Writing the Best Newspaper Article the First Time

Horror stories abound about newspaper articles that end up as the butt of newsroom jokes. Don't let this happen to your article! Let me give you a few of my best tips that will help your article be used, not abused.

1. Use action verbs in the past tense. Examples:
Negotiators completed their talks today.
Negotiators met for the past six weeks.

2. Use connective phrases having to do with time, such as this morning, yesterday afternoon, immediately after, after learning, when asked, etc. Example:
Negotiators completed their talks today after meeting for the past six weeks.

3. Use proper nouns (people and places starting with a capital letter). Example:,br /> Negotiators for Acme Construction completed their talks today after meeting in Anytown, California for the past six weeks.

4. Answer the basic questions, who, what, where, when, why and how in this basic format:

Headline: Simple tenses, idiomatic, flashy vocabulary, no use of function words

Leading sentence: Present perfect tense of verbs (verbs used with "has" or "have"); leading sentence is often used to give a general overview

Article content: Proper tense usage, including a change from present perfect to past tenses to give detailed, specific information about what, where and when something happened.


Dozens Injured In Ten Car Crash

Leading sentence:
A ten-car crash on Highway 22 has sent 37 injured to the hospital.

by Kathryn Beach, Acme Chronicle reporter

Where and When: Anytown, California - August 10, 2001

Details of who, what, when, where, why and how, with the most important information early in the story.


5. Keep your sentences and paragraphs very, very short. One sentence paragraphs are fine, interspersed amongst mainly two sentence ones and a few three sentence ones.

6. Write to convey information. Once you are an accomplished article writer, you can work on your personal style. For starters, write for your reader and "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts".

7. Write for your readers. Think about what your readers want to know about that meeting, press conference, accident, new law, or new highway. Write about how much you know about the details that interest no one but you, and you'll lose your readers. This isn't about showing off how much you know, but of giving your readers what they need to know.

8. If you are including a photo or other graphic, you will also write a caption, also called a cutline. This is relatively easy, you only have to describe who or what is in the picture and what is going on.

If you remember that writing only the facts means this is not the place for speculation or flowery sentences, you'll be able to write a newspaper article that won't end up on the editing room floor.

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