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How to Write a Newspaper Column
Last Updated: September 3, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Janet Peischel . Janet Peischel is a Writer and Digital Media Expert and the Owner of Top of Mind Marketing. With more than 15 years of consulting experience, she develops content strategies and builds online brands for her clients. Prior to consulting, Janet spent over 15 years in the marketing industry, in positions such as the Vice President of Marketing Communications for the Bank of America. Janet holds a BA and MA from the University of Washington. There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 580,690 times.
Writing a newspaper column provides space for a columnist to share their opinions or analyze a chosen topic using their own voice. While a newspaper column does afford a lot of room for freedom, there are certain conventions that should be followed to write an effective column. By learning how to present your subject in an interesting way and how to present your writing in a straightforward manner, you can write a successful newspaper column that engages your audience.
Developing and Sharing Your Views
- A good way to find your voice is to read newspaper articles that report just the facts, and then freewriting a response. Do this with 5 or 6 articles, then chart how you reacted. You might notice that you consistently take a sarcastic tone or an optimistic one.
- Your editor will also be able to help you refine your voice, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
- A good way to test your opinion is to ask yourself, “Will someone have a strong reaction to my article?” If the answer is yes, you’ve successfully formed an opinion. If your stance doesn’t elicit any reaction, then you’ve probably written a very neutral piece.
- Make sure you can back that opinion up with researched evidence. This will help persuade your readers to buy into your opinion.
- If you’ve had a situation where prescription drug costs buried you financially, start off your column with an anecdote about this time in your life before you lay out your fiery opinion on the high cost of prescription drugs for seniors.
- Instead of saying, “The facilities for race horses are inadequate,” use first person to make the statement more compelling. For example: “The facilities that I, as a trainer, have visited don't meet the horses needs, which affects their performance and well-being.”
Choosing Your Column Topic
- Scan newspaper and magazine headlines to see what events are most popular. These reoccurring issues are ones that the general public will be interested in.
- Often newspaper columns are about politics, but they can draw on social issues also, such as prison conditions.
- Don’t be afraid to include yourself in your topic. Look at your own personal history for a way to contribute something unique to your column.  X Research source
- Dive into the details and see where they take you. Looking closely at details may provoke a new idea.
- Focusing on local angles is a great way to make your column relevant to your reader.  X Trustworthy Source Kansas University Center for Community Health and Development Community-based research center focused on supporting public health development and education Go to source
- If, for example, you’re going to say, “Social media use by students during school hours is crushing student productivity,” you’d better be prepared to offer a solution to get students to put aside social media and concentrate on the tasks at hand.
- If you’ve got a strong point of view on a particular topic, but have no solutions to offer, you should wait to write the column until you’ve got more concrete solutions.
Engaging Your Audience
- For example, “Getting Stains Out of Your Carpet” is a mundane title that’s not likely to capture your reader’s attention.
- Alternatively, “3 Unusual Household Items That’ll Get Red Wine Stains Out” is more interesting because it gives the reader a promise.
- Attention-grabbing opening lines include: dramatic anecdotes, controversial statements, irony and wit, references to new studies, or statements that contradict conventional wisdom.  X Research source
- For example, if you’re writing against a new tax proposal, explain to your readers that this new policy will increase their taxes.
- Try writing in shorter sentences or using contractions to adopt a more conversational style.
- Pretend that you’re writing to a friend and address the reader directly.
- Try talking in your head as you write and then read it aloud afterwards to see how it sounds.  X Research source
- Stating that, “It is believed by the city council that the townspeople were misled by the mayor” is wordy and leaves the author wondering if the city council is an authoritative source. Instead, try writing that, “The city council believes that the mayor misled the townspeople.” You can note how the active voice sentence is more authoritative and straightforward.
Formatting Your Column
- Get used to whittling down your initial drafts. After you read each sentence ask yourself, “How is this sentence contributing to my argument? Is every word necessary?”
- If you find yourself unsure whether words or sentences contribute to your argument, take them out and read the article again to see if their absence alters your argument.
- For example, if you’re writing that long-distance relationships are a bad idea, introduce this idea in the first paragraph. Present the problematic aspects of long-distance relationships in the following paragraphs to support your stance.
- You can conduct research at the library or from your computer, but you can also conduct field research by interviewing people involved in your story.  X Research source
- Always make sure you properly cite your sources.
- If you include a quote be sure to name your source and their expertise. This way the reader is able to assess the reliability of that person's statement.
- Journalism's punctuation is very different from your normal English formatting so you’ll need to review the AP format carefully.
