Writing Tips

An inverted pyramid story has a summary news lede that captures the essence of the story and covers key elements of five Ws and the H (who, what, when, where, why and how).

The following paragraphs supplement the lede.

Those paragraphs typically give information in order of declining importance made up of key background information and supporting quotes.

Paragraphs are typically one or two simple sentences. An article’s ending can either be the least important of the information included (classic inverted pyramid, best fit for basic news stories), or – better – can can be a ‘kicker,’ which ends the story on a bang (martini glass version, best fit for more in-depth, enterprise stories).

Some tips in writing a news story

Word choice:

  • Always write in past tense; don’t shift tenses in a story.
  • Be aware of the words you choose. Avoid loaded words or those that are not supported by the facts.
  • In choosing words, be aware of how people typically use those words.
  • Never make assumptions. Write only that which is supported by the information available.
  • Double check facts to ensure you got it right.
  • Follow subject-verb cadence: No more “said officials” unless there is a dependent clause.

Spell check and style:

  • Run spelling and grammar checks to ensure your work is clean.
  • Don’t assume spell check is always right – it is not. For example, the name “Russell Hubbard” will sometimes offer up the “correct” spelling of “Russell Rhubarb.” It will also count misused words as correct, like using “from” instead of “form.”
  • Check for proper use of AP Style. In this course, you will have no reason to deviate from AP Style.

Reviewing the story:

  • Always re-read your notes or the information provided to ensure you know what’s there.
  • Think critically! Always ask yourself: What information am I missing? Are there key facts not available to me?
  • Always ask yourself: Do the facts I have support my premise for the story?

Staying truthful and unbiased:

  • Don’t allow yourself to take anything further than what is supported by the information you have. ASSUME NOTHING.
  • Never allow your opinion into a story. If it isn’t supported by reporting and attributable, it does not belong.
  • Be careful to avoid creating an impression that does not fit with the facts.
  • Ask yourself: Will the reader see this as I intend it, or could this be read in a way I do not intend?

Tips for drafting an article:

  • Once you’re done, set aside the item – for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours, depending on your deadline. Walk away.
  • Next, review your notes/information.
  • Then re-read your story to see if it is as clear, precise and concise as it can be. Usually, you’ll find you can make it better.
  • Remember: good writing comes from rewriting.

Wrapping up a story and reviewing your assignment:

  • Facts are vital. Accuracy is everything.
  • Spelling must be correct.
  • Grammar cannot be compromised.
  • AP Style must be followed.
  • Words must be chosen carefully.
  • Writing must follow an inverted pyramid form of media writing.
  • You must be accurate, clear, concise and precise.
  • Avoid being repetitive, especially in a short item.

There isn’t one perfect way to do any story. But…there are definite wrong ways!

In summary, the tenets of good news writing are:

  • Accuracy.
  • Fairness.
  • Clarity.
  • Precision.
  • Brevity.

Keep these tenets in mind and you’ll be fine.