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PARTS & SECTIONS

Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar 

   www.OnlineGrammar.org
 
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 Study Questions
     

 

                                                            

Chapter 51: MAGAZINE OR NEWSLETTER ARTICLE

                 
How do you write for a popular or professional magazine or newsletter?

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Introduction: A Definition

Problem and Assignment

The Steps of the Process

     1. Rough Drafting

     2. Organizing

     3. Final Drafting

Conclusion

Sample Paper (Separate Web Page)

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See also Prewriting Activities.

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Introduction: A Definition

A magazine article or newsletter article usually is a type of argument that presents interesting, convincing examples and other details in an interesting ways with strong story examples and factual proofs.  It is generally not an academic paper, but rather a professional paper used by freelance magazine writers, by writers who wish to communicate with a widespread, popular audience through a magazine aimed at their professional or disciplinary group, and by newsletter writers for professional or business groups.  This kind of writing is not highly formal, though it must be factual.  It must be friendly to the audience by establishing, through its language, style, and tone, that the writer is a part of the audience and has something worthwhile to say to his or her peer group.  Examples of excellent magazine or newsletter article writing can usually be found especially in the lead article--the first major article--of any nationally distributed newsstand magazine, and in the leading magazines of disciplinary and professional groups. 

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Problem and Assignment

The Problem

Readers want to read an interesting article when they open a consumer magazine (one from a newsstand: e.g., Psychology Today) or a trade magazine (one that is job-related: i.e., Molecular Scientist). They want to learn from the article, to be entertained, and to be able to read something easily and quickly without having to study it or look up words.

The audience is the readers of whatever magazine for which you choose to write; however, the real audience is the editor who will examine your article. The need is to start with fascinating detail--often a compelling story--that will hook the editor (and therefore the readers) into wanting to read the rest, and then to continue with a mix of more storytelling, examples, facts, sometimes quotations, and other details that will continue to educate the reader while entertaining her. Writing articles such as this usually is easier if we feel strongly about our subject and have researched it well.

The Assignment 

Choose a subject in your area or field of interest, a subject on which you have a unique, different, or unusually entertaining slant or perspective--one you can write about from your own experience or the experiences of a person or people you can interview. Have a specific magazine or type of magazine in mind, one you have studied to see what subjects and organizational structures are used in its articles. Open with your strongest story or example and facts, and mention your basic argument right before or after this opening. Then develop two or three body sections, each of which develops an important reason why your argument is true. In support of your reasons, provide plenty of stories, examples, facts, and/or quotations throughout these body sections. Close with your second strongest story or other detail.

The final draft should be written at the reading level used in your target magazine or magazine group (e.g., most consumer magazines--and newspapers--are written at approximately the fourth to eighth-grade level; high-brow magazines and many trade magazines are written at the eighth to tenth-grade level.) The article should be typed in standard double-spaced essay form.

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The Process

Here are three major steps of focusing during the writing process. Each is further divided (in most chapters) into two sub-steps. Remember that you may rearrange or otherwise change the steps shown here to suit your individual writing needs.

1. FOCUS ON A FIRST DRAFT (Brainstorm Ideas & Create a Rough Draft):

Brainstorm: Skim this chapter and its samples. Then skim and/or choose a magazine or type of magazine for which you would like to write. Before or after finding the magazine, pick an unusual or different slant on a subject you know and like, and list or imagine some of the stories you would like to tell about it.

Create a Draft:

2. FOCUS ON ORGANIZING (Evaluate Your Needs and Organize):

Evaluate what you have done in your rough draft.

Organize:

  • Your opening (best) story or example/facts and a statement of your basic argument,

  • Reason #1 and the better stories, examples, facts, and/or quotations you will tell to support it,

  • Reason #2 and the details to support it,

  • Reason #3 (if there is a third part), and

  • Your closing (second-best) story or example/facts and a restatement of your argument.

3. FOCUS ON A FINAL DRAFT (Revise and Edit):

Revise and Edit according to professional standards.

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1. Rough Drafting

Brainstorm

The best way to brainstorm ideas for writing feature articles usually is a mixture of two processes for most feature writers: examining magazines and developing ideas for them. Some writers start with one or more excellent ideas first and then find the magazines to which to sell them; others examine the magazines first and develop ideas as they read the magazines. Professional free-lancers tend to go back and forth constantly between magazines and ideas, ideas and magazines.