Sample Newspaper Columns
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Always check the guidelines of submission for the specific newspaper you’d like to submit a column to. Be sure to include a brief bio and cover letter with each submission.  X Research source www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/pressroom/.../OpEdGuide.doc Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Read your favorite columnist's work to help inspire you. What about their writing makes it so appealing, so useful to the reader, and so popular that readers keep coming back for more? Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Remember your libel laws. If you don't know them, learn them to avoid possible legal repercussions!  X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ http://businessjournalism.org/2014/04/the-art-of-column-writing/
- ↑ http://www.elon.edu/e-web/news/writers/writing-opinions.xhtml
- ↑ https://styleguide.duke.edu/toolkits/writing-media/how-to-write-an-op-ed-article/
- ↑ http://extension.missouri.edu/p/CM360
- ↑ Janet Peischel. Digital Media Expert. Expert Interview. 30 March 2021.
- ↑ http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/tips-on-writing-newspaper-editorial-format.html
- ↑ https://letterpile.com/writing/Ten-Tips-For-Better-Column-and-Article-Writing
- ↑ http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/participation/promoting-interest/guest-columns-editorials/main
- ↑ https://goinswriter.com/catchy-headlines/
- ↑ https://crowdfavorite.com/how-to-write-effective-attention-grabbing-headlines/
- ↑ http://writetodone.com/how-to-write-conversationally/
- ↑ https://journalistsresource.org/tip-sheets/writing/how-to-write-an-op-ed-or-column
- ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/735/02/
- ↑ www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/pressroom/.../OpEdGuide.doc
- ↑ https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/writingwithlibelinmind.pdf
About This Article
If you’re struggling to find a topic for a newspaper column, look at current events to see what your readers will be interested in. When you find an issue that you have an original opinion on, find a unique angle to present your opinion from. For example, you could draw from personal experience or focus on how the issue affects your locality. Whatever you write about, make sure you offer a solution to the problem so readers are interested in reading your column. To learn how to engage readers and format the column so it is easier to read, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Structure of Column Writting
Intro or lead.
In column writting in the lead or intro, it is about bringing to focus what columnist wants to say, and the crux of the matter is here. However, there is a distinct difference between Instructive and Opinionated column writting, and hence their Intros are changed accordingly, where the tone may vary from simple directive approach to a more casual, or informal style. Directions are always carefully written to eliminate ambiguity. No doubt, a column is a personal writing to the writer, but it must attract the reader, and the writer must keep the reader following the write-up.
Nut graph (angle)
It is usually determined by local conditions and the predilections of the concerned writers. The success of a columnist lies in his efficiency and proficiency to attract and hold the readers, and he must possess some cardinal points to impel the readers to continue the perusals of the column. Any 'Angling' in column writting must be considering readers' intent and understanding. Otherwise, after giving an understanding, slant of the column is better, and there must be nothing beyond the common understanding.
Bring in all facts, arguments and analyses in the main body. Besides this, comments must be added as well. However, effort should be at trying to keep the focus of the reader by never letting loose on arguments. However, nothing irrelevant should be written, as they say 'Never take the body for granted'. This is also the portion where one should be coming up with suggestions and advices besides rounding up of the views and news.
This is summing up the column, where one must be raising the questions or answering the questions previously raised. Nothing ambiguous is said to conclude the column. Success of the conclusion is that the reader must feel satisfied after reading the column, and he must feel that all questions answered, and nothing has been left unanswered. Structure because of content
Structure of a column varies from subject to subject, but one must be sticking to the subject and coming up with the usual format required under the head, and making the subject clear to reader. Format can be fluctuated, but not digressing to achieve novelty because the effort is to make the reader understand the subject by following a particular subject. Pointing out different structures of columns may seem a useless exercise, since column writing is so individual. However, the following Structures are more common:
Questions and Answers
The questions come from readers and the answers are supplied by the columnist.
Some columns written are a collection of events coming up, awards handed out, gossip and anything else too small for a headline. However, more newspapers are abandoning these for a thematic grab bag.
Column writing built around a single anecdote take on the character of a mini-feature.
Feature Column writting
A feature colum writting, usually a profile, is a common column format. The difference between this and a regular feature is the greater length of the regular feature, and, sometimes, personal involvement of the columnist indicated by the use of personal pronoun.
The tone may vary from the simple directive approach to a more casual, informal style. The directions are always carefully written to eliminate ambiguity and writers often give the material an "idiot run" to be sure there are no steps missing.
Opinionated Columns writting
The columnist, as column is personal writing to the writer.
