Archive for February, 2013

One of the goals of this blog is to help people write better columns, press releases and letters to the editor. Another goal is to simplify the work the editor and I do in the Catalina Islander. The faster we get done with the editing, the more time we can put into finding stories to tell about the Island of Romance.

To that end, I respectfully suggest you write short sentences. It is easier for readers to read and remember information in short sentences. It is easier to write short sentences. You are less likely to run into complicated punctuation questions if you write short sentences.

How short? Sadly, there’s no good answer to that question. My personal rule of writing says that any sentence longer than 50 words should be reconsidered.

I also try to keep the first sentence in every article to 25 words or less. That doesn’t always work, but that’s the goal I set. The longest sentence in this blog is 23 words

One suggestion: Read your copy out loud. If a sentence sounds awkward to your ears, rewrite it. If you have to pause for breath while reading the sentence, convert the information to two sentences.

Warning: snobs hate short sentences. Snobs maintain that only children write short sentences. Snobs like to criticize writers both professional and amateur for writing short sentences. Ignore them. Few published snobs have ever earned a living from writing.

The real test of good writing is this: did anyone read your article, poem or short story all the way to the end? Seriously. Back in journalism school, I was taught that 75 percent of my readers would only read the headline and then move on. Of the remaining 25 percent, only 75 percent would read beyond the first paragraph.

A ’60s-era movie I saw years ago ended with the words: “The most, to say the least.”

Having said that, I’ll say no more until next week.

First, let me say that I respect the good taste of anyone who wants their story told by the Catalina Islander. That said, there are some things you should know.

Editors never guarantee that a submission to the paper will be published.

If you do submit something, just send a simple press release by e-mail to Include the time, day of the week, date and address of the event.

I once edited a press release from a man who got the name of the event wrong, the subject of the event wrong, the date and time of the event wrong and the address where the event would take place wrong. His wife said: “I’m never asking my husband to write a press release again.”

I have the strangest feeling those mistakes were no accident.

However, the husband did do one thing right: he included contact information for the editors. If you don’t want the public to know your contact information, make sure the information appears after the words “media only.”

I can’t over-emphasize the importance of contact information. I’ve seen stories go unpublished because the publications I worked for had no way to contact the person who submitted a story. I once read a press release that went on-and-on about how important the event in question was—but failed to tell me where the important event was taking place. Fortunately, that writer did include contact information—and the story eventually made its way into print.

Courtesy image of a grazing bison.

They are not native to the Island. The bison population has to be kept low in order to protect the larger Island habitat. That requires time, work and resources that might be expended more productively on other projects. I realize the bison are part of the Island’s image, but wouldn’t the bison and the Island alike be better off if the herd were relocated to somewhere on the mainland?

I’m just asking.

When Catalina Islander Editor Dennis Kaiser was visiting Catalina this week, he saw small groups of seal lions in Avalon Harbor.

He said it looked like they came to vacation on the Island during the off season, expecting the humans to be gone. It’s a fanciful image, but one I like.

I work at a mainland office within walking difference of the beach, yet it has been years since I’ve seen seals or sea lions. I guess the sea mammals would rather vacation in the waters of Catalina Island.