Tips for journalistic writing

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Tips for writing[edit | edit source]

Qualities that most news stories must possess:

  • Topicality (is the subject interesting?; is it current?)
  • Completeness (document the who, what, where, when, how; and if possible, why)
  • Accuracy (use at least two distinct sources for each fact you report)
  • Impartiality (interview all sides)
  • Verifiability (name sources where possible)


  • research
    • interviews
    • going under cover
    • documentation
    • short-hand
    • background reading
  • composition/recording
  • publishing

Seven tips on better writing[edit | edit source]

In the 1946 book, Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, author George Orwell devised 6 easy tips to make anyone a better writer. To paraphrase him, they are:

  1. Never use the passive voice when you can use the active voice.
  2. Shorter is better in sentences and paragraphs. If it is possible to remove a word from a sentence, cut it.
  3. Shorter is better in word choice. Never use a long word when a short word will do.
  4. Do not confuse your reader with uncommon words. Never use foreign phrases, scientific jargon or high-tech "buzzwords" if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  5. Never use cliché metaphors, similes or other figures of speech that you are used to seeing in print. Be original.
  6. Be polite — even when you disagree. Break any of the above rules before you write anything offensive or outrageous. Avoid personal attacks, do not exaggerate the situation, and do not use sarcasm or hyperbole. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility in the eye of the reader.
  7. It is important to capture the most important facts in a new article before divulging into the details. Some readers will only have time to check the first paragraph or so of a news article (Inverted pyramid style).