10 Tips for Writing Copy
THESE TIPS CAN HELP YOU WRITE EFFECTIVE YEARBOOK COPY.
1. KEEP SENTENCES SHORT AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE SIMPLE.
People don’t read long sentences. We can’t change them. Use strong verbs and strong nouns. Drop all the excess.
2. SHORTER PARAGRAPHS ARE MORE INVITING.
People also don’t read long paragraphs. One thought per paragraph. One quote per paragraph. A paragraph can be one sentence. Deep breath English lit teachers.
3. AVOID VAGUE WORDS.
Words such as “many,” “a lot,” “several,” “some” or “a few” waste space. Find the specific or drop the thought.
4. BE SPECIFIC AND ACCURATE.
You are reporting events. It matters that you say the team had a 7-3 season more than it matters that the team had a winning season.
5. KEEP YOUR READER’S ATTENTION.
Take a break from traditional copy every once and a while. Give them a treat with 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.
They know the year and they know the school. That’s the point of the book. Don’t mention them.
7. WRITE COPY IN THE THIRD PERSON.
You’re an objective reporter. Make it sound that way. “He,” “she,” “it” and “they” are your pronouns. Exceptions exist, but they are few.
8. DO NOT EDITORIALIZE.
Quotes are the most important part of the story. So are sources. Have at least three sources per story. Never make an opinion statement that cannot be attributed to a specific source. Be particularly careful with opinionated adjectives and adverbs.
9. FOLLOW YOUR STAFF’S STYLEGUIDE.
List the rules for using names, titles and figures as well as the rules for punctuation and capitalization. Associated Press knows all. Consult the pros when you are lost.
10. USE THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR READERS.
Write the way you speak. This isn’t a term paper people. But, avoid slang and obey basic grammar rules.
While the language varies, it’s no surprise so many people in the yearbook world share common sentiments. There’s a nearly universal dread as deadlines somehow become more difficult at the end. Everyone is busy and tired — maybe overwhelmed.
“A Cola Who?” This is a phrase often uttered in the yearbook room when the adviser mentions to the editor in chief that it is time to write the colophon for the last deadline. This article includes a checklist of what to include in your colophon.
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