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Jan 20 / Greg Pearl

Internship Insider: How to naturally increase the size of your swagger

We often attribute “swagger” to athletes who possess a talent visible more to the eye than on the stat sheet. The same applies to writing.

For instance, I love reading Michael Wilbon’s stuff because, besides being a fount of sports knowledge, he seems as “real” in his columns as he does on TV.

For instance, check out  ”The rich get Richard.” (Drop hed: “New Bull Hamilton’s track record as a scorer makes him a worthwhile pickup.” Drop heds are sort of old school now, but Wilbon’s a newspaperman and I love him all the more for it.)

His lede does a fantastic job of getting right to the point of his story, but more importantly, Wilbon says what he means, so more of him comes through in the writing:

Don’t fool yourself, don’t try for one second to make the case that the Bulls didn’t need a new wingman for Derrick Rose because they absolutely did. To stay ahead of the Celtics, Knicks and Pacers and to have any real chance of overtaking the Heat, the Bulls needed at least one more player who could do the most basic thing in basketball: score.

That “it factor” is honesty, both with your readers and with yourself. You should always sound like you in your work.

That writing voice may be different from your speaking voice, but should always reflect the way your mind works. And if the point is to stand out as a source of expert analysis on the web, you better believe it’s a must.

Every time you click “Publish,” the pressure is on.

Think of it like you’re walking into a party with thousands of guests asking, “What have you done for me lately?”

How do you act? Are you interested in having an educational/formal conversation? Are you the life of the party, looking to make people laugh? Maybe you thrive discussing action-filled events with illustrative language.

Whatever you gravitate to, don’t play it safe (you’ll get lost in the crowd) or be fake (what’s the point?). And don’t be lazy and rip someone else’s style off. You can’t be better than them at being them. Be you!

Find your personality in what you write. Your background, values and beliefs—they all make up who you are as a writer. You might bring a unique opinion or perspective to a topic and not even know it; that’s why it’s always important to do a little self-exploration while you brainstorm.

The more specific you can get in identifying your style and tone, the easier it will be to perfect it over time. And it will take time, I assure you. You have to write a lot and be willing to see your voice change multiple times along the way.

The point is to take readers out of their everyday and put them in your world for a moment. It’s escapism, and you can only provide it by being you, in your most confident and personal way. Accomplish that consistently and you won’t have to worry about “Did I progress the topic?” That will happen naturally.

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Greg Pearl is a Sportswriting Internship Program Feedback Editor. Along with fellow editor Joel C. Cordes, he develops B/R interns by providing feedback and mentoring, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.

  • Christopher Benvie

    Absolutely. It is kind of like when Happy Gilmore realizes that he’s not a hockey player, he’s a golfer and becomes all the better for it.