Good journalism is readable journalism.
It can be passionate, descriptive and full of facts – but first it has to read clean and clear. A brilliant investigative article is useless if readers can’t make sense of it. A wordy food review drenched in detail won’t make anyone’s mouth water. And forget about covering a scientific breakthrough if you’re tangled in academic terms.
The ability to write about complex topics simply is an art, one that was respected by many of the presenters at CMA. It was fascinating to hear journalists and professors give their input on how to craft a quality article.
Food reviews sound like a niche form of journalism, but the skill of developing rich descriptions without sliding into purple prose is transcends the restaurant beat. If you can master writing about food, scaling back to write news stories that nail the clever details will be easy.
Holly Johnson talked about finding that sweet spot between using stock descriptions and confusing metaphors. The trick to writing about food is truly living the experience and figuring out how to articulate that experience. Translate more than flavor and texture – what did it feel like to bite into that sandwich? What colors, sensations or emotions did that kombucha tea evoke?
Food reviews are more than just opinions. They aren’t ads or poetry. Their goal is to clearly express what it was like to eat or drink something. Even if it’s something you’ve tried before, with eat bite (or sip) imagine this is your first time tasting it.
Part of achieving that is using descriptions that mean something. Don’t just say “decadent desserts.” What does “decadent” make you feel or taste? Nothing. It’s an empty word that slows down your writing. Use instead words with texture, motion, or have a strong sense of place. Lean on your nouns and verbs and go easy on adjectives and adverbs. Verbs keep writing in the present while adjectives can bog writing down.
Another technique is using metaphors. Figurative language can share culinary experiences with word pictures. You can almost taste this drink: “Sour cranberry ripples across the tongue and breaks at the back of your throat like a scratchy wave.” I’d never want to try an éclair described like this: “Gluey cream sags between cobweb-thin layers, like a fat lady in stringy bathing suit.”
Quick, clever metaphors that tap into universal experience are invaluable. But don’t sacrifice being precise over being witty.