Welcome to Faye's and Cassie's crash-writing course. Read, follow and you will be forever adored by any newspaper you submit to! Here are the contents:
· Types of Articles
· Components of an Article
· Basic Tips - Just Starting Out
· 7 Tips for Proofreading
There are various types of articles, so not all of them are written the same way. If you're trying to write a news article in the same manner as you would a review piece, then stop what you're doing and read up on the types of articles you possibly could be writing.
One huge difference between a review and a news article is that the writer has to remain unbiased in news articles. The writer attends an event (or does research about a particular event) and gives a report without displaying her opinion. This is very important because writers state facts to the readers in a news report. Interviews can be given in a news article that may contain opinions, but the writer must avoid making her own opinion evident in the article.
BAD NEWS REPORT: "HOL Idol was okay, though it took too long and by the time the winners were announced, nobody cared anymore."
GOOD NEWS REPORT: "The excitement over this year's HOL Idol diminished as weeks droned on. No winner was announced a number of weeks after the final round, which may have resulted in the waning interest of the populace."
An interview article can be done any number of ways. The writer could write the interview as a profile, which means that the writer summarizes the interview in paragraph formats. The other type of interview consists of a Q&A session. That is, the interviewer holds a question and answer interview session with the subject. Below are examples of both types of interviews:
PROFILE: "Cassandra Lobiesk, Ravenclaw Seventh Year, had not expected that she would be asked as a Head Student, let alone to have Mark Mandrake asked alongside her. Cassie spent a few days thinking the decision over until she finally decided to accept."
Eissa Eski: "Miss Lobiesk, what was your reaction when you were asked to become a Head Student?"
Cassandra Lobiesk: "Truthfully, I did not expect the question to come up at all. So when I was asked, it took me a while to process what on earth being Head Girl would mean. It took me days to finally decide, though."
Editorials and essays have one goal: to try to persuade the readers into thinking one way over the other. These types of articles hold an argument on both sides, with the writer's focus is deciding which side of the argument is the better option. In turn, the writer also tries to persuade the reader that the option is the best choice. These articles are a bit more formal than the average pieces, and should be planned out and organized before they are written.
EXAMPLE: "Due to the massive destruction of their environment, more penguins are homeless every day. As a human civilization, we should find ways to prevent this destruction as well as care for these poor animals. If left to their own devices, there is no telling what these furry little creatures will do to the planet."
A review article allows the writer to be able to display her opinion on a certain event or object. The writer should try to include both positive and negative points of the event or object being reviewed. These articles can be as highly opinionated as the writer wants it to be, but there should always be some explanation behind each praise and critique. Let's take a few example sentences below:
BAD REVIEW: "The Masquerade Ball was a lot of fun. There were a lot of people, and I enjoyed every minute of it."
GOOD REVIEW: "The HOL Masquerade Ball was quite chaotic due to the short time period given to prepare it. However, the attendance was beyond expectation and overall the participants had a fantastic time parading around incognito."
Colour or puff pieces are just as opinionated as review articles. However, colour/puff articles are not required to give both negative and positive reasoning. The writer can write about something she absolutely loves without having to delve into the negatives of the particular object (and vice versa).
EXAMPLE: "There has never been a more moving piece than that of Rita Skeeter's 'Armando Dippet: Master or Moron?'. Coupled with the facts of the past and Skeeter's usual eloquence, the novel was by far one of the great literary works of the century, second only to her biography of Albus Dumbledore."
With an idea for an article in mind, how do you proceed? Each article possesses a few basic components common to all, and they are:
Headline - Often readers will not spend more than a few seconds glancing over your article, and if the headline does not grab them, they will not be motivated to continue - thus it should be as concise and attention-grabbing as possible. A headline that plays on words or emotions is usually most eye-catching.
EXAMPLE: "Potters' son survives Killing Curse - You-Know-Who flees"
Byline - This is where you list your name, directly under the headline, be it your own or a character's. For reports or feature articles, this is the only time you are identified personally. Newspapers will typically have a standard format for bylines.
