12-word newswriting course

Newswriting is about getting to the point. It's about providing as much information as possible in a small space. It's about detail. And it's about making what's written to be compelling.

Journalist and educator Elliott Brack honed newspaper writing into a 12-word course. If you follow these tips, you'll become a better writer. These tips might look easy -- but good writing is a lot harder than you think. Here are Brack's rules:

1. Short Sentences
2. Short Paragraphs
3. Active Voice
4. Liberal Use of Quotes
5. Inverted Pyramid

Now for a little explanation:

1. Short Sentences. Use short sentences. If your sentences are more than 21 word long, most people won't understand what you're trying to describe.

2. Short Paragraphs. Try to keep paragraphs to two sentences in length. Pick up your morning paper and see how many paragraphs are more than two sentences in length.

3. Active Voice. Make your sentences sing. Don't use passive voice. Instead of writing, "The ball was hit by Henry Aaron into center field," you should write, "Henry slammed the ball into deep center field."

4. Liberal Use of Quotes. Newspaper writing is about people and what they are communicating. Therefore, your writing should use quotes liberally. Quotes add spice, detail and personality to writing.

5. Inverted Pyramid. This means you should put the most important information at the top of your story. As you continue with the story, add more detail, but keep putting the most important information as close to the top as you can. Why? Because most people don't read past the first four or five paragraphs of a story. Get the important stuff at the top.

© Elliott E. Brack, 1979-2001



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