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5 Things You Must Know About Media Writing

Like any craft, writing takes time, patience and dedication to truly master. Given the prevalence of social media and blog hosting sites, anyone with internet access is a media writer to some extent. If you are interested in pursuing media writing as a career, it’s important to develop skills that will help you stand out.

You could spend a lifetime honing your writing, but there are several basic concepts to master if you’re interested in a media writing career. Here are five things essential to a media writer’s toolbox:

1. Associated Press Style

The Associated Press is the oldest news agency in the world. Over the years, the AP has developed a standardized format for news writing that is ubiquitous in the world of journalism. ThoughtCo. contributor Tony Rogers writes, “AP style is the gold standard for print journalism. It’s used by the vast majority of newspapers in the U.S.”

AP style is one of the most important things to learn for any journalist, and the AP Stylebook is an important reference tool. There’s a lot of nuance and detail. For example, single digit numbers are spelled out, while double digit numbers are presented in numerical style. Some exceptions include ages, percentages, dates and dollar amounts.

While AP style can seem overwhelming at first, it’s something a journalist learns over time, rather than all at once. As Rogers points out, “Mastering AP style is a lifelong, or at least career-long, pursuit, and even expert copy editors with decades of experience find they must refer to [the style guide] regularly.”

2. Social Media Writing

Every modern journalist should know how to write effectively on social media platforms. It can be easy to get carried away and try to put too much information into social media posts. A WriterAccess contributor notes, “Social media is meant to be consumed quickly. Therefore, it should be comprised of meaningful, interesting content.”

Crafting an attention-grabbing post can have a huge impact on driving readers to your work, so it’s important to pay attention to successful announcements on social media. Take note of posts that grab your attention and see if you can integrate that style into your writing. You might notice that posts utilizing more than one medium gain more traction. As the WriterAccess contributor puts it, “Take advantage of the ability to spread content between writing, photographs, and video material.”

3. Writing for Yourself

Writing for pleasure is fulfilling in its own right, but it’s also a valuable way to hone your skills and advance your career. Professional journalists may try their hand at fiction or write about a subject that interests them.

Maintaining a blog is another great outlet. The Drum contributor Andrew Brookes writes, “Writers who keep their love for their craft will give you that little bit extra. Write a blog about your personal passion in your free time and the process of writing will never become a chore.” Who knows, maybe your blog will gain a readership of its own!

4. Crafting Successful Headlines

Much like social media posts, an attention-grabbing headline should be concise, punchy and exciting. Headlines must convey article content, but they also need a hook. In other words, great headlines inform and entice potential readers.

The nature of headlines is different for online articles than for print. The Balance Careers contributor Glenn Halbrooks explains, “If your headline isn’t necessarily connected with a photograph or is transmitted automatically to social networking sites, you need to write something that can stand on its own.” An effective headline lets the reader know what the article is about, but it also makes them want to learn more.

5. Writing a Lead

A lead is the first few sentences of a story. Like great headlines, a well-written lead will pique the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to keep reading. ClearVoice contributor Megan Krause writes, “A lot is hinging on your leads … readers will decide to continue investing time and brain power in your content or jump ship.” If they’re reading your lead, the reader has already been interested by the title. Give them a little more to be interested in!

There are many things to consider when writing a lead — the audience and subject, for example, or where the article will be published. But the principle is always the same: give your reader a reason to keep reading.

Media writing is an exciting, fast-paced field. It’s easy to get caught up in the story and wind up overlooking the basics of quality journalism. Make a habit of crafting a solid foundation for your work if you want to be successful. 

Learn more about A-State’s Online Bachelor of Science in Creative Media.


WriterAccess: 10 Tips for Social Media Writing

ThoughtCo. The Basics of Associated Press Style

The Balance Careers: How to Write Great Headlines for the Web

ClearVoice: How to Write a Lead

The Drum: A Journalist’s 12 Tips to Writing Good Content

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