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Improve the craft of writing

We learn to improve our writing everyday, from reading, writing, rewriting, and being corrected by others.

I’ve never been trained as a journalist, but enjoyed doing contributing writing for Xinhua News, the official wire service in China, as a freelancer. The different subjects I need to cover have exposed me to contents I would never have paid attention to on my own, and interviewing people, usually experts in the field of each coverage, has provided me with the opportunity of meeting many extraordinary individuals. But most of all, it’s a great learning experience to write and improve on the job, so to speak.

Yesterday I did three interviews on an assigned coverage on China’s recent economic initiatives. In the list of requested subjects to cover, it also contained the comparison of “develop the west” in China to the “go west” in the U.S. I tried to blend them all in one short coverage and felt jumbled up in a way even before I pressed the submit button. But since I had managed to put the two together, I was reluctant to “kill the little darling” once it was on paper.

I saw the coverage released on Xinhua earlier this morning and was humbled by the editing a Beijing editor did. He/she took out the entire section on the “go west” issue and focused on the new initiatives of opening up various sectors such as finance, petroleum, telecommunication to private sectors. Even in this area, the quotes were substantially cut short.

Despite my reservation for the quotes, I must say the editing has made the coverage much more focused and clean. It is certainly another good lesson in writing.

Here is the link to the “news” release:

Incidentally, I saw a friend posted a link to a New York Times blog about writing short sentences. I thought it came in just as handy. Enjoy.

Jian Ping: author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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