DC Chapter closes 2015 with writing tips, roundtable discussions, officer elections

By Cherilyn Crowe

In a meeting filled with member presentations, religion communicators in Washington gained new perspectives on writing, world religions and Pope Francis’ recent stateside visit. From kicking the inverted pyramid to the curb to embracing interfaith conversations, the Dec. 2 meeting of the Religion Communicators Council’s D.C. chapter had a little bit of everything.

Using knowledge from a recent class, chapter member Amy Shelton provided tips to make anyone’s writing more readable and engaging. Shelton spoke about tips learned from an Ann Wylie-led master class and provided illustrations of their impact in her work at Wesley Theological Seminary.

Shelton said she now tosses out the inverted pyramid, even on news stories. She once had a student request an announcement about voting. Instead of giving just the facts about when and where to vote, Shelton found an example of a seminarian who died fighting for voting rights in the 1960s and used that as the lead.

Other tips include:

  • Keep sentences to fewer than 21 words
  • Keep your paragraphs to two sentences or even one
  • Keep your number of syllables to one or two per word, if at all possible
  • Always use active voice

When writing anything, Shelton said it is necessary to make the copy accessible. Some readers are skimmers and others take in every word, but everyone should be able to find what they need in a story. The workshop suggested checking materials with two visual tests: keep blocks of texts in printed materials smaller than a dollar bill, and keep online text blocks smaller than the palm of your hand.

Shelton said more tips are available from Wylie’s newsletter – both the free and paid version, which she recommended. Learn more at www.wyliecomm.com

Attendance at the Parliament of the World’s Religions led to insights from four members who attended: Ken Bedell of the U.S. Department of Education, Father Jim Gardiner of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, Jackie Fuller of the Interfaith Connections program in Fairfax, Virginia, and Anuttama Dasa from ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness).

Bedell led the conversation among members, noting that the event brought people together from 73 countries, representing 30 major religious groups and more than 400 “subgroups.” Members shared their experiences, noting that the forum had an energy that reinforced the value and importance of faith as well as spiritually-inspired opinions, even if everyone did not agree.

At the end of the meeting, Gardiner spoke about the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States and his involvement in media coverage and interviews. It sparked a conversation around the table about how the pontiff’s visit brought new coverage of conversations regarding religion and public life. Dasa also shared the story of shaking Pope Francis’ hand at the interfaith service in New York, which he found to be a special moment (as did his Catholic friends!).

The meeting also included the election of chapter officers. Cherilyn Crowe of the Baptist Joint Committee was elected president, and Fuller was elected vice president of membership. Bill Aiken, of SGI-USA, remains as chapter treasurer.

Visit the DC Chapter website page.

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