Thursday, May 14, 2020

20 Newspaper Writing Tips for ‘20

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

Looking for new or additional writing credits? Have you thought about writing for the local newspaper? I’ve shared tips for newspaper writing before, and I hope I’ve convinced some of you to tap into that market.

Let’s review 20 newspaper writing tips for ‘20 and analyze an article as we go.  

1. Make sure the headline, which serves as the title of the newspaper article, is informative, yet also engaging and interesting, and typically between five to seven words. Here’s the headline of an article I wrote recently.
Ogeechee Area Hospice receives a generous $800,000 donation

2. Sometimes, a headline is easier to write after the article is completely written. 

3. The lede, the first sentence of the article, should be between 30 and 35 words that summarize the main points of the story. 
Ogeechee Area Hospice received a sizeable donation during its 25th anniversary celebration on Thursday evening that has already brought marked changes in the organization.

4. The lede covers the who, what, when, and where of a story. Sometimes, but not regularly, the lede will include the how and why of a story.  

5. Follow the lede with paragraphs of supporting details, in compelling words that keep the reader’s attention until the very end of the article.
“We are debt free now,” said Tinker Lanier, Ogeechee Area Hospice (OAH) Manager of Donor Relations. “The donation helped us pay off our mortgage and, as a non-profit, those [monthly payments] going forward can go towards our patients.”

6. Paragraphs are usually one to three sentences in length. 
Ted Tucker, on behalf of the Tucker Family, presented a check for $800,000 to OAH in honor of his parents, Susie Scott Tucker and Eddie Frank Tucker. Ted Tucker and his brother James, who was also in attendance of the event, are the surviving children of 11 from the marriage of the Scott and Tucker union.

7. Sentences are short and to the point and typically follow the subject-verb-object pattern. 
“Our parents valued education,” Tucker continued.

8. Cut unnecessary words. Instead of saying, “Police officers arrived quickly at the scene and were able to find the suspect on Main Street,” say, “Police officers located the suspect on Main Street.” 

9. Avoid the use of excessive adjectives and adverbs. 

10. Use simple words. Avoid complicated and flowery vocabulary.
Tucker said that a neighbor co-signed an educational loan for him to attend college.

11. Use active verbs when possible and avoid passive sentences.
Jean Bartels, OAH Board President, accepted the donation.

12. Write articles in third person. 
After the presentation, Tucker added that he was honored to have the opportunity to make the donation.

13. Newspaper articles are generally written in past tense.
Tucker said that in a consult with his advisor, Tucker asked him to figure what he needed to live and then he wanted to give the rest away.

14. The first time you refer to a person in a story, use the full name and title, when applicable. Following the first mention, refer to the person by last name only. The exception occurs when two people with the same last name are discussed in a story. Use full names for each reference when that occurs. 
Tracy Joiner, owner of Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home & Crematory in Statesboro, introduced his Great Uncles Ted and James.

“My Grandmother, Lucille Joiner, was the oldest of the eleven, and my Great Uncle, Ted Tucker, the youngest,” said Joiner.

15. Long names of companies or businesses that also go by initials should be spelled out completely the first time, with the initials appearing in parentheses afterwards. Those initials may be used throughout the rest of the article for brevity.
“We are debt free now,” said Tinker Lanier, Ogeechee Area Hospice (OAH) Manager of Donor Relations.

16. Unlike other literary works, don’t repeat information at the end of the article as a summary.

17. Conduct in-person interviews when possible and take copious notes, recording the interview if possible. 

18. Counter-check facts and statistics and check spellings, especially names and titles.  

19. Include pertinent, informative quotes and attribute quotes accurately. 
“We grew up in the Leefield community,” said Ted Tucker. “Our ma and daddy were sharecroppers. We were low on the socio-economic spectrum – it means you have no money. 

“Raising a family of eleven kids is challenging. But, all eleven children became successful adults.”

Tucker attributed that success to a number of influences. He said, “We were raised in a Christian household. We went to church at least three times a week, twice on Sunday and prayer meeting during the week.

20. Conclude the article with a pertinent quote, related link, invitation or call to action, or powerful statement. 
OAH plans to unveil a plaque for Susie Scott Tucker and Eddie Frank Tucker on Saturday at 1:00PM on the facility’s grounds and the public is invited to attend. 


Julie Lavender is a journalist, author, and former homeschooling mom of twenty-five years who holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. Julie is married to her high-school and college sweetheart, and Julie and David are the parents of four, in-law of one, and grandparents to a sweet, fourteen-month-old grandson. 
Julie loved living in various locations across the country as the wife of a medical entomologist for the United States Navy. After her husband retired from active duty, the family moved back to their hometown, and David began work as a wildlife biologist at a nearby Army installation.

Julie is excited that her parenting book, 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories, published by Revell, releases in October of this year. Julie’s newspaper contributions number over 900 news articles, features, columns, and more, and she loves sharing good news and the Good News in her newspaper, the Statesboro Herald. She would love for you to connect with her on social media and chat about newspaper writing.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Melissa. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your faithfulness to comment. I really appreciate that encouragement!

  2. Taught "Top-Down" writing to all my proposal managers and technical writers for many years Ms. Julie. Great reminders ma'am. Have always tried to use active more than passive voice as it saves space, but sure understand why in news media you do the opposite. Thank you!

    1. That "top-down" was one of the harder concepts when I first started writing for the newspaper. It felt like I was "giving away" the whole story in one or two sentences. I wanted to save the punch line for the end ... but I learned quickly that didn't work for newspaper writing. Thanks so much for joining the conversation. You're always an encourager to fellow writers! I appreciate your kindness.

  3. Thanks for the tips as well as the immediate examples. I write for a regional magaziine and see many relevant, useful things here, as always.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC

    1. Thank you for commenting, Jay, and you're right - there's lots of similarities with newspaper and magazine writing. Such great opportunities to share our words and to earn writing credits. And, I just love the people I've met over the years through my stories and interviews.

  4. Useful information to keep on hand and use as a checklist. Thanks Julie!

    1. Thank you so much, Barbara. I've enjoyed learning about newspaper writing over the years, and I've especially enjoyed the fascinating stories I get to cover. Thanks for reading! I really appreciate that, as well as for taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me!