Although many of you think that it’s easy to write an article, the truth is that it’s not. There are many rules for writing a journalistic text and I’m going to give you some. Some of you probably had or still have in school an optional class for journalism, where the teachers tell you to respect the classic form introduction-main body- ending. Even though they are good intended, they are wrong. A journalistic text is usually made up of the title, the lead, the main body and the ending (which can or not be present). A journalistic text also respects the rule of the inverted pyramid, meaning that the information is arranged according to its importance, the essential one being the first to be told and answers to the questions who, what, where, when, why and how (in journalism, the questions are referred to as the 5 W’s + H).
The title is the first and it has to be related with the essential information. The title it’s usually catchy so it can attract the reader’s attention. Back in the old days, the title was made up of many words that it usually replaced the lead. But today, the title is made up of few words. For instance, a title for an article about a political protest for the resignation of the president would sound like this “President slanged by voters”.
The lead is the second and it has to be made up of few sentences that answer the questions who, what, where, when, and how?. In it, the essential information is compressed. Usually the title and the lead makes the reader read the article or makes him chose another. In the example I gave before, the lead for the protest would sound like this : “ Hundreds of people protested for the resignation of the president yesterday at 5 o clock at the White House.
In the main body, the information is detailed and arranged according to it’s importance. It usually answers to the question “Why”. Here you can also add a reminder (if a related event or something else related happened in the passed) and it can be used as an ending.
Rules for writing
While writing a news or an article, there are some things you need to take into consideration :
- Reduce the elements of subjectivity (opinions, feeling etc.), the text has to appear objective
- Avoid using infinitives and the gerund, they make the reading difficult
- Use short phrases ( around 10-12 words per phrase)
- Use the active voice, the reader feels involved in the text
- Don’t use interrogations and exclamations, although newspapers use them, they are not recommended
- The text has to be concise. This means that you should cut out the unnecessary details and words
- Use synonyms, the excessive usage of a word can be bothering
- Use less adjectives and connectors
- If you have a big quote, use the important sentence from it, the rest you can put it in a indirect speech.
The myth of objectivity
Objectivity is one of the things that a journalistic text should have, even so, journalists don’t fully respect this ethical rule. There are some things that can unmask the subjectivity and one of them is the angle of attack. For example, if a man kills some politicians due to their deeds, an anti governmental newspaper would have the headline “Killer makes his own justice”, where he would be seen as a victim. In a pro governmental newspaper, the headline would be “Killer of patriots among us”, where he would be seen as a threat to society.
Another thing that journalists do to mask their opinions is the selection of the information. By doing that they can influence the reader’s opinion on something. For instance, the most common thing is the selection of a phrase from a quote.
Article written by Andrei Mihail Cojocaru