To write feature articles, you must combine the facts about your topic with considerable narrative skill. A feature article is a story that gives in-depth details about a person or a situation to enhance your readers' understanding. If you want to be good at writing these kinds of articles, you need to incorporate a set of best practices. Then you'll be more likely to craft stories that editors will be eager to publish.
General Rules for Good Writing
When considering how to approach writing a feature article, you need to remember that most of the rules for good feature writing also apply to other kinds of written work. The axioms of good writing stay the same, no matter how you want to apply them.
- Write in the active voice. This is important for all types of writing, but it's particularly vital for feature articles. In active writing, people 'do' things instead of having things 'done' to them. Keep to a minimum dull 'to be' verbs that show little action, instead using active verbs. For tips on telling the difference between active and passive voice, check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab tutorial.
- Keep your paragraphs short. In most cases, two or three sentences per paragraph is sufficient. Long paragraphs tend to look intimidating to readers.
- Use short sentences. Generally, it's good to keep your sentences between fifteen and twenty words in length. It's fine to have an occasional long sentence, but you want to make your article as easy to read as possible.
- Avoid clichés. Writing that lacks originality is unlikely to hold the reader's attention for very long.
Tips for Writing Feature Articles
Once you've mastered the general rules for effective writing, you'll need to incorporate specific tips for feature writers into your work. The most important part of any feature is its story. An engaging narrative is what will hook your readers and keep them reading.
- Keep in mind that the purpose of a feature article is to add depth and color to the news. For example, a magazine that prints a story about a new type of hearing aid in one issue may also run a feature about how this technology has changed the life of a hearing-impaired child.
- Remember that a feature doesn't usually follow the inverted pyramid structure of the typical news story. A feature article is written using storytelling techniques that grab the reader's attention instead of simply providing facts.
- Use quotes and anecdotes to add color to your story, especially if your feature is a profile of a specific person. To get the best quotes, conduct your interviews in person whenever possible.
- Incorporate details that use all five senses. Describe how things look, feel, taste, touch, and sound to make the reader believe he or she is actually part of the story.
- Don't include all of your research material. Reporters often feel obligated to include quotes from everyone they've interviewed and statistics from every secondary source they used when they researched the article. The best features only make use of material that is interesting and relevant.
- Although feature writers can be more creative than news reporters when structuring their articles, it's still important to get the facts right. Don't forget that your work is supposed to be nonfiction.
Improve Your Writing Skills by Reading
If you want to make feature writing a part of your freelance writing career, you should regularly read newspapers and magazines that publish features written in the style you prefer. You might want to start a binder filled with clippings of articles you find interesting, entertaining, or informative.
Seeing how other writers structure their articles will give you ideas for your own projects. Becoming familiar with a variety of writing markets is also a sound business practice since finding new sources of income is key to your financial success as a freelancer.
Additional Helpful Information
You can find a good deal of information about writing feature articles, from general guidelines to tips that pertain to specific types of features. Pretty much anything you want to know about the subject is available at your fingertips, whether online or offline.
For online information about writing features, check out the following sites:
- The Reporter's Toolbox for Feature Writing from SNN Newsroom
- The Secret to Writing Stronger Feature Articles from Writers Digest
- How to Write a Profile Feature Article from the New York Times Learning Network
You might also be interested in reference books for writers that pertain to crafting features.
- The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William E. Blundell
- Writing Feature Stories: How to Research and Write Newspaper and Magazine Articles by Matthew Ricketson
- Write to Publish: Writing Feature Articles for Magazines, Newspapers, and Corporate and Community Publications by Vin Maskell and Gina Perry
Since feature articles use storytelling techniques to give readers deeper insight into a given topic, they require a high degree of narrative writing prowess. You will need solid research skills and a degree of creative writing ability to produce top-notch features. With faithful diligence and practice, you can master the form and make it a rewarding part of your freelance writing career.