Feature Writing: Writing Personal Columns

Column Writing 

  • one of the most lucrative and satisfying features to write.
  • a successful personal columnist can expect to earn six-figure sums.
  • it offers a stimulating writing challenge.
  • it offers an opportunity to let off steam.

2

What is a Personal Column?

Opinion Pieces – these offer a subjective, balanced and rounded view of a current issue or event (sometimes an individual)

OR

Personal Viewpoint Pieces – these provide an individual slant on a particular topic. They’re individual but will always have a ‘unique selling point’.

Both are subjective pieces combining evidence, analysis and comment in order to influence a reader’s opinion. However, they often reflect the opinions of the publication and not necessarily the individual who is writing them.

‘The primary purpose of an opinion piece is to leave the reader in absolutely no doubt about what they should think’ about the issue written about. The aim, in more serious press, ‘is not to bludgeon the reader but to lead them in a logical way to a reasoned conclusion’, whereas, Tabloid newspapers, are perfectly happy to bombard their readers. Regional press sits in the middle of the two approaches. column

What Makes A Good Personal Column?

  • Being concise.
  • Being straight to the point with directness and simplicity.
  • Meeting deadlines.
  • Knowing your audience.
  • Knowing your subject.
  • Having something to say – well-written, well-informed and well-argued opinions make for an interesting and logical piece.
  • Writing something that is readable, interesting and entertaining.
  • Knowing its a soapbox and not a message board (don’t mention people you know).

Writing Personal Columns

Start with your intro and use it to grab the reader’s attention. Then expand from this and develop whatever point you began in your intro. Imagery and dramatic irony could be helpful. You can draw out the introducing paragraphs to add context before making your point to build tension like with other features. Factual detail and imagery can make for an interesting read. Once you’ve established the scenario, spell out the issue that you’re writing about.

Even if you’re column is about a hard-hitting, potentially thought-numbing and depressing subject, end your column on a positive, maybe, hopeful note. Reassure the reader and don’t upset them as they read your column on their way to work.

NOTES IN THIS POST ARE FROM: SUSAN PAPE AND SUE FEATHERSTONE, 2006, FEATURE WRITING: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION, LONDON: SAGE. P96 – 105 (CHAPTER 8)
I DO NOT OWN THE ABOVE IMAGES, THEY ARE FROM: http://allbanglanewspaper.net/ and https://schol.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/how-to-write-a-column/.
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