Important Rules of Journalistic Writing

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A good author needs to understand the audience and the goal of a piece a person is writing. Based on that, an author might use different styles that vary from journalistic writing to an academic one.

Each style has its nuances and templates. Because of that, one might be good at academic writing but struggle to create a journalistic piece. A lot of people learn the essential principles of academic writing during their university studies, but not so many of them get a chance to learn how to write like a journalist.

Like  its counterpart styles, journalistic writing presents information to the audience. The difference is, however, in the order in which an article is structured. In academic writing, necessary facts can be spread across the piece and then repeated at the conclusion. For news pieces, in comparison, it is vital to provide all the essential information in the first paragraphs. To separate more relevant information from a less urgent one, a journalist needs to answer the 5W1H (who, what, where, when, why, and how) questions. So, instead of putting a conclusion at the end, a journalist writes it as the introduction.

An atypical writing structure of news pieces can be represented by an inverted pyramid. According to its shape, after presenting the conclusion at the beginning of an article, a story should reveal background information to familiarize the audience with less essential, but still significant, materials. After that, a story might finish with less necessary details so that if a reader does not finish an article, the general understanding of the piece remains intact. .

Another outstanding point of journalistic style is the pace with which information gets presented. While in academic writing, researchers mostly use complex sentences with a humongous number of details allowing authors to develop each point, journalistic style, in contrast, does not have such an option.

Journalists use fast-paced writing. They avoid complex sentences and long paragraphs. Understanding that a viewer might stop reading an article, content creators have to keep the audience’s attention. While some researchers might compose full-page  paragraphs, journalists are likely to write paragraphs compiled of just one sentence. In doing so, journalists replace   quantity with  quality.

While crafting  sentences, content creators, often disregarding their vocabulary, are likely to prioritize simple,  robust  words over complicated academic ones. This tendency again comes from the fact that content creators avoid distracting the audience from reading the article.

Besides engaging the  storytelling structure from an unusual perspective, content creators also approach writing from a different angle when working on sentence structure. As an example, authors use active voice whenever it is possible. Such a decision usually comes from the necessity of the industry to be newsworthy. Thus, it is not enough to just say that “the bill was passed” because the audience does not know the person who passed the bill. Instead, a journalist would more likely write: “The Congress passed the bill.”

Journalistic writing also includes the use of memorable words at the end of paragraphs. Like with TV shows and their cliffhangers, authors need to excite the audience to continue reading. That is why writers might structure their last sentences to finish with either a powerful verb or a surprising disclosure.

In comparison to researchers, journalists are strictly framed in terms of the order of presenting facts. However, media writers have more freedom when using direct quotes.

The use of quotes in journalism  not only reveal additional information, but they often provide  the most interesting part of an article. Having this in mind, media writers select only a limited number of quotes to highlight the importance of a particular moment. However, young authors tend to mistakenly use quotes that just repeat a journalist’s point without telling any new information.

Quotes should emphasize the previous point, but they should be more than just an affirmation of it.

Even when using photos in an article, media writers should think about their impact and originality to the piece. If a reader sees a picture of a president playing with kids, the sentence before the picture should not sound like: “The president was playing with kids.” If one writes such a sentence, it does not bring anything new to the article. It only diminishes the importance of the picture.

There are many more rules and pieces of advice that each professional journalist follows while writing an article. Growing through experience, authors learn how to become engaging inside the frames of the industry or how to subvert these limitations in an appealing manner.

Not all the mentioned rules might apply. It mostly depends on the type of a written piece. While news articles might be called the most fundamental and limited type of journalism, there are many other forms of journalistic stories that allow authors to experiment with both the structure and information.

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