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Feb 3 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Top 10 Tips For Quicker (Better) Writing

This post was co-written by Greg Pearl.

1. Read a lot and write every day. The more you do this, the quicker you get.

2. Mechanically speaking, you could take a typing course or geek out and try speech-to-text software.

3. For a more cognitive approach, read Michael Agger’s piece on, where he compares opinions on the “to outline or not outline” debate.

4. Escape the ESPN rut by reading a new website you don’t normally visit, call a “sports buddy” you haven’t spoken to in a while or choose a new place to write. As you try new things, be prepared for inspiration by jotting down or recording your thoughts as you go.

5. Your research time will obviously depend on the topic, but you never want to get sidetracked and take in too much. Approach it like you’re shopping on a budget. Make a list of what you need, and then stick to it.

When scanning familiar resources (stat sites, rumor mills, etc.) cut and paste anything you may need. Reading is important, but now is not the time to get sucked into the details. Open a separate Word doc just for facts and sources—don’t forget to copy the URLs as well.

6. Set the foundation and put the walls up before you pick out furniture. Square away this stuff, stay open to change and then fill in details:

  • Headline/topic
  • Lead/Intro
  • Several key supporting points. If making a list, include any entries that jump out as must-haves
  • At least one counter-point that creates objective conversation
  • Conclusion

7. Work on your points separately, keeping the article’s focus in mind with each.

8. If you always write on the computer, try writing longhand instead, or vice versa. Keep distractions like noise, TV, Yammer, email, etc. to a minimum. Stepping outside of your comfort zone might get the adrenaline going.

9. Combining steps of the writing process can prove detrimental to your efficiency. If you’re prepared enough, the “writing” part is about getting everything you have to say onto the page.

If you’re halfway through an article only to realize you’re missing a stat or a link, mark the spot with something noticeable (“XXX” or [NEED SOURCE]) and plow forward. Stopping to search could upset your rhythm or lose your focus. By the time you’re finished writing, you’re likely to need a few more facts anyway.

Try to forget about editing at first too. This is especially true for writers who find they’re deleting entire paragraphs or rewriting the same sentence over and over. Keep the conversation going. You can make it look and sound pretty later.

10. No matter the time crunch, you should re-read your work 3-5 times. Proofread quickly after each slide/section, then follow up with a thorough pass—preferably out loud—and an automatic spelling/grammar check at the end. The final proofreading can take place immediately after you publish.

Greg Pearl and Joel C. Cordes are Bleacher Report’s Sportswriting Internship Program Feedback Editors. They develop B/R interns by providing feedback and mentoring, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.

  • Greg Pearl

    We forgot to mention caffeine and Jelly Bellies

  • Joel Cordes

    in addition, soothing ocean sounds and a fog machine always help me :-)

  • Jeffery Cook

    Greg and Joel…Thanks for the information, it is wise and useful, as well as a great reminder about how to effectively approach your writing. Thought I’d share that I’ve also found it useful (as you guys probably already know) to go out and grab the links, etc. beforehand, especially on lengthy slide shows. You put the subject name in, link the resource to the subject name and then move on to the next slide. When you’re done you’ve got your slideshow already set up with links included. Then you’re free to just write from one slide to the next without any hiccups looking for links. Of course, you can always go back after your writing is complete and move the link to a more appropriate place if warranted. Thanks again, just thought it might be useful to share another tip that I have found useful.

    • Greg Pearl

      Thanks, Jeffery. I could definitely see that saving time in something like a large trade-rumors slideshow.