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Writing Strong Copy

A good publication – whether it’s an e-newsletter, a blog or a website – grabs its readers' attention. It entertains, informs, and inspires. To achieve that kind of publication, an editor has to conquer the three greatest editorial enemies:
  • wordiness
  • boring writing
  • irrelevance

Here are some tools to take on these editorial miscreants.

Combat Wordiness

Focus on what's important. Sit back before you write a story and figure out the main point you want your readers to know. That, then, should be the focus of the story's lead (first) paragraph.

Let's say, for example, that the school board met last night at Anytown High School. Parents were upset at the inconvenient time of the meeting. The board voted to double the per pupil textbook allocation.

Clearly, the last item holds the main story, and that should be the focus of your lead. No doubt the other details may be interesting and important, but don't clutter the lead with them – give the reader the news right up front.

Review your article when it's done. Take a look at your article. Can anything be cut? Then out it should go!

The shorter your articles, the more effective – because readers are more likely to read the whole thing.

Get organized! Wordy articles tend to ramble, often because the writer doesn't know where the story's going next. Decide in advance what the reader should know, line up the facts, get them on paper – and don't stray into editorial wilderness.

Combat Boring Writing

Get active! Always seek out active constructions over passive ones:

  • Yes: “Join us on October 12 to discuss...”
  • No: “There will be a meeting on October 12 for...”

Keep this in mind especially when writing headlines. Active verbs and descriptive phrases capture the reader's interest!

Stay down-to-earth. Avoid littering articles with too much jargon or too many acronyms.

Combat Irrelevance

Choose stories carefully. Remember that the primary purpose of your content is to inform and inspire readers in their work as public educators and Association members.

So while it's good to run classified ads, birthday announcements, and jokes – they liven up the pages and keep readers entertained – it ‘s important to provide a strong lineup of stories that work to improve public education.

Edit carefully. Make sure your articles contain only what people need to know.

Editor's Tips

If you're having trouble finding the focus of the story, pretend you're having a quick conversation with another Association member. How would you relate the story in conversation? What comes to mind first? That may be the way to go with the story.

Keep paragraphs short, too. A long block of unbroken text looks uninviting and may not hold readers' attention.