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.