TOP 10 TIPS FOR WRITING COPY

1. KEEP SENTENCES SHORT AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE SIMPLE.

Place subjects close to their verbs. Verbs and pronouns must agree in number with their subjects.

2. SHORTER PARAGRAPHS ARE MORE INVITING.

Keep most of your paragraphs under 40 words. Avoid long paragraphs and copy that is a single block.

3. AVOID VAGUE WORDS.

Words such as “many,” “a lot,” “several,” “some” or “a few” are weak and don’t really tell your readers anything.

4. BE SPECIFIC AND ACCURATE.

Good copy includes specific, accurate details. Saying that a team had “a 7–3 season” tells your readers more than “The team had a
winning season.”

5. KEEP YOUR READER’S ATTENTION.

Make copy easier to read by adding fact boxes, Q and A, bio boxes, timelines, quote collections and public opinion polls.

6. AVOID USING THE PHRASE “THIS YEAR” AND THE NAME OF YOUR SCHOOL.

What other year besides the current year is being highlighted in the yearbook? What other school is being covered in your yearbook? Your readers already know the school name and the year.

7. WRITE COPY IN THE THIRD PERSON.

Keeping copy in the third person maintains objectivity. Third-person pronouns include “he,” “she,” “it” and “they.” Although this is the general rule, there are times when writing in the first person, using first-person pronouns “I,” “me,” “us” and “we,” is more appropriate for the story or the theme.

8. DO NOT EDITORIALIZE.

Using quotes will help keep your copy objective. Have at least three sources in every story along with good quotes. Never make an opinion statement that cannot be attributed to a specific source. Keep the writer’s opinions out of the story. Be particularly careful with the use of adjectives and adverbs that offer opinions (successful, intently, etc.).

9. FOLLOW YOUR STAFF’S STYLE SHEET.

Each staff should have a style sheet that lists the rules for using names, titles and figures as well as the rules for punctuation and capitalization. Consult the Associated Press Stylebook for the professional standard in journalistic style.

10. USE THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR READERS.

Write the way you and your friends talk. If you don’t talk in complex sentences seen in term papers, don’t write them. Remember to avoid slang and to obey basic rules of grammar.

Contributed by:
Jane Roehrig and Heidi Ash
Herff Jones Sale Professionals, CA