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Sep 30 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Buried ledes, keyword tips & “proofreading in character”

Here are some highlights from this week’s mailbag at the Bleacher Report Sports Writing Internship program.

Why is it so damaging to “bury” my lede later on the intro slide?  Aren’t I supposed to end with my thesis?

You’re walking down the street and pass a friend who asks what you’re working on. You wouldn’t say, “Well, a plethora of teams from the Top 25 were bounced from the list of unbeaten…” You’d say, “I’m writing about which teams from the Top 25 I think will lose this week.” Resist the urge to set the scene and offer some background right off the bat. If you boiled the whole slideshow down to 30 words, what would they be? Now write that.

How should I order my headlines when trying to add keywords?

It depends on what people are searching for, what your angle is, and the timing.  For example, a good NFL rule of thumb is player names during the week come first, with general terms (Fantasy Football, NFL Week X) to come after player names.  Thus, “Mike Tolbert: 5 Reasons San Diego Chargers Back is Struggling.”

However, if your angle is more geared towards an event/team, then you’d lead with the topic (or team).  Thus, it’s “Fantasy Football Week 4: 5 Reasons San Diego Chargers Mike Tolbert is a Drop”

I struggle when proofreading my article.  I end up reinforcing that what I wrote sounds the way I think it should. I am having a difficult time removing myself from what I have written in order to find any problems.

I’ve always found that taking “character roles” when proofreading is helpful.

1. The first read-through can be through your own eyes as the writer.  You’re looking for most of the mechanics/phrasing stuff in this first pass.

2. The second reading is done through the eyes of an avid sports fan for that particular team, player, etc.  Now you’re still looking for awkward phrasing, but especially focusing on adding depth, completing any hanging statements, fixing any content errors, etc.

3. During the third reading, you’re a complete outsider to the topic.  You know next to nothing about this subject matter.  Now you’re looking for accessibility, strong transitions that are telling a complete story (and connecting the dots) and entertainment value (is this article engaging enough that even an outsider would be pulled in?).

There’s no perfect system, and you ultimately have to decide what works for you, but maybe this method can help.

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Joel Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Internship Program Feedback Editor. Each week (along with contributor Greg Pearl) he includes some hints, tips and answers in an email to those participating in the B/R Sports Writing Internship, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.

  • Michael Schottey

    Another couple of tips to proofreading:
    1) Walk away…go do something else and come back after the writing hasn’t been on your mind.
    2) Read it out loud. This is SO important. You can scan something 1000 times, but when you’re forced to actually read it, you’ll find mistakes.

    • Make Time For Sports

      I agree. Works for me.