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Production of a Database of Styles and Guidelines for the Mountain Collegian Essay

This study was conducted primarily to produce a database of styles and guidelines for Mountain Collegian (MC) that would aid the publication in making its own stylebook. In the realization of this study, first, a survey questionnaire was floated to identify the areas needed by the publication. Based on the data gathered through the said survey questionnaire, the 10 areas identified by the respondents, the current members of the publication, were capitalization, abbreviation, acronyms, bylines and credits, names and titles, italicization, numerals, dimensions, punctuation, and reported speech.

After the ten areas of style needed by the publication were identified, issues of MC from 2000 to 2010 were analyzed for the determination of consistent and inconsistent styles practiced by the publication. Two issues for each editor-in-chief were used. Thus, a total of 20 issues and 340 articles were used for the analysis. The analysis showed that many consistent styles are practiced by MC in areas of capitalization, abbreviation, acronyms, and punctuation.

The consistent styles identified were automatically included in the database as these are manifestations of the practice and journalism culture that MC has. However, despite the many identified consistencies in styles, many inconsistent styles were also noted. With these inconsistencies, a survey questionnaire was created to determine the preference of MC on styles that are inconsistent. It is recommended that the other areas of journalism styles of Mountain Collegian be looked into and analyzed for consistency.

The Mountain Collegian (MC), the official student publication of Benguet State University, believes in the virtues of clear and effective communication. Thus, it constantly strives to uphold accuracy, precision and consistency in writing for it believes that these are stamps of professionalism in the practice of campus journalism. Existing under this principle and guided by the importance of sharpening the meaning of facts and news stories, MC relentlessly reminds its student journalists not to be casual about language usage, English for that matter, and to exercise precision of language.

However, there are strong oppositions regarding this matter. Writers and even some academicians themselves claim that the constant stress on proper English is merely a form of snobbery and has no place in the fast-paced world of journalism. Also, adhering to rules of a constantly evolving language in the practice of journalism is deemed irrelevant as many writers- particularly the young blood of journalists- think of these rules and styles as suppressive forces obstructing their creativity. However, Stovall (2002) said that style is not a rigid set of rules established to restrict the creative forces in the writer.

Style imposes a discipline in writing that should run through all the activities of a communicator. It implies then that the communicator is precise not only with writing but also with facts and with thought. Paying attention to the details of writing – and getting those right – means that a writer is likely to be paying attentions to facts, context, and meaning. Style, as pointed by the United Press International Stylebook, is the intangible ingredient that distinguishes outstanding writing from mediocrity. In addition, Stovall said that adherence to a constant style is vital to the society.

He quoted Thomas W. Lippman in the preface of The Washington Post Deskbook on Style saying, “A newspaper is part of a society’s record of itself. Each edition lives on in libraries and electronic archives to be consulted again and again by the scholars and journalists of the future. The newspaper is thus the repository of the language, and we have a responsibility to treat the language with respect. The rules of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and usage set down here are our way of trying to meet that responsibility. Thus, clear story-telling and language is at the heart of good journalism. Theodore M. Bernstein said that writing should be treated like a precision instrument; it should be sharpened and it should not be used carelessly. Since consistency and precise word usage are also utterly important in communication, perceived misuse of English, which is the language of international journalism, and inconsistencies in style then shall not cause readers to veer away and be distracted from what is more important – the creative and focused aspects of the message.

Furthermore, according to the BBC News Styleguide (2010), the best journalists appreciate that writing well is not a tiresome duty but a necessity. Consistency. Precision. Accuracy. These therefore are the fundamental reasons why it is vital for a publication, for MC for that matter, to have a set of rules, styles, and guidelines. Since its establishment in 1965, MC has not produced its official style book yet although attempts were made to do so. The style book, though, just what it is – is merely a guide. It is not a collection of rules and regulations.

It is not a dictionary and it is not a list of what is acceptable and what is not. In a world that’s awash with poor usage, a stylebook sensitizes the writer to the use of language toward achieving the nobility of the practice of journalism. For The Mountain Collegian, a stylebook will serve not only as the brick and lumber of its house but also most importantly as an archive of decades of not only responsible but also language sensitive practice of journalism. This shall serve as a record of MC’s editorial practice handed down by generations of student journalists that have shaped MC to what it is today.


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