Feature Writers: Engage Your Readers in Your Newspaper & Magazine Articles

Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality FeaturesWith feature articles, keep these 10 points in mind to capture and hold the attention of your newspaper and magazine readers:

1) The “head,” the title of the article, is important. Does the head have an interesting or picturesque verb that leads people to read the article? Avoid the verb “is.” Further, avoid long, complicated words. If appropriate to the subject and tone, make the head playful with a play-on-words, for example.

2) Don’t write for yourself–only for readers. Don’t write to show off your vocabulary. Focus on your subject matter.

3) Your “lead,” the first sentence, is very important. Let it capture the tone of the head. Make it short and snappy. There is nothing worse than a lead sentence that makes readers stumble because of its length or lack of clarity. Further, your lead should create curiosity in readers so they will continue.

4) Does your feature article contain description with clear images, so readers feel as if they are right on the scene observing what you’re writing about? Make the description detailed, but don’t overwrite.
You’re not writing a novel or a long poem.

5) Do you weave in answers to questions or data that readers wonder about, without throwing them at readers all at once? Too many facts and figures dumped on readers in a paragraph or two are burdensome and disrupt the article’s flow. Write with precise detail, and build anticipation with the facts. Readers should want to continue for more information that is evenly distributed throughout the piece.

6) Engage the reader by asking a striking question about the topic or the interviewee that you proceed to answer. (i.e. “Does this business owner have an uncanny ability for choosing the right methods to succeed?”)

7) Include an anecdote, if appropriate, to lend human interest to the piece, and to make it compelling. However, avoid long and winding anecdotes that lead readers to wonder where you are taking them.

8) Include direct quotes from the interviewee or other people connected to him or to the subject matter. Use quotes that are colorful, when the facts can’t be paraphrased, or when you don’t want to lose something in tone or meaning. For example, use a direct quote when you feel it necessary to use an authoritative statement by the interviewee.

9) Does every sentence of your piece advance to the next? If you need to cover a new detail, do so by creating a smooth transition. Words like “similarly” work well.

10) Try to end your piece with a “kicker.” This should be a significant sentence that reinforces the article’s tone or appeals to the readers’ emotions. Never write, “in conclusion,” or “to summarize.” The latter read like a high school composition.

On a daily basis, read features in newspapers and magazines. Look for features written by journalists that you’ve come to admire for tone, style, and form. Even pick up their style, if you choose. Further, read my book, “Beginners’ Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features” that has been a Featured Selection of Writer’s Digest Book Club.

Copyright 2012 by Charlotte Digregorio.

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About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. I am also the author of five non-fiction books: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; and Your Original Personal Ad. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I have signed books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores. I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. I have won thirty-three poetry awards. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I am an internationally-published haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka, haibun, free verse, acrostic, cinquain, etheree, and sestina poet. My poetry has been translated into six languages, and I have done poetry readings at a variety of bookstores, libraries, art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. My poetry has been displayed at supermarkets, art galleries, libraries, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I've been interviewed on cable television about my poetry. I also hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I was also self-employed as a communications/public relations/marketing consultant with 111 clients in 16 states. In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give special lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and to those at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and to libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America. Currently, I am Second Vice President of the Haiku Society.
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