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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Don’t Do It! How To Improve Your News Writing

My first news story came back with red pen scribbled all over it. The editor told me to go away and start again. I blinked back the tears, held my tongue and rewrote the story. Over next few months of my career in journalism, my work was red-penned again and again, though slightly less each time. It wasn’t that I couldn’t write, but I hadn’t yet learned to write a news story. About six months in, I handed a story to the editor and waited for the inevitable rewriting advice. To my surprise, it came back to me with a grunt, but with no red marks on it. I’d finally learned how I should craft a news story. Here are 12 points which may improve your news writing.


1 The headline should say what the story is about and should be short. It usually encapsulates the information in the lead. If it doesn’t, start again.

Intro and structure

2 Remember the 6Ws.
3 Lead with the most important information.
4 Pay attention to structure. Make it logical, so that readers can follow events easily.

Style, tone and content

5 Make sure the style and content are appropriate for your target publication.
6 Keep sentences short, clear and simple wherever possible.
7 Avoid passive constructions – active sentences bring the news to life.
8 Check spelling of names you’re not sure about
9 Don’t editorialize – news should be about facts, not opinion.
10 Try to avoid repetition – one mention is usually enough for each fact.


11 Don’t believe the hype – are you being sceptical enough?
12 Proofread your work for inconsistencies in spelling, grammar and tenses

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