Feature Writing: Specialist Features and the Health Feature

Some writers enjoy to write many different features on general topics. Others like to specialise to something that they are passionate about, perhaps they studied the area at university or have a natural talent for it. By specialising, feature writers are able to build up a contacts book full of people particular to that specialism.

When writing a specialist feature you may not be writing a subject you know a lot about. For smaller publications, journalists and general feature writers must write the specialist pieces and not just the general pieces. You need to become an expert in whatever you are writing about and show enthusiasm, even if you do not particularly care for the subject yourself because your readers will.

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The same rules apply to specialist features as other features: ‘you need a strong peg and a good angle. Do your research and carry out interviews. Keep the writing simple’. You can use some specialist terms and vocabulary relevant to the subject but try not to over-complicate your writing.

‘The job of the journalist is to act as a translator between expert and reader’.

Specialist features are more likely to use bigger images to accompany the text of the feature than a news story or even more general features. Think about graphics, cartoons, photos and drawings.

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Health 

  • A doctor might write a regular column.
  • Specialist writers will produce a range of features on related topics.
  • The move away from traditional sources of information (family doctors, wise women, healers) means that health information isn’t always on hand for people. Health features help to inform.
  • Health affects people (life, death, sickness, suffering, medical miracles) and this provides human interest and drama.
  • There are two approaches when it comes to writing about health: the psychological approach and the medical model.
  • The first often talks about how society is materially rich and so we often struggle with personal fulfilment and therefore suffer with anxiety, stress, depression… which may manifest itself in issues like eczema.
  • The other often talks about medical responses to issues and medical breakthroughs.

‘The role of the health writer here is to offer reassurance and solutions and to encourage readers to feel able to take control of their own health’.

Types of Health Feature

  • Product review
  • Health news
  • Common or unusual ailments
  • Aspirational feature
  • Human interest

Elements of Health Features

  • Information about the condition (prevalence, symptoms, outcomes)
  • Treatments
  • Case Study
  • Expert View

Other specialist features

  • Business
  • Crime
  • Travel
  • Women Only
NOTES IN THIS POST ARE FROM: SUSAN PAPE AND SUE FEATHERSTONE, 2006, FEATURE WRITING: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION, LONDON: SAGE. P124 – 137 (CHAPTER 10)
I DO NOT OWN THE ABOVE IMAGES, THEY ARE FROM: https://www.pexels.com/search/writing/ and https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-difference-between-health-writing-medical-michelle-guillemard.
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