If you are writing a news report, you need to concentrate on the four important parts of a story - the facts, context, impact and emotion. The way you combine these four elements will determine the success of your news story.
Balancing Facts and Style
Readers need to know the facts and who or what may be affected by them. Related stories and background information make up the context and the emotional parts of the story and show the human side of it.
Following are tips on writing a compelling and gripping news report.
- Facts: The facts will answer the: who, what, when, where, why, and how of the news event. A writer has a responsibility to make sure his facts are accurate. If you have to write a report before you get all the facts, then say that in the report.
- Style: When writing a news report, use the active voice. The active voice is more understandable and has more impact. Make short, concise sentences with action verbs. Your language needs to be simple and not have extra words that don't really contribute to the focus of the story. For example, the weather or how someone is dressed doesn't need to be included unless it has a bearing on the overall story. While you are writing, try to anticipate any questions a reader might have while reading your story.
Writing a Good Lead
The lead is the first few sentences of the story. It needs to be strong so it will grab the readers and make them want to read more.
- If it is a hard news story, which is the breaking news or up-to-the-minute news, then you include as many facts as you can in the summary of the story.
- If it is a soft news story, which is a human interest story or background information, then you put the facts in the body of the story.
Leads need to tell the reader what the story is about and why it is important. The lead tells the reader why he should read the story. It needs to sound like you are having a conversation; that you are telling a friend about the latest news.
Some errors that are found in leads include the lead having more than one main idea. When this happens, the reader is unclear as to what the story is about.
- Some leads are lifeless, and need some tension or something that pushes the reader to read on, like dangling a carrot in front of a hungry rabbit.
- Leads are sometimes dull and predictable. It's good to make the reader smile or be surprised sometimes.
Lastly, leads can exclude certain readers if they are full of jargon. Make sure the news report is suitable for everyone to read.
Tips for Better Writing
Here are a few additional tips that can also apply to writing in general:
- Words should not be too long or complicated. A news story is not the place to try and impress people with your intelligence or your command of the English language. Pick your words carefully so they are concise and you will use fewer words overall.
- Make sure your sentences are under 25 words and contain only one idea.
- Use a simple subject-verb-object form.
- Don't use too many commas.
- Paragraphs need to say something new and, like sentences, be short and to the point.
- Never put more than three prepositional phrases into one sentence.
- Never put more than three numbers in one sentence.
These will help make your writing clearer and easier to understand.