When discussing how to write a feature article, it's a good idea to remember that most of the rules for successful feature writing apply to all types of written work. For example:
* Write in the active voice. This is a great tip for all types of writing, but it's especially important when writing a feature article. In active writing, people "do" things instead of having things "done" to them. If you have trouble telling the difference between the active voice and the passive voice, check out the tutorial on Purdue Online Writing Lab Web site.
* Keep your paragraphs short. In most cases, two or three sentences per paragraph is sufficient. Long paragraphs tend to look intimidating to readers.
* Use short sentences. Generally, it's good to keep your sentences between 15 and 20 words in length. It's fine to have an occasional long sentence, but you want to make your article as easy to read as possible.
* Use action verbs to keep the story moving. This is much more interesting than "to be" verbs that show little action.
* Avoid cliches. Writing that lacks originality is unlikely to hold the reader's attention for very long.
Top tips for writing feature articles
A feature story differs from a straight news story in one respect â€“ its intent. A news story provides
information about an event, idea or situation. The feature does a bit more â€“ it may also interpret
news, add dept h and colour to a story, instruct or entertain.
Â· The introduction is the most important part - entice your reader, hook them in. Use
drama, emotion, quotations, questions, descriptions
Â· The body of the article needs to keep any promises or answer any questions raised in
the introduction - try and maintain an "atmosphere" throughout the writing
Â· While the introduction draws the reader in, the conclusion should be written to help the
reader remember the story - use a strong punchline
Some points to keep in mind:
Â· Focus on human interest - the feel and emotion you put into the article are critical. Don't
think about writing a "science" story - think about writing a "human interest" story.
Â· Be clear about why you are writing the article. Is it to inform, persuade, observe,
evaluate, or evoke emotion?
Â· Write in the active voice. In active writing, people do things. Passive sentences often
have the person doing the action at the end of the sentence or things being done â€œbyâ€
Â· Accuracy is important - you can interpret and embroider but not fudge.
Â· Keep your audience clearly in mind - what are their desires, what really matters to them?
Â· Avoid cliches (cutting edge, world beating, revolutionary) and sentimental statements -
especially at the end of your article.
Â· Interviews for features usually need to be in-depth and in person rather than over the
phone - this enables you to add in color and detail.
Â· Use anecdotes and direct quotes to tell the story - try not to use too many of your own
Â· Talk to more than one person to provide a more complete picture â€“ but donâ€™t just add in
sources to show how much work youâ€™ve done. Be ruthless about who you put in and who
you leave out!
Â· Don't rely on the computer spell-checker - especially those with a U.S. dictionary.
Â· Decide on the â€˜tense' of your story at the start and stick to it. Present tense usually works
Â· Avoid lengthy, complex paragraphs. Your article will appear in columns, so one or two
sentences equals a paragraph.
Â· Ideas come from everywhere - watch, read, listen, keep up to date, take notes. Talk to
people outside the field of science to find out what interests and concerns them.
Getting your feature articles published
Â· READ the publication you want to write for (a surprising number of writers donâ€™t and it
Â· Give a proposal rather than full article
Â· Include good examples of your previously published work
Â· Write what the editor wants to publish, not what you want to write. How do you find out?
Study the editorial and staff writers' pieces - they are aimed precisely at the publication's
Â· Select your market - list six magazines that could buy your article and study them. The
articles, advertising and letters to the editor will give vital clues to the interests and
demographics of the audience
Â· A picture sells the story - offer good quality images as prints, transparencies or digital
files. Check with the editor for the preferred option
Â· Obtain a style sheet for the publication
Â· Submit your story typed and double-spaced.
Â· Let the relevant person (editor/deputy editor) in the print media outlet know you are
sending them an article. Follow this up with a phone call a week or so later
Â· Send your article to only one print media outlet initially. If they don't want to use it within a
set time period, send it elsewhere.