Thursday, 20 October 2011
From Emily Carlisle to Sarah Duncan, fellow bloggers have given me loads of fantastic advice over the last few months. I’ve gleaned tips on where to go in New York from Liberty London Girl (the High Line and the Strand Book Store were just two), picked up delicious recipes from Eat Like A Girl and kept up to date with life in France from my old friend Colin Randall at Salut!
Desperate to think of something to offer in return (well apart from the best pubs in Oxford and must-read books), I’ve realised that just about the only thing I know about is journalism. So, if you’ve got an article to write, here is my five-point crash course on the basics of feature writing for newspapers, magazines and websites.
1. Structure. All publications are aimed at different readers and have their own unique style – so your piece must take account of that style. If you’re unsure about your writing, use concise sentences and short paragraphs. Be consistent when it comes to tenses and avoid clichés, waffle and long, convoluted sentences that are tricky to understand.
2. Introduction. The first paragraph of your feature is probably the most important of all. It should grip readers’ attention immediately and compel them to read on.
3. Body of the text. Although your intro is crucial, the rest of the article must fulfil the promise of your stunning first paragraph. Develop your theme, message or argument step by step and make sure, too, that each paragraph flows logically to the next.
4. Quotes. Admittedly some people are more quotable than others, but strong, accurate quotes help to bring a feature alive.
5. Ending. A good ending should tie up any loose ends. But remember that a feature isn’t an essay, so avoid simply recapping all the points you’ve mentioned before. Don’t finish the piece too abruptly or let it tail away either. If in doubt, a good quote often works well and rounds the piece off in style.