Editor's Weekly: Lo? What does 'lo' add?
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 15, 2010 - Everyone needs an editor, or so we editors think. Here's a timely example.
"There were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord showed round about them. And they were sore afraid.
"And the angel said unto them: 'Fear not. For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.'"
Good start, but this could be sharper and more vivid. I also have a few substantive questions. Let's take it sentence by sentence.
There were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. "There" is always a weak way to start a sentence -- an unnecessary word. Also, how many shepherds, what kind of fields? Were they watching sheep? Never assume. Was it raining, cold, moonlit, starry? If you're going to start with a soft, scene-setter lede like this you've really got to paint a better picture.
And while I'm thinking of it, were you able to talk to any of the shepherds? Any chance one of them has a local connection? Ever been here, or maybe has a relative here? Think local, local, local -- even on a foreign story.
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord showed round about them. Again, you've got unnecessary words. Just start with the stronger "Lo" or drop it altogether. Say Lord's glory, not glory of the Lord. Pick round or about -- you don't need both. Think of stronger verbs, too. So it might read something like this: "The Lord's angel swooped down and the Lord's glory radiated around the shepherds."
And they were sore afraid. Sore? Soar? Don't trust spellcheck!
And the angel said unto them: "Fear not,..." etc., etc. Make every word work for a living. City of David? Why not just say Bethlehem. More important, isn't this really your lede? Why back into it? Of course, you've got to qualify the Savior part -- can't just draw that conclusion.
This brings up a bigger point. How is this sourced? Were you able to talk to the angel? Does his (her?) account agree with the shepherds? If you're using confidential sources (I notice you don't name any), then I've got to know the names and credentials. Of course, the editor is also sworn to confidentiality. But it would be better to just name the sources and be more upfront about what we don't know.
Just a suggestion, but you could maybe go with a straight lede that would be shorter and punchier. Something like this: Shepherds say they saw an angel last night who alleged that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem. No immediate confirmation was available.
By the way, did anyone get a picture or video? Even something from a cell phone camera might be worth posting. Why don't you play with this a little more. Try to make it memorable.