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Six Essay Writing Tips to Impress Your Professor

So, you're a journalism student and you want to know how to impress your brand new professor. Maybe you've never written journalistically before. Maybe you've been writing essays and stories since you were in high school, but you don't know how to make your mark in college. Believe me, I've been there. And, let me tell you, it doesn't take much effort to make a good first impression.

Why? Because you're reading this article, for one thing. That means you care about your career. You care about making your essays count. And that gives you a distinct edge over the competition. But is it enough?

After reading this article, I'm going to guess yes.

Below are six tips to writing better that many college students forget to use. Master all six, and you'll be well on your way to making a positive impression.


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1. Do more research than necessary

Always, always, always do more research than you have to do. Audience members love statistics - and so do your professors. It shows that you're willing to do the work. Gone are the days when journalists had to spend their afternoons in the library to find charts that backed up their findings. Welcome to the new age. Log into a computer, type in a few keywords, and you're ready to go.

One thing to remember, though, when you're sifting through hundreds of data options. Use ".org" or ".gov" sources whenever possible. There are severe penalties when websites of these domains are inaccurate, and you'll be able to stand your ground if a statistic you print is proven wrong. Also, keep track of the bibliography you use and be sure to identify them in your story.

2. Include quotes from higher-ups

If you're working on a piece for your professor, try to do more than the average student would do. Instead of interviewing students in the choir program, interview the director. Instead of interviewing an employee at a local store, interview the manager or the owner. The higher up you're willing to go, the more promise you show as a reliable, go-getter type journalist who isn't afraid to ask the right questions from the right people.

3. Pay attention to typography

I can't even begin to tell you how few journalists take advantage (or even know about) typography. It's all about the font you choose, and how you place it. Unless you're in a graphics course, you're probably going to be faced with limited options. All you really have to do is match your headline, your deck, your captions, and your body copy. I would highly suggest researching the difference between serif and sans-serif. Using sans-serif typefaces in your headlines and decks is usually key, while using serif typefaces in your body copy and your captions makes it easier for the reader to follow along.

Again, close attention to this kind of detail will make your work look professional and your stories seem well-considered.

4. Read your pieces out loud before submission

I've emphasized this a hundred times, and I'll push it again. Read your work out loud before you turn it in. Whether you're submitting your piece to an editor or a professor, they're going to call you out for basic grammar and spelling mistakes. Too many students write a sloppy copy and turn it in. Don't be that person.

In fact, I would say not being that person will put you ahead of fifty percent of the kids in your class. And that's just a rough estimate based on my experience in college.

5. Go above and beyond

This has pretty much been the theme of this article. Go above and beyond for your work. Interview the higher-ups. Talk to more than one person. Make your story layout interesting and unique. Pay attention to typography. Go the extra mile. All of these things will help you push the boundaries of your work, and they'll also entice you to be a more productive journalist after you graduate. These are all good habits to get into, so make sure you give it a try.

6. Stick to a strict word count

Journalism professors hate long, rambling stories that miss the point of being, well, a story. Set a strict word limit for yourself based on the amount of information and interesting quotes you have. A decent word count for a top-notch story is 500-600 words. Sometimes, featured articles can be as long as 1500 or 2000 words. But you aren't usually creating major pieces like that for introductory courses. A "blurb" shouldn't be longer than 200-300 words. This is all going to depend on the column space you're given, especially if you're on a newspaper staff.

The point is, make a little space go a long way. That's what our job is all about.

Good luck!


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