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Jun 15 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Writers’ FAQ, Part 1

Bleacher Report has a fantastically helpful publication FAQ section. Over the past couple of years, Greg Pearl and I have developed a similar “how to write” resource for our interns.

While some of these topics are familiar, others are fairly nuanced. Either way, keep this series around as a quick-reference resource. You’ll be surprised how often this comes in handy:

How do I condense my writing style?

Every time you proofread, ask yourself with each paragraph/sentence/phrase: “Would the article/paragraph/sentence stand alone fine if I took this out?” If it stands, then take it out. If it falls apart or loses meaning, then it should probably stay. This eliminates dead wood.

For general wordiness, try to use one specific adjective/adverb that says it all, rather than a bunch of phrases that have to be taken collectively. Overuse of phrases waters down your writing and clogs word flow.

It’s a slog when you first start, but does become easier the more you practice it.

What makes a good lead?

1. You have the first 25-30 words to tell your readers exactly what your article is specifically about.

2. Directly paraphrase your headline/thesis in a creative way.

3. Use as many full-name keywords as you can (for sure try to include the keywords that were in your headline).

4. Don’t start your article out with intriguing anecdotes, back story, etc. like you would in a print lead. The point here is to tell readers what they’re about to read. Do the scene-setting stuff after this opening-focus paragraph gets the story rolling.

I was assigned a topic/angle that I didn’t really believe in, but then I wrote about it anyway … Should I have done that?

Writers should never write things they aren’t comfortable with. If you disagree with a basic assumption of the assignment, let your assigning editor know. Use this option judiciously. However, few editors mind working together to alter the angle/assignment into something that you can back 100 percent.

Open and timely communication is the watchword. Allow enough time prior to your deadline, and make sure your proposals have been fully green-lit before proceeding.

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Next week I’ll share some pointers on headlines, deadlines, proofreading, keywords and citations = more #REALLYIMPORTANTSTUFF.

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