Feature articles are windows into the human experience, giving more detail and description than a hard news story, which typically relies on the style of writing. Features focus on an event or individual, giving the reader a chance to more fully understand some interesting dimension of that subject. Writing a feature article can be a highly creative and fun activity, but it does take hard work and planning to write an effective and engaging article.
Part One of Five:
Choosing a Topic Edit
Find a compelling story. Read the news and talk to people to find interesting stories. Think about what phenomena are happening and how you can talk about them in a new and innovative way.
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Do research on your topic. Finding out background information can help you figure out an angle and identify subjects to interview. Doing online research is good, but it may only get you so far. You may also need to consult books to make sure you are fully aware of the issues surrounding a topic. A historical article may require a visit to an archive.
Decide on the type of feature you want to write. There are a number of ways to write a feature, depending on what you want to focus on. Some of these include:
- Human Interest. Many feature stories focus on an issue as it impacts people. They often focus on one person or a group of people.
- Profile. This feature type focuses on a specific individual’s character or lifestyle. This type is intended to help the reader feel like they’ve gotten a window into someone’s life. Often, these features are written about celebrities or other public figures.
- Instructional. How-to feature articles teach readers how to do something. Oftentimes, the writer will write about their own journey to learn a task, such as how to make a wedding cake.
- Historical. Features that honor historical events or developments are quite common. They are also useful in juxtaposing the past and the present, helping to root the reader in a shared history.
- Seasonal. Some features are perfect for writing about in certain times of year, such as the beginning of summer vacation or at the winter holidays.
- Behind the Scenes. These features give readers insight into an unusual process, issue or event. It can introduce them to something that is typically not open to the public or publicized.
Consider the audience you’d like to talk to. As you brainstorm story ideas, think about who will read these stories. Ask yourself questions such as Who will be my readers? and What kinds of angles appeal to these readers? For example, you might write a profile about a pastry chef, but you’ll write differently depending on if your readers are aspiring chefs or if they are wedding planners looking to buy a wedding cake. 
Consider the type of publication you’re writing for. If you are writing for a magazine or blog with a very specific topic, such as gardening, then you will likely need to tailor your feature article to reflect that interest in some way. A newspaper, on the other hand, is meant for a more general audience and may be more open to varied content.
Choose a format for your article. Feature articles do not have a particular formula the way hard news articles do. You don’t need to follow the “inverted pyramid” style of writing that conveys the “who, what, where, when and why” of a news story. Instead, choose a more inventive way to write a story. Some possible formats may include:
- Start by describing a dramatic moment and then uncover the history that led up to that moment.
- Use a story-within-a-story format, which relies on a narrator to tell the story of someone else.
- Start the story with an ordinary moment and trace how the story became unusual.
Decide on approximate length for the article. Newspaper feature stories run between 500 and 2,500 words, while magazine features run from 500 to 5,000 words. Blog features run from 250 to 2,500 words.
- Check with your editor to see how long they would like your article to be.
Outline your article. Start piecing together your article by reviewing your notes, selecting quotes, and drafting a structure for the article. Start with your introduction and decide how you want to build the article. What information do you want to reveal first? As you get to the conclusion, think of the overall theme or lasting impression you want to leave with the reader. 
- Consider what you absolutely must have in the story and what can be cut. If you are writing a 500-word article, for example, you will likely need to be very selective about what you include, whereas you have a lot more space to write in a 2,500 word article.
Part Four of Five:
Writing the Article Edit
Write a hook to open your story. Your first paragraph is your chance to hook your reader and draw them into your story. If the opening paragraph is dry or difficult to follow, you will lose your reader and they won’t continue on to the rest of your story.
- Start with an interesting fact, a quote, or an anecdote for a good hook.
- Your opening paragraph should only be about 2-3 sentences.
Expand on your lead in the second paragraph. While your lead might draw people in, your second paragraph (and subsequent paragraphs) need to start explaining the reason for the story. Why are we reading this story? What is important about it?
Follow your outline. You’ve drafted your article in outline form, which can help you stay on track to building a good feature article. The outline can also help you remember how details connect to each other and how quotes support certain points that you’re making.
- Be flexible, however. Sometimes when you write, the flow makes sense in a way that is different from your outline. Be ready to change the direction of your piece if it seems to read better that way.
Show, don’t tell. By writing a feature article, you have the chance to describe people and scenes to the reader.  Describe a setting or person so that the reader can clearly envision it in their mind.
Don’t use too many quotes. While it can be tempting to include the interviewee’s own words in the story, don’t rely too much on quoting them. Otherwise, this becomes more of a straightforward interview. Write around their quotes to give them context, build the story and help the reader interpret what the interviewee is saying.
Choose language that is appropriate to your readers. Consider the target audience of the publication for which you are writing and write to their level and interest. Do not assume they are familiar with what you’re talking about, so you may need to explain certain things. Be sure to spell out acronyms and explain jargon or slang. Write in a style that is more conversational, rather than stiff and academic. 
Keep your opinion out of the article. A feature article is a piece that conveys information and detail about a person or phenomenon. It is not an opportunity for you to give your opinion on a topic. Rather, your personality is conveyed through your writing style. 
Revise your article. Once you finish writing, put the article away for a day to get some distance from it. Come back to it when you are fresh and read through it all the way. Think of ways to sharpen descriptions, clarify points and streamline explanations. What areas do you need to cut out? What areas need additional information?
Check for accuracy, and check again. The last thing you want to do is write an article that does not have accurate details or information. Double-check how names are spelled, the order of events, and other pertinent details.
Have your subject read your article. Not all feature writers do this, and in fact, some may argue that this can detract from the journalistic quality of a piece. But many subjects often want to see their article before it is printed in order to make sure they feel they are represented properly and fairly.
- You can choose to incorporate or not incorporate their suggestions.
Check spelling and grammar. Do not detract from your feature article with misspelled words and poor grammar. Consult “The Elements of Style,” which is the standard for proper grammar usage. 
- Consult “The Associated Press Stylebook” for style guidelines, such as how to format numbers, dates, street names, and so on. 
Get feedback on the article. Ask a friend or colleague to read through the article. Your editor will also give you feedback. Be open to this feedback and don’t take it personally. They want you to write a good, solid article, and will give you advice on how to change, clarify or expand on what you’ve already written in order to make the best article possible.
Write a headline. Your publication might write headlines for you, but if you want the initial entry into the article to be reflective of your content, write a headline that does so. The headline is short and to the point, using no more than about 10-15 words, if that. A headline should be action-oriented and should convey why the story is important. It should grab the reader and draw them into the article. 
- If you want to convey slightly more information, write a sub-headline, which is a secondary sentence that builds on the headline.
Submit your article by the deadline. Make sure your article is submitted to your editor or to the publication on or before the deadline. Late articles usually do not get printed, and then all of your hard work will either be delayed until the next issue or not published at all.
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