Part of brainstorming ideas for features also should consist of skimming this chapter and its sample to get a feel for the general outline of feature writing. Another important key is to not confine yourself to logical ideas but also to consider images, feelings, people, and even made-up fantasies (at least as a start). Often it is helpful to explore a number of ideas, images, etc. in order to arrive at a rather interesting or unusual slant on an idea. They say in the magazine trade that there are no new ideas, just new ways of stating the old. While that may not be completely true, it is important to remember that editors--your real audience for writing for magazines--want "fresh" material--something different from what has been done before in their or other magazines.

One of your best guides when you consider what ideas to consider or choose is whether you have stories to tell about them. Stories are the lifeblood of most feature articles: such articles are full of specific examples of individuals experiencing events and the problems and results of their experiences. A second guide is how strongly you feel about a subject. Strong feelings about a subject may help you write an article. (But be careful: if you feel too strongly about a subject, you may be unable to keep the objective tone that such articles are supposed to maintain!)

Create a Draft

The next step is to create a rough draft. Often free-lance writers will start their rough drafts by writing their stories they have to tell: the reason for this is that it is the stories in a feature article that most attract and interest readers, so it is the stories that must be written best. If you have several good stories and examples to tell, much of the rest of a good feature article simply is filling in material between your stories.

How do you tell a good story? The best way is to not just write about an event, but rather to describe

(1) a person

(2) with a problem.

This is part of the basic formula of storytelling throughout the world. In fact, you may want to read the chapter in this book that describes how to write stories. A good story, true or made up, often begins with the thought, "Once there was a person named _____ who had a problem with _____." The final part of this formula is the solution. You do not always have to show solutions for your stories, but if you do, the solutions should be related to your main argument or main belief that your feature article will be expressing. Ask yourself, "What are the stories I want to tell in this article," and "What is the main point I want these stories to tell?"

In addition, as you write, remember: this is not an academic or business paper (as are many others in this textbook). Avoid an academic tone. A friendly or neutral tone is best, depending on the magazine(s) for which you wish to write. In fact, often the best tone can be achieved when you write as if you are writing for or speaking to a friend who wishes to understand more on the subject.

Quickly write a rough draft primarily of stories and examples about the subject. Do not organize unless doing so makes the writing easier. Write as if for a friend or fellow professional in a nonacademic manner.

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2. Organizing

Evaluate 

After you have finished a rough draft, it is time to begin evaluating more specifically how to organize your feature. You need to be aware both of the typical organization of feature articles and of the specific parts that are typical in the particular magazine(s) for which you wish to write. So you will need to study both: read this chapter and its sample thoroughly, and read (study) the parts and pieces of one or more feature articles in the magazine(s) you have chosen.

Among the items you need to evaluate in your target magazine(s) (and in the sample for this chapter) are the following:

- content, length, and tone of the introduction
- content, length, and tone of the conclusion
- frequency and length of stories
- source of stories (authorsí experiences or interviewees' experiences)
- frequency and length of other examples
- frequency, length, and placement in the articles of facts and quotes
- general tone (friendly, joking, serious, sad?)
- reading level (highbrow, middlebrow, lowbrow? 4th, 6th, or 8th+ grade?)

Once you have evaluated this chapterís sample and some sample features from your magazine(s), you are ready to add whatever you still are missing, and to place in order what you already do have, according to the overall organizational pattern shown in your magazine(s). A typical average organizational pattern is shown below.

Organize

There are several typical organizational patterns for magazine articles. The feature article, which this chapter discusses, has two methods that are very similar. The most common has just a few body parts, as shown in the "Map" page earlier.

The less common type has a larger number of body parts--at least five or six and sometimes more than a dozen--each of which is short, so that the net effect is that of an article which flows more quickly from one idea to the next, to the next, and to the next. Actually, one sees this kind of organization more often in academic essays. It also is a common format to use when writing how-to articles: the typical how-to article provides steps or instructions.

This latter form of organization--a flow of ideas or steps--is less common for feature articles precisely because, when there are so many brief parts, it is hard for longer examples, quotations, and other details to be used in fully arguing each of your major points. This format--using just a few sections with greater length for each--allows, especially, the telling of stories. Stories are the best examples available for capturing the average readerís interest.

Two other somewhat common magazine formats, ones usually not used for feature writing, are the profile and news report format, and the storytelling format.

The profile and news report format uses the five Wís of journalism (who?, what?, where?, when?, and why/how?) or a similar format to develop a profile of a significant person (an article about that person) or a profile of a significant place (an article about that place). This kind of pattern--the use of the five Wís--has been adapted from newspaper journalism, which is explained in the chapter "Writing a News Article."

