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Nov 28 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: “Natural” leads, copy editing and insight

Here are some highlights from last week’s mailbag at the Bleacher Report Sports Writing Internship program. The Internship Insider returns to its usual Friday home later this week.

I know I’m supposed to paraphrase my headline into the lead, but sometimes this comes off as really forced. How can I do this better?

If you’re getting caught up in the semantics of paraphrasing your headline, scrap it. Instead, write something that’s going to hook readers quickly—make them ache to want to keep reading the piece. If you still can’t come up with something creative, write the rest of your story, then come back to the lead. Seeing how the story pieces together can be helpful in trying to figure out the lead.

If you still can’t get it, take a break. Go for a walk, watch TV, hit the gym—just get away from the work for a little while. When you come back, you’ll have fresher eyes and a clearer mind.

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 and copy editing 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.

Don’t Forget:

- Comparing the teams’ stats and schedules draw interesting lines, but you can add more color by including any personal observations of their play. While it’s understandable if you haven’t actually seen each and every team play recently, YouTubing them could provide a quick dash of personal flavor and insight.

- No need to italicize “Bleacher Report” in a slide body. Treat it like ESPN or another colloquial Web site.

- It’s clear when you’re still not pasting your work into Word. A lot of these issues are minor and easily spotted using a spell/grammar check tool. It only takes a minute to paste your work into Word and spell/grammar check it—why not?

- In American English, “team” is considered singular—”Despite its strong secondary, the team could still be vulnerable because it has not yet faced a truly tough test.”

Joel C. 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.