So you've done a ton of reporting and dug up a great story. But all your work will be wasted if you write a boring article that no one will read. Follow these tips and you'll be writing news stories that will get your readers' attention and never let go!
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The lede is your one shot to get your readers' attention. Write a great one, and they're bound to read on. Write a boring one, and they'll pass all your hard work by. The trick is, the lede has to convey the main points of the story in no more than 35-40 words - and be interesting enough to make readers want more. Here's how.
You've probably heard an editor say that when it comes to newswriting, keep it short, sweet and to the point. Some editors call this "writing tight." It means conveying as much information as possible in as few words as possible. It sounds easy, but if you've spent years writing research papers - where the emphasis is often on being longwinded - it can be quite difficult. How do you do it? Find your focus, avoid too many clauses, and use something called S-V-O.
The inverted pyramid is the structural model for newswriting. It simply means that the heaviest or most important information should be at the top – the beginning – of your story, and the least important information should go at the bottom. And as you move from top to bottom, the information presented should gradually become less important. The format may seem odd at first, but it's easy to pick up, and there are very practical reasons why reporters have used it for decades.
So you’ve done a long interview with a source and have pages of notes. But chances are you’ll only be able to fit a few quotes from that lengthy interview into your article. Which ones should you use? Reporters often talk about using only “good” quotes for their stories, but what does this mean? Basically, a good quote is when someone says something interesting, and says it in an interesting way.
There's an old rule in the writing business - show, don't tell. The problem with adjectives is that they don't show us anything. In other words, they rarely if ever evoke visual images in readers' minds, and are just a lazy substitute for writing good, effective description. And while editors like the use of verbs - they convey action and give a story a sense of momentum - too often writers use tired, overused verbs. Here's how to cut the adjectives and freshen up your verbs.
Newswriting is like anything else - the more you practice, the better you'll get. And while there's no substitute for having a real story to bang out, you can use newswriting exercises like the ones found here to hone and sharpen your skills. And you can improve your writing speed by forcing yourself to pound out these stories in an hour or less.