The Coaching Craft

A group of writing coaches and editors met recently at Poynter for a seminar on Coaching & Storytelling. Here's a collection of their best "sound bites" about the craft — useful if you're a writer, an editor, a coach, or someone in between.

It's not about what you can do, but what you can do for others.

Be a servant leader.

Be generous.

Remember the reader.

Don't assume you know what the reporter means; always ask.

If you don't know what it means, don't write it.

Have the writer correct the story, not you.

If you can't revise it, cut it.

Stay out of the way of a good story.

Don't put anything in an e-mail that you don't want to read on Romenesko.

Length is the enemy of understanding and readership.

It's the story, stupid.

Invite copy editors to everything; give them chocolate; know their names.

Your lead is probably the first thing you want to tell your buddies at the bar.

Don't print bad stuff.

Just say something, anything, about a story after you've edited it.

Never lose self-control.

Remember it's not your byline.

Do not be held to the tyranny of the urgent.

Praise hard work on unspectacular days.

Praise things surprisingly good.

Work little stories like big stories.

You are what you do -- repeatedly.

People generally live up to your expectations.

People want to be demanded of.

The best stories do not break; they seep and ooze.

The number of examples matters. One conveys big significance; two invites comparison; three conveys wholeness; four sounds like an inventory.

Write praise; speak criticism.

Praise in public; criticize in private.

 Get up and take a walk.

If you see a vacuum, step into it.

Leave things better than you found them.

If you help on a story, don't take a byline or tagline.

Listen to your reporter, follow your convictions and trust your gut.

How you react will set the tone for the night.

Don't ask why, ask how come.

The reader is your boss.Have a life outside the newsroom.

Nudge, prod, and cajole.

Keep your sense of humor.

You keep writing the story as you keep reporting.

Preserve the voice, but make damn sure it's accurate.

Everybody needs an editor.

Remember when you're writing/editing, you're always writing/editing about people.

The reader is your boss.

Don't panic. No matter what you do, the paper will come out tomorrow.

You'll make good decisions, you'll make bad decisions, but make a decision.

Brevity comes from selection, not from compression.

The more information you have, the better you write.

Clear writing is the result of good reporting.

Read it aloud.

Be the type of editor you wish you had.

Help your writers subdue their internal critics.

All close calls go to the writer.

All close calls go to the writer.Be empathetic.

Edit the person, not the story.

Don't be a doormat.

Get out of the business when you've turned into a cynical, lazy, burnt-out creature.

Make sure you're worth following.

Ask yourself: Do I really want to say this?

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    Cheryl Carpenter

    Cheryl Carpenter just finished her time as the T. Anthony Pollner distinguished professor at the University of Montana in Missoula teaching a seminar class and serving as a coach for the school's news staff.

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