The storytelling format is very different. It is a format used in fiction writing, but it also is used in telling good-quality, interesting stories that are nonfiction: true stories. The basic pattern of storytelling is called the "plot." A plot usually includes three parts:

(1) a central person or people (hero and/or heroine),

(2) a problem (villain, complications, or obstacles), and

(3) a solution (resolution or goal).

Often there also is a rhythm or division of three in the way the story is told (this is especially true of Hollywood movie scriptwriting):

1st 1/3 of Story            Middle 1/3             Final 1/3        

Presentation (of          Resistance             Resolution
characters, place,       (the difficulty         (the solution

problemís origin)        proceeds.)              or tragic end)

Stories also use such devices as the five Wís of journalism at the beginnings and endings of scenes, and of the five senses and dialogue interwoven--often thoroughly--in a story. To read more about storytelling, whether fiction or true, read the chapter called "Writing a Story." However, it is important to note that even the rather short stories found in feature articles contain many of the elements above. This means that you should attempt to include them--especially the person-and-problem and five senses--as much as possible when you provide story examples in your feature articles.

Now that youíve seen some of the other options available for writing articles, here is a closer examination of the most common, strongest, and popular form of article writing: the feature article. It consists of the following major parts:

- a longer, developed opening
================================
- 2-3 body sections (occasionally more)
================================
- a conclusion

However, a more helpful way of viewing the organization of most strong feature stories is as follows. As you organize, you should be sure that you have brainstormed a number of stories for your feature article, and then you should consider using these stories to decide on the organization of your feature by arranging them in this pattern:

- best story and/or set of facts (introduction)
=================================
- third best story/set of facts (body #1)
-----------------------------------------------------------
- least best story/set of facts (body #2)
-----------------------------------------------------------
- fourth best story/set of facts (body #3)
=================================
- second best story/set of facts (conclusion)

What is the reason for such organization? It is simple: stories and/or especially strong, fascinating, or startling facts are what make a feature article entertaining. And make no mistake about it: good magazine writing may be educational, inspirational, helpful, practical, or any number of other things; above all, however, it must be entertaining.

For this reason, you should grab your reader at the very beginning by placing your best writing there. Similarly, you should leave the reader with something strong at the very end, to make him or her feel good about the article, remember it better, and want to continue on to the next article to read it. In general, editors assume that if you can get a reader at least half way through an article, then he or she will continue reading it, especially if the entertainment factor starts getting stronger again after the half way point. For this reason, you should try to bury your least interesting information in the middle: it will do the least damage there to reader interest.

Similarly, most feature articles also have an argument structure. Most of them argue a point. Sometimes that point is very mild: a feature may try merely to convince you of the importance of something. At other times a feature may work, subtly or overtly, to persuade you that something is good or necessary. Whatever the point being made in features that argue, the argument structure should look something like this:

- introduction: statement of point (with story)
==================================
- body section #1: one supporting reason why
(with supporting details)
-------------------------------------------------------------
- body section #2: a 2nd reason (with details)
-------------------------------------------------------------
- body section #3: a 3rd reason (with details)
==================================
- conclusion: restatement of point (with story)

Each reason in the body must fit accurately and appropriately with the basic argument you have presented in the introduction. To test whether reasons and argument fit together correctly, you may use the following formula to fill in the blanks. (However, do NOT alter the words in the formula--if your argument and reasons will not fit, you may not have three reasons why your argument is true!)

State your argument in one brief, clear sentence: ____.

This is true for three reasons. (Write a COMPLETE SENTENCE in each of the following blanks after the word "because.")

First, it is true because ____.

Second, it is true because ____.

Third, it is true because ____.

Here is an example:

There should be a required course in professional ethics in every college program.
This is true for three reasons.

First, it is true because professionals should learn to make decisions ethically.

Second, it is true because in addition, professionals should be able to train those under them in
ethics.

Third, it is true because finally, professionals should be able to recognize clientsí ethics.

For more information about how to form and develop an argument, see the section in this textbook on "Arguing."

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3. Final Drafting

Revise

Revising is a time to double-check everything you have done above to see that it is most effective for readers. If you have organized well, you should revisit your stories and facts, and your argument structure. Make sure both shine. To your stories, try to add more of the five senses so that each, even the rather short ones, has at least two or three sensory descriptions. For example, how many of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) can you identify in the story example that has been started below?

