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How to write news copy

News copy is an art unto itself. How to write clearly and informatively, and hold people’s attention for the duration of an article, often on a subject they know nothing about?

The way you write news content is very different to how you would pen a blog post, let alone a product guide or landing page. And if you write it well, you can produce content that conveys company and industry news in a compelling fashion and that establishes your website, and by extension your business, as a thought-leader and trustworthy brand.

Read on for more information.

The hook

The first paragraph is the most important in the entire news story. It’s essential to get people’s attention and build their desire to read on and to that end the most important words of the story are more than likely those that make up the first sentence.

What do people want to read about? First and foremost it’s things which apply to them, then it’s things which are extraordinary and human stories. And say what you will about celebrity culture, if you can include a major figure in your story then make sure you do.

If you are an insurance broker, don’t open your piece with dry words about a new policy, write about how 1000s of people could be saved time, money and heartache by a new form of cover.

The 5 W’s (and an H)

The saying goes that a reader should be able to discern from the first paragraph the entire gist of the strory.

In order for that to be achieved, you should try and cover the 5 W’s – who, what, where, when, why – as well as how something happened, or will happen.

Case in point: Lady Godiva rode her horse through Coventry while naked to protest against high taxes.

Who: Lady Godiva. What: riding a horse Where: Coventry. When: yesterday. Why: protesting. How: she was naked.

You may not always get every one of the W’s in, and don’t crowbar words in and spoil the flow, but who, what, when and where tend to be the most important.

Invert the pyramid

When writing news, if you put the most important stuff first and the second-most important stuff second you’re on to a winner.

Write with an upside-down triangle in mind. The stuff at the widest point – the top – is the most important and must be included. The stuff at the bottom is the least important and can be cut if needs be.

As a general rule the top few paragraphs are the essential information. Then usually comes the most relevant quote – relevancy being a subjective opinion though usually a person affected or authority figure (i.e. the Prime Minister) – then other important details. Often a second quote is then provided, with background information bringing up the rear.

Keep it simple                             

Most of us work in a field where jargon is bound to be used, whether we’re car mechanics or high court judges. The technical words and Latin phrases particular to your line of work might make sense to you, but they are hardly enlightening to most readers. Jargon has no place in newspapers. Write simply, in plain English, and if you have to use a word or phrase that people might not understand, make sure you explain it.

If you pay attention to the above, the rest you can make up as you go along

No news story is the same and the formula should never get in the way of telling the story accurately and informatively.

If you make sure you stick to the general rules above, the rest really doesn’t matter. You’ll be writing great-quality news content in no time.