Six Tips for Writing News Stories That Will Grab a Reader

Start compellingly, write tight, and chose words with care

So you've done a ton of reporting, conducted in-depth interviews, and dug up a great story. All your hard work will be wasted if you write a boring article that no one will read. Think of it this way: Journalists write to be read, not to have their stories ignored.

Follow these tips and you'll be on your way to writing news stories that will grab plenty of eyeballs:

01
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Write a Great Lede

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The lede is your best shot to get readers' attention. Write a great introduction and they're likely to read on; write a boring one and they'll turn the page. The lede must convey the main points of the story in 35 to 40 words and be interesting enough to make readers want more.

02
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Write Tight

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You've probably heard an editor say that when it comes to news writing, 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 long-winded, it can be difficult. How do you do it? Find your focus, avoid too many clauses, and use a model called S-V-O, or subject-verb-object.

03
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Structure It Right

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The inverted pyramid is the basic structure for ​news writing. It simply means that the most important information should be at the top of your story, and the least important information should go at the bottom. As you move from top to bottom, the information should gradually become less important, mostly supporting what came before. The format might seem odd at first, but it's easy to pick up, and there are practical reasons why reporters have used it for decades. For one, if your story has to be cut quickly, the editor will go first to the bottom, so that's where your least vital information should be.

04
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Use the Best Quotes

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You’ve done a long interview with a great source and have pages of notes, but chances are you’ll only be able to fit a few quotes into your article. Which ones should you use? Reporters often talk about using only “good” quotes for their stories. Basically, a good quote is one in which someone says something interesting in an interesting way. If it's not interesting in both aspects, paraphrase it.

05
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Use Verbs and Adjectives Well

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There's an old rule in the writing business: show, don't tell. The problem with adjectives is that they don't always show us anything worthwhile. Ordinary adjectives rarely evoke visual images in readers' minds and are often a lazy substitute for writing compelling, effective description. While editors like verbs—they convey action and give a story momentum—too often writers use tired, overused verbs. Use words that count: Instead of writing that "the fleeing bank robbers drove quickly through town," write that they "raced down deserted streets."

06
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Practice, Practice, Practice

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News writing is like anything else: The more you practice, the better you'll get. While there's no substitute for having a real story to report and then bang out on a real deadline, you can use news writing exercises to hone your skills. You can improve your writing speed by forcing yourself to pound out these stories in an hour or less.