How To Write Like A Journalist In 7 Essential Steps

Posted on Sep 27, 2023

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Written by Jackie Pearce

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Learning how to write like a journalist will require you to approach your writing in a whole new way.

Journalism is a style of writing that cuts out a lot of the “fluff” that can make up other kinds of writing and mainly focuses on the facts.

Journalism-style writing can still be entertaining, but its main goal is to be informative.

This type of writing can be great for all writers to learn so they know how to cut unimportant parts out of their writing and keep readers engaged.

Let’s talk about what journalism-style writing entails, more reasons why you should learn this style, and then dive into some tactics you can use to start.

What Is The Writing Style Of A Journalist?

For the most part, journalism requires writers to hack at any kind of “fluffy” writing and extra jargon in order to make sentences straightforward and to the point.

More than anything, journalism is meant to inform readers. While some pieces of course can be entertaining, it is not at the expense of laying out the facts about a story.

Almost all journalistic writing is styled in a way where you put the hook (also called the lede) at the beginning of the story, so you make it immediately clear on why readers should care about your story and give them the facts upfront.

This can be different than other kinds of writing where there is a slow build up to the overall plot and storyline.

As you can imagine, learning to write in this style will help you become a better writer overall, whether or not you choose to pursue journalism for work.

Why You Should Learn Journalism-Style Writing

Whether or not you choose to pursue journalism, learning how to write like one can improve your writing.

Not only do journalists have to lay out the facts of a story, but they must do so in a way that shows readers why they should care about the story at all.

As you can imagine, that will give you a different perspective than you would have with other types of writing.

Your constant thought as a journalist is “How can I get readers to care about this story?” This thought can help you tailor any form of writing to hook readers because you will put the readers first instead of your own thoughts as a writer.

Learning to write like a journalist can also help you analyze your own writing to notice where you are including unnecessary parts in your writing. It will also help you figure out how to angle your story in a way that can immediately draw people in and keep them hooked along the way.

How To Write Like A Journalist

1. Learn how to research and outline your main points

The first thing you will want to do if you are learning to write like a journalist is to learn how to research.

All quality journalism comes from the foundation of research being done first. If you are writing a fiction story, your research can come in the form of putting all the details about your characters and world together in one place.

2. Find the most important information

In journalism, they always lead with the most important information and basics that the reader would need to know.

No matter what kind of story you are writing, knowing the main hook for a reader can help you draw in (and keep) readers.

3. Lead with the best lede

In journalism, it is important that every story starts with a lede. If you do not know, a lede is the summary of the most important aspects of the story.

It answers the five w’s of any story: who, what, where, when, and why.

This is good foundation to start any kind of writing: you want to be able to answer the basics and get the reader understanding what is happening as soon as you possibly can.

4. Cut the fluff

The most important lesson all writers can learn from journalism-style writing is the ability to cut the fluff out of their writing.

This can be details about a character that do not need to be there, side stories that do not add to the plot, or long sentences that could be cut in half.

There are so many ways you can cut it down and hack at your own writing. That does not mean you have to, but it will give you an idea of where and how you can take out the extra filler.

5. Keep readers invested

Now, with journalism, most of the information is up front in the piece and it lets people read a few sentences to know the basis of the whole story.

Of course, you want people to keep reading, especially if you are not writing a journalism piece and have something like a book.

While you should include all of the main details up front, you will want to include more details, background, and information as the story continues.

6. Read great journalism pieces

One of the best ways to learn journalism-style writing is to read great journalism.

You could choose to search for some of the best and most famous pieces throughout time, read some pieces from the major journalism publications out in the world, or you could simply subscribe to your local paper and start reading what is going on in your local area.

7. Become a ruthless editor

Now, this was already mentioned in the “cutting the fluff” section, but it is a good idea to go back into a piece you think is done to learn to cut out even more when you can.

A lot of great journalism is built on the back of good editing.

Great editors can help a piece become even better than it was the first few times around. You might even experiment with cutting some huge parts of your writing out completely and see if it makes the piece stronger or if it is essential to stay in there.

A lot of writers are attached to their writing and cannot imagine cutting more. It might help to practice your editing muscle to work on writing that is not yours so you are less attached to it and you can be clearer with your editing.

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