Jul 30, 2008 Updated 2 months ago
Wondering how to write that story, press release or announcement for your local newspaper? Have you been assigned to write a newspaper article for a journalism class?
Follow these hints for how to write a newspaper article — presented in the format of a news story, of course — and you'll be well on the way to effectively communicating through writing.
How to Write an Article for a Newspaper – Components of a Newspaper Article
There’s a specific formula that newspaper journalists should follow when authoring a news story, and when done correctly, the writer can effectively educate and entertain readers from all walks of life. The “lead” of a news story, typically the first paragraph, should provide a clear and concise overview of the main point(s) (who, what, when, where, how and why), thereby conveying to the reader what he or she will be learning about in the piece.
The content of a news story should be unbiased, and completely fact-based. Sources of the information should be clearly cited and integrated into the piece.
Sentences should be clear, concise and worded in a manner that is appropriate for the audience.
Another important concept to keep in mind when writing a news story is the pyramid format, developed in the early years of broadcasting when reception was often inconsistent. News reporters placed the most important facts at the beginning of the broadcast and additional information was mentioned in order of descending importance so that listeners received the most important information first, even in the event that a listener’s reception was interrupted part-way through the broadcast. Using the pyramid style of reporting ensured that the most important information would be disseminated first.
Today, the pyramid format serves to present the reader the most important facts first, drawing him in to read the remainder of the story. Facts should be mentioned in order of descending importance.
“Quotes can be a wonderful tool for a news writer, when used appropriately,” explained longtime journalist Doug Wood-Boyle, who has worked in the field for over a quarter century.
He added, “Quotations can clearly illustrate opposing opinions. They can also add a human feel to a story, while also providing the writer with
an outlet to clearly illustrate a person’s thoughts or opinion on an issue. They’re also perfect when someone says something or illustrates a point more effectively than you, the reporter, can accomplish.”
Writing a Newspaper Article – Consider the Newspaper Audience
Writers should also provide background information when writing about the latest in a series of stories on a particular subject. Provide background information on past proceedings and clearly outline the evolution of the story. Writers should always assume that the reader has no prior knowledge of the event, organization, etc. This same rule can also be applied when covering an event or when writing a story about an organization.
“My rule of thumb is this: Assume that the reader has never read your publication. Reporters should then fill-in any gaps in the information,” Wood-Boyle explained.
Complementary information, such as the history of an organization or event, should be prominently cited in a story. Often, this information is included at the end of the piece, after the most important and timely information is discussed.
Preparing to Submit a Newspaper Article
Once the author has completed the actual writing process, there are several additional steps that should be taken to ensure that the piece is ready for publication. Facts cited in the story should be verified in order to ensure accuracy. Spelling and grammatical errors can serve as a distraction to the reader, so accuracy is key and all errors should be corrected before a news story is submitted.
To aid in the newspaper article revision process, news writers should be familiar with the journalistic writing style when authoring a piece.
Reference guides, such as The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. can provide detailed information on elements of proper journalistic style, including word and number usage. Issued on a yearly basis by the Associated Press (AP), The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual serves as the industry standard for journalistic writing style.
Related Articles on How to Write and Journalism
Looking for more tips on writing for a newspaper, website, radio or other media outlets? Read "Newspaper Writing -- Common Grammatical Errors."
Readers may also enjoy learning about How to Write for the Web and How to Take Better Photographs for a Newspaper.