Friday, April 04, 2014

Tips for Making Stories More Appealing

Contact: David Burton, civic communication specialist
County Program Director - Greene County
Tel: (417) 881-8909

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The best way to improve the readability of a media release is to use short sentences, short paragraphs, easy words and active verbs.

Using short sentences is essential when writing for newspapers according to David Burton, civic communication specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

“Sentences with 15 to 20 words are easy reading. Sentences longer than 30 words may be hard to understand,” said Burton.

Short paragraphs are important too.

Newspaper columns are narrow and what looks like a reasonably sized paragraph can be too long in print.

“Editors don’t like long paragraphs and neither do readers,” said Burton.

It is also important to use short, simple words instead of multi-syllable words with the same meaning.

“When a technical word must be used, explain its meaning,” said Burton.

Using personal words is also a good way to hold a reader’s interests. Using action verbs helps to grab reader’s attention.

“Words like ‘you,’ and ‘we,’ or a person’s name and a direct quote, give news copy more human interest,” said Burton. “For examples of grabbing action verbs take a look at sports headlines.”

For more information about writing media releases that will get used, purchase a copy of the book: “Newswriting for Non-journalists.” The book is now available for purchase on or at the Greene County Extension Center.

“It is a great tool for any community leader of volunteer that works with the news media or seeks to publicize community events,” said Burton, who edited and contributed to the book.

For 100 years, MU Extension has engaged Missourians in relevant programs based on University of Missouri research. The year 2014 marks the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which formalized the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a national network whose purpose is to extend university-based knowledge beyond the campus.

University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians. Each county extension center, with oversight by locally elected and appointed citizens, is your local link to practical education on almost anything. More information on this topic is available online at


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