Start by listing all of the facts. Figure out the whats, whos, wheres, hows, whys and whens.
In your first paragraph, you should state who, what, how and why. In the second paragraph, state where and how.
Your headline gives all the information upfront, the whole story is given away and nothing is withheld from the reader. You should not include a definite article at the beginning. Do not use full stops. Do not put a quote in your headline. Do not name anyone in your headline unless they are well-known.
e.g. WRONG: There Were Three Dead In Motorway Pile Up CORRECT: Three Dead In Motorway Pile Up
In the intro, you should repeat this information with a little more detail but without mentioning anyone’s names.
e.g. A mother and son, and a van driver, were killed in a motorway collision.
In the first paragraph, all the information can be described in full. Names and ages can be mentioned.
e.g. Siobhan Farraday, 32, and her son, Stephen, 6, along with Jonathan Montgomery, a Derby van driver, were killed in a pile up near junction 23 at 6pm on Friday 10th October.
You must give full names when you first mention a person and any time you mention them after this you must address them as Miss, Mr, Mrs and so on…
e.g. Mrs Farraday and her son were on their way to meet father…
You must add an attribution in your news feature to explain where your information came from to prove that you have used a reliable source, such as the police. You can also use this to wrap up the piece.
e.g. Police are unsure whether Mr Montgomery’s alcohol consumption was a contributing factor in the accident.
For quotes, you want to use double speech marks. Punctuation, such as full stops, go inside the quote marks. You must write your quotes like this:
e.g. John Smith said: “blah blah.”
You may also paraphrase speech, or summarise what a person said. News writers tend to only use quotes for the most interesting sound bites, paraphrased speech allows the copy to flow better.
TIP: Use active sentences not passive ones.
e.g. Passive: The dog was being washed by the girl.
Active: The girl was washing the dog.
Passive: Three conmen posing as tree surgeons stole £55 from an 84-year-old man.
Active: An 84-year-old widower lost £55 after he was conned by three men posing as tree surgeons.
In active sentences, the action is done by or done to the person. The person is the focus of the sentence.
TIP: Use proper capitalisation. Don’t use exclamation marks.
Below is my full example of a simple news story:
THREE DEAD IN MOTORWAY PILE UP
A mother and son, and a van driver, were killed in a motorway collision.
Siobhan Farraday, 32, and her son, Stephen, 6, along with Jonathan Montgomery, a Derby van driver, were killed in a pile up near junction 23 at 6pm on Friday 10th October.
Mrs Farraday and her son were on their way to meet father, Allan Farraday, from East Midlands airport. Mr Montgomery was travelling to a firm in Rotherham. He had been drinking and was slightly over the limit. Both parties ended up in the collision.
The victims had to be cut free from the wreckage. Mrs Farraday and the van driver were found dead when emergency services arrived. Stephen Farraday, after being rushed to Derby Royal Infirmary, died from his injuries in hospital. Allan Farraday was contacted at the airport and was with his son when he died.
There were three other cars in the accident but no one else was seriously hurt.
Police are unsure whether Mr Montgomery’s alcohol consumption was a contributing factor in the accident.