10 top tips for tip-top sports writing

For all student journalists

The following list was provided by Granite Bay (Calif.) High School newspaper adviser Karl Grubaugh at the 2012 JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle.

1. Reporting comes before writing

Get out of your chair and get out there. Go do the work!

2. Don’t try to do too much

Find a single focus. Don’t try to tell a life story.

3. Show, don’t tell

Description and detail. Put the reader in the moment.

4. Don’t do game stories

Write magazine style sports stories. Only do gamers for online (4-5 paragraph game brief)

5. Avoid cliches like the plague

“The game will be won in the trenches.”

“We’re taking things one game at a time.”

“We gave it 110 percent.”

6. Avoid jock talk

Silence is a powerful tool. Learn to WAIT for better answers. Don’t ask cliche questions.

7. Use dramatic storytelling devices to tell your stories

Use the Wall Street Journal method (circular flow of story). Anecdote then nut graf/transitional paragraph.

Finish with your concluding anecdote to finish the story.

Consider storytelling approaches like italics to set off events in different time/place. Think story within a story.

8. Don’t always write the obvious

Look for the unknown. Look for stories people don’t know about. Find the unmined nuggets.

9. Sports is also news

It can be hard news or scandals. Don’t ignore real reality.

10. Read good sports writing

“The Best American Sports Writing” published annually

*look on our blogroll at U.S. Sports Columnists tab.


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