How to Write Like a Journalist

I don’t really consider myself a journalist anymore.

Yes, I’ve written for magazines and newspapers in the past...but my work these days is much more blog-centric.

The good news is: Most days, I still get to wear my journalist hat (which I imagine is a fedora.)

Wearing my journalist [fedora], I become a much better storyteller—and I’m able to quickly connect the dots and draw new, interesting conclusions based on the information I’ve collected.

You can do this, too (with or without a fedora.)

Whether it’s telling a client story or writing an interesting blog post, taking a journalistic approach will help you tell better stories that are dripping with ethos.

Let’s take a crash course in how exactly to do this.

  1. Start by figuring out the problem and its solution. Conflict resolution is a key element of any good story. That’s why you need to start by finding out what the obstacle was and how it was eventually overcome. From there, you can focus on how the people within your story got from point A to B.

  2. Be curious about the WHY. Always ask why, as it helps you better understand motivations, adds important nuances and details to the story, and helps fill in holes. Ask why when the question naturally arises in your mind.

  3. Ask emotion-based questions. When interviewing people, try to tease out the emotions around the situation to add a human element to what you’re writing, as it makes the story more relatable on a personal level. Instead of asking only surface-level questions, delve a bit deeper with questions like, “How did you feel about X? Was it frustrating/exciting/nerve-wracking?”

  4. Make notes on the details. Details are what make your story compelling and interesting. Be observant while interviewing clients, doing research, or digging into case studies. Look for the details that others may be glossing over. As you come across interesting data points, quotes, or conclusions, make detailed notes.

  5. Look for results and hard numbers. Black and white elements eliminate ambiguity make your story more powerful. Look for tangible outcomes like numbers, stats, etc. that validate and concrete the solution or conflict resolution you’re focused on.

If you can do these five things while researching and writing, you can make major improvements to the content you create. A few other journalistic habits to keep in mind:

  • Be prepared. Have questions ready beforehand if you’re interviewing someone. Be ready to take notes/record the conversation.

  • Take your time. The best writing happens when an idea has marinated in your mind for a while and you’ve had time to think deeply about the underlying story you’re trying to tell. Don’t rush it.

  • A good editor works wonders. Having a good editor that you can turn to for objective feedback can improve your writing 100-fold. If you’re too close to the story, a good editor can spot the weak areas and suggest ways it could be better/stronger.

Bottom line: You don't have to have an education or experience as a journalist to write like one.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.