News Writing Tips From A Sloppy News writer

I’m a news writer. I spend my days writing and editing stories about local events, people, politics, sports, crime and other happenings in this city. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s a necessary one. 

As a news writer, I get to use all kinds of skills from my past career as an English teacher and even from my graduate work in creative writing and apply them to make sure that the information we put out there is accurate, entertaining, and easy to understand (but not dumbed down).

Key Takeaways
1. Strive for Accuracy: Regardless of your writing style, accuracy in reporting is essential to maintain credibility. Double-check facts and sources before publishing.
2. Embrace the Inverted Pyramid: Begin news articles with the most important information (who, what, when, where, why, and how) to grab readers’ attention and convey the core message upfront.
3. Keep it Concise: Avoid unnecessary jargon and wordiness. Write in a clear, concise manner to deliver information effectively.
4. Craft Engaging Headlines: Create attention-grabbing headlines that accurately represent the article’s content and encourage readers to click and read further.
5. Incorporate Quotes: Including quotes from reliable sources adds credibility and provides insights that can enrich your news stories.
6. Edit and Revise: Proofread your articles thoroughly to catch errors and refine the writing for a polished final piece.
7. Stay Unbiased: Maintain impartiality in your reporting, presenting facts without personal opinions or biases.
8. Know Your Audience: Tailor your writing style and content to resonate with your target readers.
9. Be Responsive to Feedback: Learn from constructive feedback to continually improve your news writing skills.
10. Stay Curious and Persistent: Journalism requires ongoing curiosity and dedication to uncover stories and present them with clarity and integrity.

1. Check The Spelling Of Your Title

Your title is the first thing people see when they look at your article. It’s important to make sure you spell it right. If there’s a spelling mistake, readers will think your writing isn’t professional, and they won’t want to read any further.

If you’re using a spell checker, make sure that you actually use it! I used to work with this guy who would ask me in every meeting if his documents were spelled properly without ever checking them himself or asking anyone else how they were spelled.

A lot of people make this mistake even some professional writers! So if you don’t use a spell checker (and even if you do), double-check every word of your title against a dictionary or Wikipedia article before submitting it for publication.*

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2. Make It Searchable

You know how your mom has all those shoe boxes in her closet, filled with photos of you and your siblings? 

If she wants to find a picture of you when you were a baby, she can just go through the photos by hand until she finds what she’s looking for. (If ever there was an argument for digital storage.)

But if someone else wanted to find that same photo or any other photo they’d have no idea where or even how many boxes contain family shots. You could search through every single box yourself, but only if it were possible to know what keywords were used to sort and file the clutter.

However: You did know how Mom organized things because YOU’RE HER KID! 

And if this hypothetical stranger ever asked YOU about finding lost items from childhood, you’d be able to guide them right over to the correct box (provided there are no other boxes with similar sounding names).

In news writing terms: Using keywords will help your readers more easily find what they’re looking for on their own as well as make sure Google knows what kind of articles we’re talking about when people look up topics relevant to our work here at Sloppy News HQ!

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3. Avoid Clichés Like The Plague

A lot of people think they can get away with using clichés in their writing, but this is a big mistake. Clichés are the enemy of good writing and should be avoided at all costs!

Instead of using clichéd phrases like “the bottom line” or “make hay while the sun shines,” try to come up with something more original for example, “the bottom line is that if you want to make money, you need to work hard and seize opportunities when they arise.” 

In addition to being less clichéd than other options, this phrase is also more effective for its brevity (you don’t have to waste time reading about what making hay means when you could be reading about other ideas).

If you’re still having trouble coming up with an interesting way of saying something, consider looking up synonyms in a thesaurus. This can help give you some inspiration for finding alternatives that aren’t so common-place (or cliche!)

4. Use Dictionary Synonyms And Paraphrases

The best way to avoid repetition is by using synonyms and paraphrases. These are words that have similar meanings, but can be used in different contexts.

For example: “The sun rose in the east.” This sentence uses “rose” as a verb (meaning ‘to become’). 

