Journalists have to produce a huge amount of material. The Washington Post editorial staff alone, publish 500 stories a day. That’s a lot of news, every day.
Have you always wanted to write stories like a journalist? They seem to have a way of captivating their readers.
Read on to learn how to write like a journalist
1. Do Your Research
A good story needs good quality information. Do your research thoroughly and you’ll have a detailed understanding of all the possible angles.
Research might involve visiting the location of the story. Meeting and talking to witnesses bring the story to life for you so you can bring it to life for your readers.
Other research can supplement the visit to the location and interviews. Online research, for example, may provide background and supplementary information.
Another aspect of research is about your readers. Understanding your reader is key to success in journalistic writing. Whether your work is for a small circle of friends or for wider press release distribution, have your readership in mind while you write.
2. Find an Angle
What is it that makes the basic facts of a story interesting? A story has to have an angle to interest the reader. Often this is something that will elicit an emotional response in the reader.
Stories with human interest capture the reader’s attention because they are relatable. The reader’s empathy is engaged. A dull political story can be given more appeal by focusing on the personalities of the politicians involved.
Jeopardy is another angle to capture readers’ attention. A boring story about economic statistics becomes an interesting story when the angle is potential job losses or business failure.
Whatever the angle, it needs to be front and center. Ideally, it should be in the headline or at least in the first few words of the article. The reader’s attention is grabbed and held from the start.
3. Open Strongly
A strong introduction is a typical journalistic technique. Not only is the angle in the introduction but the key information in the story needs to be there too.
There’s no place in journalistic writing for a slow build-up of the story. There’s no dramatic reveal in the last paragraph.
Many readers will only read the introduction. The whole story has to be covered in summary in this opening paragraph. This opening paragraph is known as the lede.
The lede establishes the what, when, where, who, and why of the story. It hooks the reader. The essential points can then be built on or expanded in the body of the article.
4. Use the Inverted Pyramid Structure
A typical structure of an article is represented as an inverted pyramid. The most important elements of the story are presented first. The least important last.
After the lede, the body of the article can provide supporting information. It can unpack some of the detail behind the lede.
Help the reader by providing a logical structure to article with each section or paragraph having a distinct message. Don’t repeat yourself or summarize.
Journalistic writing has a heavy dependence on quotations from witnesses to the story. These quotations provide different perspectives. As the writer or journalist tells the story, the quotations bring it to life.
Provide attribution for quotations wherever possible. It brings credence to the account.
Expressing the comments in quotation marks means the reader can apparently “hear” the words of witnesses who were present. This is much more powerful than having the journalist’s third-party account.
When sources can be disclosed, do so. It is persuasive evidence that the account is true. It also shows that the journalist has done their research.
6. Active Voice
The writing style is a major indicator of journalistic writing. A distinctive characteristic is writing using the active voice.
Active voice is when a sentence has a subject that performs the action described by the verb. “I love you” is an example. A passive voice is when the subject of the sentence has the action described by the verb, performed on them. “You are loved by me” is an example.
Both of these sentences describe the same fact. The difference is that the active voice is stronger, clearer, and more direct. The meaning is more immediately accessible to the reader.
The pace of the story is better served by an active voice. The writing seems to move along more energetically. It’s this energy that is engaging and makes journalistic writing so attractive.
Journalistic writing is rapidly consumed. It’s not generally read more than once and so has to be accessible to all readers. The key to this is simplicity.
The author, Ernest Hemmingway, famously developed his writing style as a journalist. His approach was to have short sentences, simple sentence construction, and fewer descriptive adjectives than most writers.
Keeping your writing simpler makes it easier to read. The meaning is more obvious. It’s got pace, immediacy, and energy.
8. Edit and Edit Again
Journalists are used to having their work edited. The process of writing and then editing it helps to avoid redundancy in the writing. Fluff or content that does not add to the story is ruthlessly removed.
The best journalists edit themselves. They check and re-check their own work. They hold themselves to high standards of writing.
9. Take Criticism
If better journalistic writing is your aim you have to be prepared to take feedback. Criticism might feel painful but a professional journalist learns to take it on the chin. Listen and learn.
Write Like a Journalist
Start writing. Apply these tips and get more experience. Eventually, you’ll learn how to write like a journalist.
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