The Top 10 List of Hints for Good News Writing

Feb 14, 2013

There’s nothing more daunting than sitting down to that big empty white space on your screen knowing you have to write a news release (or just about anything else). The trick is to just start. And, believe me, I'm someone who hates writing (every word is like a drop of blood … don’t even try to understand why I do it for a living), but I love having written!

The 10 tips below should help you break the cycle and get some words on that virtual paper.

  1. The timer trick. Anything is tolerable for 15 minutes. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Gather your background materials and go. No checking e-mail, no answering the phone. At the end of 15 minutes don’t read what you have written. Give yourself a break and do something unrelated and maybe even fun. Then set the timer again. Read what you wrote and move on. Just keep at it in 15 minute chunks until it’s done.
  2. Read. Really read the old-fashioned way and not just electronic snippets. Good writers are usually readers. It’s a type of learning by osmosis.
  3. Write at the time of day that works for you. If it’s not happening right now, find a different time of day when you can be more productive.
  4. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar. That’s what editing is for once you’ve got the guts on paper.
  5. Understand your writing personality. If you like making an outline, go with that. If you are better with free-wheeling, go with that. Years ago –back in the Dr. Deming and Philip Crosby quality era – I had to document my process for writing. I was dumbfounded. I don’t do outlines (if I have to submit an outline I have to write the white paper or speech first and then do the outline). I fumbled around and finally said to the quality guy sitting with me that I listen, take notes, let it sit in my head for a while and then just start typing. He was not amused, but I was being honest.
  6. Use short sentences. Don’t overthink it!
  7. Use active voice. Which is more compelling? Active: The dog bit the man. Passive: The man was bitten by the dog. Active is usually shorter too.
  8. When in doubt…cut it out.
  9. Ask for feedback. Find someone you respect to read what you write and then use the input to make it better. However, you are not obligated to use all of the input.
  10. Have a conversation in your head. Instead of pondering what would sound studious and impressive, tell the story in your head and write it that way. You can always change it.

And that’s the real beauty of it. We don’t use stone tablets anymore, so you can always change it.

Mary Uhrina is a writer who specializes in news writing and media relations.