Today, I bring you the first in what I hope to be a long series of tutorials which will help you, our Get Published contributors, improve your writing.
Over the past few months, I have been managing the Get Published section of the site and have received lots of great content from all of you. However, I often find reoccurring errors in these articles which require extensive editing. Those who have been featured have received emails from me and these have most likely been accompanied by a number of writing tips. I would, however, like to offer advice to more than just individuals, so I will be using this platform from time to time to communicate with all of you. As a professional journalist, there are things that my colleagues and I are expected to do, and copy editing content written by us should not usually be necessary. I will be offering you a few key tips so that you can work towards meeting the professional standards of a journalist. And who knows… if you can implement these techniques in your written work, perhaps you can pursue a career in the field of journalism yourselves.
Spelling and grammar
Something which is not negotiable in media is the use of correct spelling and grammar. Always ensure that your written work has been edited and that any possible mistakes have been eliminated. If you are unsure about how to spell a certain word, pick up a dictionary and look it up. Using google to check your writing is also an option. The best way to improve grammar and phrasing is simply to read more. Read as much as possible, whether it is the Soccer Laduma newspaper or site, other publications, or better still, a book. By reading published works, you’ll grow accustomed to the ins and outs of the English language. Many Soccer Laduma readers’ first language is not English, so in order to improve your understanding of the language, reading as much as possible is the first step to becoming better acquainted with it.
In the past, headlines were essential in encouraging readers to buy a copy of a newspaper. In the digital age, this holds true and perhaps there is now even more importance placed on headlines as the massive volume of content on the internet means you have a lot of competition. Your headline should not only provide a summary of the story, but should encourage readers to click on it and read more. It must be catchy! The same applies to the opening sentence, or preamble, of your article. Headlines should also be as short as possible and should be kept to seven words or less if possible.
Always write your sentences with as few words as possible. Make use of frequent commas and full stops to break sentences up and ensure they are easily readable. Remember, most SL readers are looking at the site on cell phones. On these small screens, you don’t want to read long, rambling articles. Every single sentence should encourage your reader to continue reading, so try to keep your articles as short as possible. Aim for between 150 and 250 words.
In journalism, we talk about using an “inverted pyramid”, which places the most important information in the article at the top (the headline and preamble), with less important information nearer to the bottom. This makes articles more interesting to readers and encourages them to read as much of the article as possible. There are other techniques used for feature writing, but we will cover those later.
I hope that this article has helped our extremely enthusiastic Get Published writers to get a better idea about what is required of them as writers and that it will help you improve your writing skills. I hope to post more in-depth articles for you as time goes by and hopefully I’ll be able to help you to take your writing to the next level! If you have any questions or requests for any other tips, please let me know in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to cover them.
Until next time