But now you could use it as a noun (‘the sun’ is called ‘rose’), or even an adjective (‘the east’). You wouldn’t be repeating yourself because each time you use rose, it means something different!

Paraphrasing is another good way to avoid repetition. For example: “I felt sad when I heard about his death.” You could instead write something like “When I heard about his death, I felt sad.” This gives you two sentences that say the same thing, but use slightly different wording.

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5. Give A Lead Paragraph, Not Just A News Blurb

A lead paragraph is a short, snappy piece of writing that introduces your story and hooks your reader’s attention. It should be clear and concise, relevant to the topic at hand, exciting, engaging and even entertaining.

A good lead paragraph should be short (no more than three sentences) but it needs to grab the reader’s attention immediately. This can be done by starting with a question or an unusual fact/statistic/quote from someone involved in the story. 

The best way to write a good lede is to ask yourself: “If I was reading this article would I want to read on?” If yes then you have hit upon something which will hopefully interest others too!

6. Proofread All Over Again Once It Goes Live

Once you’ve published your story, it’s time to proofread all over again. If you’re not sure whether or not something has been missed, try reading out loud and asking a friend to read it as well. 

You can also use spell-checkers online (we recommend Grammarly) and check for typos in general. 

Finally, remember that English spelling is not consistent across all words; sometimes we use an “e” at the end of a word (tours), while others have no e at all (tour). Use one or two more times than necessary just to be safe!

7. Read Aloud To Catch Any Typos And Description Errors

Reading aloud helps you find typos and descriptions that don’t quite work. If you need someone to read it to you, ask a friend or family member! 

It can also be helpful if you’re reading it out loud to yourself, but if neither of those options are available, I’ve heard that cats understand English better than most humans do (and they love attention).

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8. Avoid Using Military Jargon Unless You’re A Veteran

A lot of the jargons that are used in the military aren’t helpful for anyone else to understand what’s going on, so unless you’re a veteran and have served in the military, it’s best to avoid using them in your writing.

The best way to understand what I mean is with an example: One time when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton (a Marine Corps base), we had some new recruits who were assigned to our platoon. 

They were all young guys who hadn’t been through boot camp yet, so they didn’t know how things worked around there yet. 

We were all helping them out by showing them how things worked and answering any questions they had about how their drill instructors would treat them during their first training sessions together before beginning their official training program as Marines; 

However, one of my fellow Marines made an offhand remark about these rookies being “boot” or “booters” instead of saying something like “recruits” or even something more informal like “rookies.” 

This caused confusion among everyone present because no one knew what being “booted” meant since none of us had ever heard that word before! 

Instead of getting upset at this guy for saying something wrong (which could’ve led into a heated argument), we just laughed and explained what he meant by calling these recruits “newbies.”

9. Use Lots Of Pictures And Maps Instead Of Relying On Pictures Alone

Don’t just write about a place, show it to the reader. Maps are an easy way to do this. If you can find a good map that shows where the story took place or what happened, include it in your story. This will help keep the reader engaged and make it easier for them to follow along.

Also, consider using images of whatever was at issue in your story people affected by something bad that happened; things lost or destroyed; places affected by natural disasters, etc. Pictures help tell a story too!

10. Use A Picture From Every Story You Write

You should always have a picture for your articles. This is very important because readers are visual people and need to see something to understand what you are talking about. 

Even if the story is about an abstract concept, like love or death, remember that it can be easy for your reader if you include an image of some kind (even if it’s just words). 

If you don’t have pictures, then try using animated gifs instead! They’re fun and add something extra to your writing experience 🙂

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11. Write Every Local Angle, Even If It Only Applies To One Town Or Neighborhood

Writing every local angle, even if it only applies to one town or neighborhood, can be very rewarding. For example, in a recent story, I wrote about a major construction project underway in downtown Asheville, NC. 

While the overall project will be important for the city’s future growth and development, there was also an interesting local angle: How does this affect people who live on Haywood Street?

