Music Journalism 101 k. Get the words right!

This is a brief resource to round off the course. I’ve noticed that many people can’t get words and phrases right, but if you can get it right then you will save your editor a shitload of angst. There is nothing more tedious than having to change the same words every day, simply because of poor usage or spelling on a writer’s behalf. While it’s not easy for a lot of people to get these types of things right, hopefully this will help!

Think of this instalment of the course as a basic dictionary and style guide. If you think of any others, hit me up in the comments and I’ll add them!

Trouble words

1980s1990snot 1980’s or 1990’s. You are using a plural, so leave the apostrophe out before the ‘s’. This goes for shorter forms too: 80s, 90s.

are (plural), e.g. there are a few moments (note the “agreement” between ‘are’ and ‘a few moments’ – that’s what to look for! If there is more than one, use ‘are’)

CDsnot CD’s. You are using a plural, so leave the apostrophe out before the ‘s’.

Definitely, not definately – it helps to think of it as de-finitely: something finite is absolute – so is a ‘definite’ something

is (singular), e.g. the band is

its (possessive), e.g. the album is fresh, its artwork is shiny

it’s (contraction for ‘it is’), e.g. the band loves Estonia, it’s heading back next year

style or styles, not styling or stylings

their (possessive), e.g. their guitars

there (position), e.g. it’s over there

they’re (contraction for ‘they are’), e.g. they’re brilliant songs


About pronouns

If you are talking about a band, you must remember that a band is a thing. While it is comprised of people, you can’t use ‘who’, ‘whom’, ‘they’, etc when you write about it – you must use ‘it’. The band has done this, and it has done that, NOT The band have done this, and they have done that. It is when you start talking about band members that you can write about them using pronouns like ‘who’: the band members, they have done this – and so on.

About punctuation

Commas (,) – make sure you always have matching commas in a side comment or parenthetical statement. e.g. The band, which has been around for 20 years, still has it.

Slashes (/) – aren’t surrounded by any white space. Make sure you close it up. Such as:  and/or, not and / or.

Basic writing tips

Make sure you use proper sentences! Running phrases over five or six lines (or a whole paragraph) is one massive fail. Split your sentences up, rephrase things until you have something snappy and direct. Not only will your editor thank you, but so will your readers. It’s incredibly difficult to read a sentence that goes on, and on, and on. For those of you who are grammar nuts, remember that a sentence (at its most elemental) is comprised of a noun (or subject) and a verb (action); e.g. Satan wept.

Proofread your work. If you have a phrase, such as ‘at times’ written early in the sentence, as well as later in the same sentence, take one of them out! Repetition can be effective if you use it well – but such repetition as that is not cool. It just appears poorly written.

Also, always use the style guide you’re provided! If your editor says band names in bold and album and song titles in italics, do it. It shows you listen.

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