Hospital stays sometimes must be stretched so that patientsí medications can be adjusted. For example, at three p.m. on his second day in the hospital, Kim Lee felt suddenly ill again from the medication he just had taken. He sat quickly on the bed in his clean-smelling room and sipped fresh water from a bent straw. Then he buzzed his nurse....

And if you have longer story examples (fifty words or more), try to add some or all of the five Wís wherever you can--earlier rather than later if possible. Examine the story example directly above and see how many of the five Wís (who, what, where, when, and why/how) you can identify.

In addition, check your stories to be sure they are more than just narratives--that is, more than just a description of an event: remember a story is an event that also discusses a person who has a problem.

In addition, be sure that your stories are specific enough. One important rule of thumb in helping to determine this is the 1-1-1 rule:

1 person: Is there just one main person (or a pair or group)? Avoid talking about people in general when telling a story.

1 place: Is there just one setting? Avoid, at least in story examples, referring to places in general.

1 time: Is there just one specific time? In story examples, refer specifically to just one moment or hour in time.

Also, examine your argument structure. Make sure that it follows the logic of using the "this is true because" pattern.

Also, remember the educational level at which you are writing. If you have terms or concepts that exceed that level, be sure you have explained them fully and clearly in the educational level you are using.

Edit

As you fine tune your paper, be sure to tend to the tone or voice, sentence by sentence. Whether you are trying to convey a friendly tone or a more serious (but presumably still accessible) one, be sure that each sentence echoes this sound, this style, this mood you are trying to create. Controlling the tone from sentence to sentence is very much like controlling the mood of a musical piece: imagine that the words and phrases that you write actually are musical notes and phrases--hear how readers may read them in their heads by reading them aloud or within your own head. Play your word processor like you are playing an instrument, adding or subtracting words as needed to make the tune of your "song" sound right.

Be careful, too, of course, of the usual grammatical usages, spellings, and punctuation needs. Some magazines and journals will allow you much more leeway in bending or even breaking rules than will other magazines. The best way to tell what is safe and what is not is to study the typical feature articles in the magazine(s) for which you wish to write, then emulate their use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

In addition, use plenty of transition words and phrases: they are especially necessary in popular writing (writing that reaches a large number of readers and is for non-technical purposes or audiences to be read in their spare time). Notice the differences in the two examples below:

Version #1: A first principle in examining our lifestyles is to ask ourselves, "What do I do that makes my body feel better the next day?" Once we have asked that, we can proceed to the next question: "What do I do that makes my body feel bad the next day?" If we follow these two prescriptions for self-examination, we will make ourselves more conscious of how to change our lifestyles for the better.

Version #2: We can ask ourselves, "What do I do that makes my body feel better the next day?" We can proceed to the next question: "What do I do that makes my body feel bad the next day?" We will make ourselves more conscious of how to change.

The only difference between these two versions is that the first one is full of transition words and phrases while the second one is not. As a result, the first one flows, has a clearly identified subject, and makes sense instantly. The second one, however, is harder to read and understand, and it is somewhat jerky or machine-like in its tone.

Conclusion

Remember to read the sample attached to this chapter. Feature articles are among the more difficult and complex types of papers to write. However, in many ways they are among the most rewarding: a successful feature article reaches more people, conveys complex ideas and experiences in clearer ways, and is more enjoyable to read than most academic and technical writing. Because you can reach more people and move them more deeply, you have the opportunity to affect othersí lives more fully--and to help more people, too.

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Sample Paper (Separate Web Page)

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I. WRITING FOR MAJORS & WORK

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Chapters:

 49. Case Study

 50. IMRaD Science Report

 51. Magazine/Nwsltr. Article

 52. News Article/Release

 53. Story Writing
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 54. Applying for Jobs

 55. Process/Instructions

 56. Professional Report

 57. Professional Proposal

 58. Recommendation Report

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Related Chapters/Pages:

Details & Images

Creating Websites

Leading Writing Groups

                    

                    

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 Related Links in
OnlineGrammar.org:

  16. Research Writing

  17. Citation & Documentation

  18. References & Resources

  19. Visual/Multimodal Design

  20. Major/Work Writing              

 

Updated 1 Aug. 2012

  

   

 

WritingforCollege.org also is at CollegeWriting.info and WforC.org

Natural URL: www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/CollegeWriting/home.htm
Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998; CollegeWriting.info, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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