point.  Now!
b)  Your writing should be full of active verbs
c)  Always lead with the news information
d)  Easily understood, no jargon, think of the guy with his hand on the clicker
e)  Put title before name
f)  Use oval format with beginning, middle, and end

1.  Review and know tenses
2.  Read broadcast chapter 12 in textbook
3.  Pick two stories that we have done this semester and convert the leads into broadcast leads.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Crisis Communications, by Mary-Margaret Koch

·             Rule #1 for Broadcast writing – write in the present tense
Reactions to Businesswire piece
·             Journalism has become more than just print, now need multimedia elements for an online piece
·             When pitching journalists, provide multimedia content
·             Journalists are spread thinner now than ever before and are expected to do more
·             Now can use social media to bypass normal channels and appeal directly to the intended audience
·             Brand journalism – promote brand directly to audience without middleman in between
Exxon Valdez PR
·             What they should have done:
o   Know all the facts
o   Show empathy
o   Demonstrate proof that you care
o   Have next steps prepared
o   Accept the blame
We then watched an interview with Exxon Chairmen Lawrence G. Rawl,
·             First Impressions – looks corporate, frowning, didn’t know details about the proposed plan, aggressive towards reporter
o   People make judgments about your trustworthiness in less than 10 seconds
·             Remainder of interview impressions – repeats that he does not know the details about the new plan, states that it is not his job to be familiar with the details of the plan, corrects reporter, viewer begins to think that he only cares about profits not the environment
o   In an interview, the reporter has an agenda and you have an agenda. You need to control 100% of your 50%
o   When watching interviews, need to become students of the game. This means knowing if someone is succeeding or not, and knowing WHY
o   Camera is on you while you’re listening to questions as well as answering questions in an interview
o   Public Relations often involves crisis communications

David Culver
·             Unconventional path to journalism, got where he is today by keeping in contact with people he knew from internships
·             3 keys to writing for broadcast – concise, conversational, urgent
o   Need the audience to understand why something is relevant now
·             Anchors are no longer talking to a muted audience, audience can now respond
·             When anchors “toss” and pass the broadcast off to a reporter in the field, it gives the field reporter credibility
·             Read pg. 190-211 in textbook
·             Complete exercise 10.15 – Writing feature stories #1 (Jessie James story)
o   Bring in hard copy to class

o   Format like you would a print story, no headline