The answer: Not much at all except for those living directly next door to where construction crews were working. Their lives were disrupted by noise from trucks and machinery as well as dust from demolition work on nearby buildings. 

I focused my article on how these residents were coping with these changes in their daily routines, rather than just summarize what was happening at large within the community (which is what many writers might do).

12. If There’s More Than One Person Involved

If there’s more than one person involved in a story, make sure to include all of them in the piece. This is called “inclusive storytelling”: a news story that includes quotes from multiple people and doesn’t just focus on one side of the issue.

Include quotes from any relevant sources that you can get your hands on. If you’re writing about something like an accident.

This will help make it seem more real and relatable for readers who are reading about it for the first time and give them an idea of how everyone involved feels about the situation.

Make sure to attribute any information or quotes by using attribution tags such as “according to” or “the source said.” Doing this gives credit where credit is due! For example: According to John Doe, Jane Smith was late because she forgot her wallet at home.” 

If there’s no attribution tag used, then assume everything written was made up by someone else (like me!).

There Are Lots Of Ways To Make Writing Better

The best way to make writing better is to write more. The more you write, the easier it will be for you to come up with interesting ideas and think of ways to put them into words. 

You can also improve by reading what other writers have written and learning from their successes and mistakes. Here are some tips on how to do that:

Be specific about what you’re talking about by using concrete examples or details that help describe your subject matter in a vivid way. For example, instead of saying “John Smith was shot,” say “The bullet entered John Smith’s left shoulder.” It’s much clearer! 

Writing should always be clear and concise–it should never feel like a chore or force readers away with too many words or complicated sentence structures (like those dreaded passive sentences).

Be accurate with your facts–this means that whenever possible check with reliable sources before writing anything so as not to mislead people into believing something inaccurate just because it fits into your narrative nicely! 

That might seem obvious but there are plenty out there who don’t do this so don’t let them influence the quality of YOUR writing!

Being original means creating something new based on inspiration from various sources such as articles already published online but making sure not just copy others’ work either because then again…you wouldn’t want anyone stealing yours either 😉


Good news writing is not just about knowing your subject matter and getting the facts right. It’s also about making people want to read on, so that they can find out what happens next in the story – or even better, feel like they have been part of it all along.

I hope these tips will help you to write stories that are engaging for readers, and get them sharing your work with other people who might enjoy it too!

Further Reading

Ten Tips to Write Like a Journalist: Explore essential tips and techniques to improve your writing skills and adopt a journalist’s style.

Writing News Stories: A Comprehensive Guide: Dive into the world of news writing with this comprehensive guide, covering the key elements and strategies for crafting compelling news stories.

How to Write Like a Journalist: MasterClass: Enhance your writing prowess by learning from the experts with this MasterClass guide on writing like a seasoned journalist.


How can I improve my news writing skills?

Developing your news writing skills can be achieved through consistent practice, studying the work of skilled journalists, and seeking feedback from peers or mentors. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the inverted pyramid style and adhering to the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and H (How) can help create informative and engaging news articles.

What are the essential elements of a news story?

A news story typically comprises a headline, byline, lead (or lede), body paragraphs, and a closing. The lead should convey the most crucial information succinctly, and the body should provide additional details, quotes, and context to support the story’s central message.

How can I make my news writing more engaging?

To make your news writing more engaging, focus on using clear and concise language, incorporating relevant quotes, and presenting the information in an organized manner. Including human interest elements and captivating storytelling techniques can also enhance reader engagement.

What are some common mistakes to avoid in news writing?

Common mistakes to avoid in news writing include biased reporting, factual errors, sensationalism, lack of attribution, and plagiarism. Accuracy and ethical considerations are paramount when conveying information to readers.

How can I write impactful headlines for news articles?

Crafting impactful headlines requires brevity, accuracy, and attention-grabbing language. Headlines should provide a clear idea of the story’s content and pique the reader’s curiosity. Using strong verbs and focusing on the article’s central theme can make headlines more compelling.