Friday, September 16, 2011

Basic Guidelines in Feature Article Writing

Feature Writing 101
Basic Guidelines in Feature Article Writing

Feature Style

News stories aren't the only type of material that appear in newspapers and magazines. Longer articles, such as magazine cover articles and the pieces that lead the inside sections of a newspaper, are known as features. Feature stories differ from straight news in several ways.

Foremost is the absence of a straight-news lead, most of the time. Instead of offering the essence of a story up front, feature writers may attempt to lure readers in.
While straight news stories always stay in third person point of view, it's not uncommon for a feature article to slip into first person. The journalist will often detail his or her interactions with interview subjects, making the piece more personal.

A feature's first paragraphs often relate an intriguing moment or event, as in an "anecdotal lead". From the particulars of a person or episode, its view quickly broadens to generalities about the story's subject.

The section that signals what a feature is about is called the nut graph or billboard. Billboards appear as the third or fourth paragraph from the top, and may be up to two paragraphs long. Unlike a lede (lead), a billboard rarely gives everything away. This reflects the fact that feature writers aim to hold their readers' attention to the end, which requires engendering curiosity and offering a "payoff."

Feature paragraphs tend to be longer than those of news stories, with smoother transitions between them. Feature writers use the active-verb construction and concrete explanations of straight news, but often put more personality in their prose. Feature stories often close with a "kicker" rather than simply petering out.

Top tips in writing feature articles:
A feature story differs from a straight news story in one respect – its intent. A news story provides information about an event, idea or situation. The feature does a bit more – it may also interpret news, add depth and color to a story, instruct or entertain.

· The introduction is the most important part - entice your reader, hook them in. Use drama, emotion, quotations, questions, descriptions
· The body of the article needs to keep any promises or answe r any questions raised in the introduction - try and maintain an "atmosphere" throughout the writing. 
· While the introduction draws the reader in, the conclusion should be written to help the reader remember the story - use a strong punchline.

Some points to keep in mind:
· Focus on human interest - the feel and emotion you put into the article are critical. Don't think about writing a "science" story - think about writing a "human interest" story.
· Be clear about why you are writing the article. Is it to inform, persuade, observe, evaluate, or evoke emotion?
· Write in the active voice. In active writing, people do things. Passive sentences often have the person doing the action at the end of the sentence or things being done “by” someone.
· Accuracy is important - you can interpret and embroider but not fudge.
· Keep your audience clearly in mind - what are their desires, what really matters to them? 
· Avoid clich├ęs (cutting edge, world beating, revolutionary) and sentimental statements - especially at the end of your article.
· Interviews for features usually need to be in-depth and in person rather than over the phone - this enables you to add in colour and detail.
· Use anecdotes and direct quotes to tell the story - try not to use too many of your own words.
· Talk to more than one person to provide a more complete picture – but don’t just add in sources to show how much work you’ve done. Be ruthless about who you put in and who you leave out!
· Don't rely on the computer spell -checker - especially those with a U.S. dictionary.
· Decide on the ‘tense' of your story at the start and stick to it. Present tense usually works best.
· Avoid lengthy, complex paragraphs. Your article will appear in columns, so two or three sentences will do.
· Ideas come from everywhere - watch, read, listen, keep up to date, do take notes. Talk to people outside the field of science to find out what interests and concerns them. 

Getting your feature articles published 
· READ the publication you want to write for (a surprising number of writers don’t and it shows).
· Give a proposal rather than full article.
· Include good examples of your previously published work· Write what the editor wants to publish, not what you want to write. How do you find out?
Study the editorial and staff writers' pieces - they are aimed precisely at the publication's target audience. 
· Select your market - list six magazines that could buy your article and study them. The articles, advertising and letters to the editor will give vital clues to the interests and demographics of the audience.
· A picture sells the story - offer good quality images as prints, transparencies or digital files. Check with the editor for the preferred option.
· Obtain a style sheet for the publication 
· Submit your story typed and double-spaced for better editing space. 
· Let the relevant person (editor/deputy editor) in the print media outlet know you are sending them an article. Follow this up with a phone call a week or so later. 
· Send your article to only one print media outlet initially. If they don't want to use it within a set time period, send it elsewhere. 

For your information, guidance and compliance. 

Ms. Myraine Carluen - Policarpio


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