How do I start my article? Most of the articles we write are feature stories; therefore, you want to use some kind of a feature lead. This means your lead won’t necessarily include the ―5 W’s‖—the who, what, when, where, and why — that you would typically include in a timely news story. If you interviewed people for your story, try to summarize what most of them said in one sentence. Example: Say you interviewed people about all the trash in the parking lot, and most of them said it’s there because there aren’t enough trash cans out there. Your lead could be something like: Most students at Pioneer say there’s a simple solution to all those McDonald’s bags, pop bottles, and candy wrappers in the parking lot: Put more trash cans out there. OK, what do I do next? Use a quote that supports what you claimed in your lead, like this: “I’ve actually thrown something on the ground once or twice, but only because I looked all around for a garbage can and couldn’t find one,” said Junior Tammy Litterer. “It’s a big parking lot. There should be a lot more garbage cans out there.” How do I start adding the quotes I got from other people? Basically, you will summarize what the person you’re quoting said, making another ―claim‖ like in the lead, and then you’ll support it–or prove it – with the quote, like this: Summary of what they said: Some students say there used to be more garbage cans in the parking lot, but many disappeared over the summer. The quote that proves they said it: “Last year there were cans like every other car row, but now there are only three cans at the front of the parking lot,” said Steve Whiner, a sophomore. followed by another one (or two or three) Summary of what they said: Others said they have found ways to avoid throwing trash on the ground.
The quote that proves they said it: “I drive by the trash cans in front and throw my stuff in on my way back from lunch,” said Suzy Smartypants, a senior. “Otherwise, my car would be filled with trash because I do not throw garbage on the ground.” What if everyone I interview says basically the same thing? (in this case that there aren’t enough garbage cans) Obviously, you want your article to have ―balance‖ – to consider all sides of the story. So talk to someone who you know probably won’t say the same things everyone you interviewed said, like a teacher or principal. The next part of your story could look like this: Principal Bart Simpson says the school has ordered another 25 trash cans for the parking lot. “We expect them to arrive any day, “ he said, “but in the meantime, there is no excuse for throwing garbage on the ground. We all go to school and work here, so we should all take pride in the appearance of the school and grounds.” How do I pick what parts of people’s quotes to use? Generally, your quotes should be short. You want to avoid quoting facts, and stick to quotes that are the opinions of the people you interview. The facts they tell you for your story can be used without quotes. DO NOT use quotes like this: “We used to have about 30 trash cans in the parking lot, but they got old and worn out, and some got dented up. We get new ones from a company in Flint. Our maintenance staff has been busy getting the school ready for the new school year, so they missed ordering new trash cans. We know it’s a problem right now, but we are going to take care of it as fast as we can,” said Principal Bart Simpson. Instead, DO use quotes like this: Principal Bart Simpson said the school’s maintenance staff overlooked ordering new trash cans for the start of school, but they have now been ordered. “We know it’s a problem right now, but we are going to take care of it as fast as we can,” he said. Here’s another example for a different story— DO NOT use quotes like this: “Homecoming Week will include a number of events and activities such as theme dress-up days, a school-wide pep rally, and a dance. We really want total school involvement this year. The committee tried
to come up with new and different activities so more kids would get involved,” said Junior Class Principal Marsha Brady. Instead, DO use quotes like this: Homecoming Week will include a number of events and activities such as theme dress-up days, a school-wide pep rally, and a dance. Junior Class Principal Marsha Brady said the committee that planned Homecoming tried to come up with new and different activities so more kids would get involved. “We really want total school involvement this year,” she said. What if I agree with what everyone I interview says, or if what they all say is obviously true? Can I put that in the article? NO! You will often agree with what people you interview say, or agree with the general tone of an article, but YOU are not part of the article. If your article has ANYTHING in it that isn’t a cold, hard fact, it must be attributed to (or quoted by) someone you interviewed. If someone can say ―Says who?‖ about your statement, you must attribute it to someone else. DO NOT do this: The trash in the parking lot is becoming a huge problem. (Says who?) Instead, DO this: Many students at Pioneer say the trash in the parking lot is becoming a problem. (you will have quotes in your article to “prove” this) OTHER EXAMPLES DO NOT: A lot of high school girls have eating disorders. (Says who?) DO: Health experts say a lot of high school girls have eating disorders. or Health care statistics show that more and more high school girls are struggling with eating disorders. (you will have quotes, or data, in your story to prove this) DO NOT: It’s very important to warm up before you work out. (Says who?)
DO: Coaches and fitness experts agree that warming up before a work out is the best way to avoid sports injuries. DO NOT: The Pioneer attendance policy needs to be changed. DO: Most students say they believe the Pioneer attendance policy needs to be changed. DO NOT: It’s really hard to go to your car between classes because there aren’t enough lockers. (Says who?) DO: Pioneer seniors say they don’t have enough time between classes to go to their cars, so they hope the school puts in new lockers. What do I do with information that isn’t quotes, such as background information or things I need to explain to the reader? You want to be as brief as possible, and use a conversational style — write like you talk (without the slang!), like this: As a quick look around the parking lot shows, much of the trash there is the remains of fast food lunches. Although only juniors and seniors are permitted to leave school grounds at lunch — and that’s only with their parents’ permission — students freely admit that lots of sophomores and even some freshmen leave regularly. or The Pioneer Local School Rules, which are mailed to all students in August with their registration information, say that students can be charged a $30 maintenance fee for “destruction of property.” Principal Simpson says this includes littering. Ann Arbor traffic laws also are enforced in the school parking lot. The cost for a littering ticket in Ann Arbor right now is $100. (Says who?)
How do I end my article? There are a lot of ways to end an article, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not use trite, opinionated statements, like: The next time you’re in the parking lot, don’t throw your trash on the ground. Keep our school beautiful! Instead, try to find a quote to wrap up your piece, like this:
Sophomore Bob Squarepants says he hopes the new trash cans will keep the parking lot cleaner. “It should help, I hope. It’s pretty nasty to have to hop over fast food bags every time you come into the building.” Or wrap up your articles with a fact that ―concludes‖ the piece: Principal Simpson said the new garbage cans will be placed so that students in the parking lot won’t have to walk more than 30 feet in any direction to find one. “They’ll also be painted purple and white,” he said, “so they should be pretty easy to spot.”
In the examples above, you started a new paragraph with each new speaker, and even when you put in each quote. Should I do that? Unlike ―school writing,‖ news writing is meant to be brief and simple to read. You do not want long paragraphs; they are too hard to read, and they look terrible laid out on a page. You should start a new paragraph with each new person quoted, and it’s OK to start a new paragraph for the quote, after the paragraph in which you summarize what the speaker is saying. You are aiming for more small paragraphs and fewer long paragraphs. How do I punctuate quotes--where do the commas, quote marks and periods go? Look at the examples throughout this handout; they are punctuated correctly. However, for some explanation, there are only a few ways… Attribution (who said it) first: Simpson said, “We know it’s a problem right now, but we are going to take care of it as fast as we can.” Attribution (who said it) last: “We know it’s a problem right now, but we are going to take care of it as fast as we can,” Simpson said. Attribution (who said it) in the middle of two complete sentences: “I’ve actually thrown something on the ground once or twice, but only because I looked all around for a garbage can and couldn’t find one,” said Junior Tammy Litterer. “It’s a big parking lot. There should be a lot more garbage cans out there.”
Attribution (who said it) in the middle of a single sentence: “They’ll also be painted purple and white,” he said, “so they should be pretty easy to spot.”