Lead Paragraph - Also known as an "introduction," this is the most important paragraph in your entire article, after which most people will decide whether or not your story is worth reading. Make sure you mention the who, what, where, when, why, and how as it pertains to the event.
EXAMPLE: "Tragedy struck on the night of October 30, 1981 as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named made an appearance at Godric's Hollow, murdering James and Lily Potter in their home. Miraculously, their young son, Harry, survived the Killing Curse under mysterious circumstances, entirely unharmed save for a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named fled the scene and has not had any reported activity since. Young Harry is currently in the custody of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts..."
For columns, reviews and op-eds, it is necessary to give a brief introduction to the subject you are about to discuss, hopefully in an engaging manner - include why readers should care about what you have to say. For interviews, make sure you properly introduce the person featured in the article, such as the positions or accomplishments he or she is best known for.
Body - The following paragraphs, known as the "body paragraphs", are where you divulge the details of the event and include all the information necessary for the reader to establish context. This is the "meat" of the article, where you can also go in depth about what events may have led up to the story (for a feature), important facts that may have come to light, as well as the aftermath.
In the example above, the body paragraphs would perhaps explain Voldemort's recent murders, why the Potters were targets, the subtle mechanics of the Killing Curse, and the significance of Harry's survival.
Conclusion - The last few lines of your article should reiterate why the event, review, etc. was meaningful. You could also include a recommendation, tribute, thank you, or final insight depending on the type of article.
Write an article that you know you would enjoy writing. Find something that interests you. That way, writing the article doesn't become a tedious chore.
· Absolutely no netspeak. Writing an article that contains netspeak will result in spasms and accidental deletions of said article.
· Avoid the use of "I" or use it sparingly where you have to. In fact, the most preferred way to write articles is in third-person past. First-person and second-person narration are awkward in articles and are generally frowned upon.
· Actions such as *waves* and *takes the dog for a walk* are absolutely not acceptable. If a person is doing something in the article, write out the action. "Faye checked her hair in the mirror before stepping out the door" is a much better expression than *checks hair in the mirror before stepping out the door*.
· Use simple language. Don't overcomplicate articles with long words and overlong sentences that not many people will understand. If the word completely fits the sentence, then it's fine, but try not to overuse complicated vocabulary otherwise.
· Always be tasteful and appropriate in your use of language.
· Stay on topic and true to the assignment. This is very important and if you do not follow this in "real life" your submission will not get accepted. If your task is to write 400-500 words about the garden gnome plague in the HOL greenhouses then your article must focus on this subject and it may not be shorter or longer than those 400-500 words.
· Be original! Plagiarism will result in vapourisation of your article and you blacklisted from writing any more (depending on the policy of the newspaper).
· Try to be as unbiased as you can for objective articles (such as news reports and interviews).
1. Use a spellchecker, as you type or just before you submit. All word processors and even some internet browsers have an built-in spell-checker. THERE IS NO EXCUSE NOT TO DO THIS. It would be sloppy not to, and greatly reduces your editor's opinion of you.
2. Be mindful of your grammar. All sentences should have proper capitalisation and punctuation. Editors are aware that not everyone is a native English speaker and will try to help out as much as they can, but it is not their job to re-write the articles for you.
3. Use paragraphs. Paragraphs organize your article and make it easier for readers to follow. People are intimidated by a big block of text, editors and readers alike - and it's difficult to find your spot again if you mix up a line.
4. Check your facts. Seriously, CHECK YOUR FACTS. It takes two seconds to google and makes your editors happy. This includes facts about the Harry Potter world, the definition of words if you are unsure of the usage, general facts.
5. Read your article out loud, or at least mouth the words. This will help you catch run-on sentences, poor grammar, awkward phrasing and the like. This is possibly the best tip in regards to proofreading.
6. Rewrite. There are always ways to restructure paragraphs, clarify wording, omit needless words etc. to make your article better. If you can make the same point in 30 words instead of 50, do it. Editors can help, but the less work they have to do, the more they love you.
7. Review. Unless you're on a tight deadline (which, let's face it, this is HOL and not an official paper), don't send it right away. Come back a half-hour later and re-read it.