Column Writing Tips

May 21, 2018

I’ve written two columns in my writing career: “Sharin’ with Sharron” (in Oklahoma for one year) and “Reliving Anoka County History” (in Minnesota for fifteen years). If you’ve considered writing a column, these tips may help.

  • Write about what interests you. If you’re interested in your subject matter, your  writing will show it and your reader will see and share that interest.
  • Develop your own voice. Your readers want to know your ideas and thoughts, not just a repetition of another writer’s style.
  • Look for a variety of things to write about. When you find a variety of things to write about, you open all sorts of  possibilities for column ideas.
  • Read what you write out loud. I belonged to two different writers groups for many years. One met weekly and the other monthly. The writer read his/her work out loud to the group in the weekly one. A different group member (not the writer) read the writer’s work out loud in the monthly one. In both groups, hearing the words instead of just reading them with eye helped point out confusing sentences, fillers, and excess verbiage. If you don’t have a writers group, read your work out loud to yourself or to a friend who will be honest with you about what they hear.
  • Scrutinize your verbs. Avoid using the same verbs repeatedly. Check each verb in your column and challenge yourself to find a more active and more accurate verb. Some examples are ponder versus consider, stroll versus walk, stare versus watch. You get the idea. Use verbs that create images and say what you mean, but keep them simple so the reader doesn’t have to wonder what you’re saying.
  • Spend time on your column ending. Writers know to hook their readers in the opening/beginning sentences/paragraph. It’s just as important to spend time writing a satisfying ending.
  • Make sure you have a point to every column you write. The point may be minor or subtle, but it should exist to give meaning to your column. “Sharin’ with Sharron” offered more opportunity for general topics than “Reliving Anoka County History.” But the purpose of each column was different. Know the purpose for your column.

If you’ve thought about writing a column, consider these tips. Happy writing!

 

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Write Great Leads in Nonfiction Articles

July 21, 2017

One of the best things about being a writer is the variety of choices you have in deciding what to write–articles, books, short stories, etc.

One of the hardest things about being a writer is writing a lead that entices the reader to consider reading your article, then keeps the reader reading past the first paragraph.

Two obvious ways to write leads are (1) offer an anecdote that makes the point of your article, and ( 2) use a quote that grabs your reader and highlights the focus of your article.

When you don’t have either of those options, use these steps to help you write a great lead.

  • Imagine your reader and why he/she might be looking for in an article on the topic you’re writing.
  • Ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” from the reader’s perspective.
  • Answer the question by showing the reader in plain language what he/she will learn from reading your article.
  • Keep a conversational approach in your writing. Remember that your reader is looking for information, but not necessarily a class or complete education on the subject.
  • Respect the reader’s time by delivering meaningful information the reader can use.

You may find you have to write the first draft of your article before you can use the steps above to actually come up with the lead that will work for you. But that’s okay. You’ll know from the first draft what you can offer the reader, then you can write the lead to entice them and deliver what you promise. Happy writing!