writing an article outline
  1. Your feature story needs a main idea or theme. Look for the natural conflict in the story. Tell us in one sentence what the story is all about. Summarize.
  2. Be brief. Be concise. Be terse. Sentences can be 12 to 15 words long or longer, but alter the length for variety.
  3. News and magazine columns can be narrow, sometimes a little more than two-inches wide, so each paragraph should be short to avoid looking too gray when a story is published. No more than two sentences per paragraph.
  4. Use quotations. Use lots of quotes. “The new scanning system will make checking out a book easier for all the library staff,” said Library Director Betty Bookbinder. Make sure you punctuate the quote in the same way as the example. Paragraph one is your lead. Paragraph two amplifies the lead, and explains some of the feature components. Put a quotation high in the story at about paragraph three. End your story with a quote and put some quotes in between. Free the writing spirit, provides other ways to open your article, but this method is a good one to memorize.
  5. Interview at least three people about the story. Get quotes and background information from them. Ask at least three people about the issue, but don’t necessarily ask each one the same question.
  6. Always double-check the spelling of names. Even the name Smith can be spelled Smyth, Smythe, Smithe and so on. Misspelled names are inexcusable. For students, include class status and major. Senior Joyce Mills, a psychology major, said, “I’d give the president a B for his foreign policy because it’s always late and not very neat.” For adults, provide some identification of their profession or vocation and address. Often, the person’s age is included because readers tend to rank others in terms of their age.
  7. Always type your story notes as soon as you finish the interview. You will think more clearly and write with more ease by following this simple edict.
  8. Meet your deadlines.
  9. Watch mistakes such as spelling demons, comma splices and pronoun agreement. Use the spelling checker function on the computer.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Michael Ray Smith‘s book FeatureWriting.net. Used with permission.

Download the entire book for free from our MTI Online resource center.

Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

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