( Originally Published 1911 )
Contrary to the opinions of many, the newspaper has saved its readers from that modern perversion of our already forcible English, slang. It has pruned its language of affectation, fine writing and indiscriminate and excessive use of adjectives.— From an address by the REV. WILLIAM B. NORTON, of Evanston, Ill., as reported by the Chicago Evening Post.
If a reporter is lazy or inclined to " fine writing " he has only to reach into the grab-box of his memory to draw out a word or phrase, all ready to his hand, that seems to suit the occasion. Was the horse running fast? Then it was going at " break-neck speed." Did the young woman who was pulled out of the river fall in love with her rescuer? Then " her gratitude melted into love." It was the " old, old story." She became his " blushing bride " and the news of the marriage was to the discarded suitor " like a bolt from a clear sky." " A host of friends " attended the " nuptials " and the "happy couple " were " showered with congratulations."
Handy, cut-and-dried expressions will creep into copy unless the reporter is always on the alert to find the right word. Many of the figures of speech in this category doubtless possessed charm and piquancy at one time, but through long usage they have sunk to a meaningless level. They have be-come part of the stock in trade of the " fine writer," who seeks to confound the reader with large words. Other words and phrases are merely trivial or in poor taste. The news writer should study to fit his words exactly to the meaning he intends to convey, instead of lazily giving way to the temptation to draw on a ready-made stock.
" Bromides " is the name given by the newspaper man to this stock of handy expressions. The term is thus defined in a bulletin issued by a metropolitan newspaper for its copy readers : A bromide, in a newspaper office, is a word, phrase or expression, or turn of style, that is especially lacking in originality — overworked, hackneyed — a ` chestnut.' The daily travail of the editor and the copy reader is in scouting for errors of grammar and skirmishing with inaccuracy and awkwardness. But it is a massacre of libel; a war of extermination against bromides."