- IMPORTANCE OF LANGUAGE:Feature writing, Explanation of the definition
- SOURCES OF MATERIAL:Commemorations, Science and Technology
- INTERNET USAGE IN FEATURE WRITING:Be very careful, Website checklist
- WHAT MAKES A GOOD FEATURE?:Meeting demands of readers
- DEMANDS OF A FEATURE:Entertainment and Interest, Both sides of picture
- CONDUCTING AND WRITING OF INTERVIEWS:Kinds of interviews
- WRITING NOVELTY INTROS:Punch or astonisher intros, Direct quotation intros
- STRUCTURE OF FEATURES:Intro or Lead, Transition, Body
- SELECTION OF PICTURES, ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS:Sources
- FEATURES AND EDITORIAL POLICY:Slanting or angling feature
- HUMAN INTEREST AND FEATURE WRITING:Obtaining facts, Knowing how to write
- NEWSPAPER FEATURE STORY:The Business Story, The Medical Story
- THE NEWSPAPER FEATURE STORY IDEA:Conflict, Human interest
- MAGAZINE FEATURE VERSUS DAILIES:Feature versus Editorial, An overview
- WRITING THE SPECIALISED FEATURE STORY:The Deadline Feature Sidebar
- MODERN FEATURE AND ITS TREATMENT:Readers constraints
- MODERN FEATURE WRITING TECHNIQUE:The Blundell Technique
- ADVICE TO FEATURE WRITERS:A guide to better writing, Love Writing
- COLUMN WRITING:Definition, Various definitions, Why most powerful?
- COLUMN WRITING IN MODERN AGE:Diversity of thought, Individuality
- ENGLISH AND URDU COLUMNISTS:More of anecdotal, Letting readers know
- TYPES OF COLUMNS:Reporting-in-Depth Columns, Gossip Columns
- OBJECTIVES AND IMPORTANCE OF COLUMNS:Friendly atmosphere, Analysis
- WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIALS AND BASIC POINTS THAT GO IN TO THE FORMING OF A COLUMN?
- STYLE:General and a specialised writing, How can a columnist improve it?
- GENERAL STYLE OF THE COLUMN:Unified Style, Anecdotal Style, Departmental Style
- STRUCTURE OF A COLUMN:Intro or lead, Main body, Conclusion
- COLUMN WRITING TIPS:Write with conviction, Purpose, Content
- SELECTION OF A TOPIC:Close to your heart, Things keeping in Queue
- QUALITIES OF A COLUMN WRITER:Personal, Professional, Highly Educated
- WHAT MUST BE PRACTISED BY A COLUMNIST?:Pleasantness, Fluency
- SOURCES OF MATERIAL OF COLUMNS:Constant factors, Interview
- USEFUL WRITING DEVICES:Be specific, Use Characterisation, Describe scenes
- COMMON WRITING PROBLEMS:Eliminate clichés, Dont misuse words
- WRITING THE COLUMN:Certain thumb rules, After writing the column
- ARTICLE WRITING:Introduction, Definition, Contents, Main Segments, Main body
- HOW TO WRITE AN ARTICLE?:It is more efficient, It is more believable
- TYPES AND SUBJECTS OF ARTICLE:Interview articles, Utility articles
- FIVE COMMANDMENTS, NO PROFESSIONAL FORGETS:Use Key Words
- ARTICLES WRITING MISTAKES:Plagiarising or 'buying articles, Rambling
- WRITING THE ARTICLE:Various parts of article, The topic sentence
- What to do when you have written the article?:Writing the first draft
- TEN STANDARD ARTICLE FORMATS:The informative articles
- LEGAL AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR WRITERS:Libel, Doctoring Quotes
- REVISION:Importance of language, Feature writing, Sources of material
Writing a column
Everyone has read a column in a newspaper or magazine. The word column comes from the space that a newspaper has reserved for the piece. Most columnists have a permanent place in a newspaper or magazine. The columnist can express himself fully in this section and that is what makes the column so challenging to write.
If you google the word 'column', you will soon find out that there are no real rules for writing a column. A column is a free genre and often a creative outburst from the writer. Anything is possible, as long as you are captivating. There are, however, guidelines that can be followed to make a column more incisive.
Subject Choose a topic about which you have enough to say. For example, you can write about why you started this magazine, or about something you experienced with the person for whom you are making the magazine .
Structure Most articles, such as an essay or an editorial , are divided into an introduction, a core and a conclusion. This way, the text becomes a coherent whole. A column can also be structured into an introduction, core and conclusion. The introduction introduces the subject and draws the reader's attention to it. In the body, you present arguments, examples or explanations, and in the end you neatly summarise the whole piece. Finally, you end your essay with a strong conclusion or a catchy punch line.
Content Don't make the column too long. A shorter text has a much better chance of getting your message across to the reader. Especially nowadays, with the new generation growing up with Twitter and the average tweet being limited to 140 characters, a text can quickly become too long. The average length of a column is about 350 words. It is also important that the text evokes an emotion in the reader. For example, it should make the reader laugh or feel touched by it.
Format Where do you want to place the text? Do you want an image to accompany the text? What colours do you want on the page surrounding the column? These are examples of questions about the design of your column. If you find it difficult to create the layout of your column yourself, you can also use the templates in the online programme. There are several options to choose from.
For some sample templates that you can use look down below:
Writersblock? Are you stuck? Then take a look at how others do it. For example in well-known magazines such as Vogue, Glamour or V Magazine.