Tips to Developing Writing Skills

Courtesy of Ray Sadler (Flickr CC0)

Throughout high school and college years, teachers make their students learn about writing styles by reading various authors. Teachers hope their students will become better writers by doing this. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes it causes the students to feel in order to be a good writer one must have a certain style.

Having a style or unique flair when writing a story or relaying information in a newspaper or broadcasting can be helpful but not necessary to have at first. The important part is to simply concentrate on writing — keeping it honest, simple, and directed to the reader. Eventually, the writer’s unique flair develops organically on its own.

Before constructing a story, one must consider who the targeted audience is — meaning which particular readers would be interested. As the story develops the writer should use strong nouns and verbs to keep the reader engaged. At the same time, limit the use of modifiers (adverbs and adjectives).

Adding color illuminates a story, however, be specific. When color is added, it provides “the feeling of truth to life, or of the reality of a particular setting” for the reader, according to the New Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus. For example, a sports announcer adds color to their description of the event. This helps keep those in attendance and listening via TV or radio engaged in the action.

Courtesy of Bob Cotter (Flickr CC0)

Journalists who attend fashion shows, red carpet events, or the opening of a new restaurant use color to spice up their stories. They describe the event or cuisine in an enticing manner to help readers/viewers feel like they are experiencing it themselves.

Writers need to be aware of passive voice. It can create a murkiness in the story. An active voice cuts down on wordiness, accepts responsibility, and sounds more honest — because there is a truth to the words.

For example, a passive voice would be “He drove the vehicle.” An active voice would sound like, “The vehicle was driven by him.”

Make every word count. If the word doesn’t carry its own weight, it’s useless and not needed.

If all else fails write with energy. As the old saying says goes: “Fake it to make it.” It’s a journalist’s job to convince the reader they know what they’re doing.

A slew of writing sins could be committed in a story, however, if the journalist kept their energy up they’ve succeeded. The reader — and the only person who should count — will forgive writing sins if they stayed engaged. It is a possibility the editor will too.

Good journalists use three ingredients before crafting their stories. They need to force themselves to fall in love with their subject — not every story will be about something they feel strongly about. Falling in love with the subject helps alleviated some frustration.

Next, the journalist writes for the ear — even if it’s for print. This helps the person join the rhythm and flow of English. The last ingredient is to fall in love with the language. English deserves to be loved and the writing will be better for it.

A good story needs to have a great lede. This means the first paragraph tells the reader the five W’s:

  • Who;
  • What;
  • Where;
  • When;
  • Why.

Answering those questions immediately are the building blocks of any great story. This can be used whether the story is technical writing, a content marketing article, or a fictional narrative.

When writing a journalist presents their information in what is known as an inverted pyramid structure. At the top is the most important information constructed in the lede paragraph. Next comes the supportive information. Then the writer adds extra information that the reader would be interested in.

One thing that really ties an article together is direct quotes from an outside observer. Gathering quotes provides the readers with a different perspective. They are essential to creating a well-rounded story.

Before writing a story a journalist verifies the facts. This is done by gathering data from numerous sources to ensure their articles are accurate.

These are just a few helpful hints to help people become stronger writers. It may not come easily at the start but “practice makes perfect.”

Written by Sheena Robertson


Journalistic Writing: Copyright © 2010/Written by Robert M. Knight
Master Class: How to Write Like a Journalist: 8 Tips
NPR: It’s National Novel Writing Month. Here’s how to finally write that book

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Ray Sadler‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Bob Cotter‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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