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Conditions of being a Writer

Top work – you’re now a proper contributor-writer-journo for The National Student (we couldn’t decide on a title, and frankly we don’t want to pigeonhole you) – pick the one you like best and go with it.

There are a few things we do need to stipulate though, just to make everyone’s lives easier when it comes to uploading articles.

Your writing

Writing well is what got you here and we’d really like you to continue doing more of the same. As many articles as you want. These articles come in a few formats:

  • News pieces
  • Opinion pieces
  • Features
  • Interviews
  • Reviews

Writing a news piece

These are the easiest and quickest articles to produce. The below may be obvious but stick with it:

  • News pieces can be rewrites of existing news articles, so long as the original source is mentioned.
  • Originally sourced news pieces are always well received, too. They will also be given priority when it comes to promotion as we want more news direct from campuses.
  • Make the facts the focal point of the piece (most important / catchy / shocking parts at the top, least important near the end with a nice concluding sentence).
  • The story should be summed up in the first paragraph, that way lazy readers can zone out if they need, but those really dedicated to a story will want to learn more.
  • Avoid adding your own opinion. Add your own flair to the piece by all means, and try to source original comments from people mentioned, but news pieces are about the facts of the story. Opinions are for the below...

Writing an opinion piece

This is our forte and what differentiates us from other student media. We genuinely, hand-on-our-heart want to know your opinion on basically everything. But we again have a few caveats when it comes to such articles:

  • We love it when you’re passionate about something, but if that something has you really riled up it’s best to take a break, have a cuppa and form a considered argument before writing. Otherwise you might end up with an ill-informed rant. We all need to let off steam, but always ensure your article has a solid foundation in considered facts and well-formed opinions.
  • Ask readers questions – make them think; but always provide your own opinion / answer to the questions you ask. Opinion pieces are not spaces for rhetorical questions.
  • Have courage in your convictions and end the article summarising your opinions. Saying ‘I don’t know what I think’ is a bit cowardly, really.

Writing a feature

These are longer pieces that are an investigation into an issue or topic without a biased approach (so different to an opinion piece). They can be on any topic and fit into any of our website sections, but as stated are longer than a standard news piece and really get to the heart of a subject.

  • Consider all the different angles relating the chosen topic and be sure to be well-balanced and detailed in the piece.
  • You don’t need to be an expert but you do need to have properly researched the subject; asking experts for input and including some quotes is usually an essential part of a feature article.
  • These articles should focus on examining the facts and ideas around a subject and drawing a conclusion – so do your research and find an angle before starting to write.

Writing an interview

We know a few noteworthy people and if we like you, you’ll get to meet them. If you do, play it cool; that’s the first rule. The below rules relate to writing up the interview:

  • The questions are the most important bit of an interview, so you need to make sure you have some crackers before cracking on. Don’t just ask the obvious – anyone can do that. Be original and research the person or people in detail before you meet them face-to-face.
  • When typing up the questions and answers, make sure the interview flows. Don’t make it a flat question-answer format; weave all the questions and answers together with a narrative and make it into an engaging article.
  • Don’t forget to include important details – if the person/people are promoting something, mention it...!

Writing a review

Again if we really like you we might send you to a few cinema screenings or gigs. When writing a review of your adventures, stick to the below:

  • It’s important to acknowledge if/when you’re ‘into’ something enough to produce a proper review. Readers know if you’re winging it, so really think about if you know about something well enough to properly comment on it.
  • If you are, then fab! Lend us and readers your thoughts. Consider the band/movie/artwork (or whatever it is) and write about it in a wider context; don’t just make the review about what you did or didn’t like, how you got there or what you were wearing. Without being rude, no one really cares about that...
  • For films, consider: direction; acting; plot; cinematography; if it fits into a franchise; if it relates well to the original source material, etc.
  • For music, consider: the genre; the band’s development; their peers; any messages in the music, etc.

Writing tips

  • When writing an opinion piece don’t plagiarise and rehash other people’s articles. Add new information, seek new quotes and add your own voice to the subject. Like we said, we really do want to know what you think.
  • Keep it simple. We’re not your university lecturers and you don’t need to show off to us – the basic aims of The National Student and the articles we publish are to get your thoughts out into the world in a simple and easy manner. We also don’t have strict word counts so don’t try to string out sentences or points longer than they need to be – you won’t be penalised.
  • Adhere to basic grammatical rules (this is one thing we’re strict about); just because this isn’t academic writing doesn’t mean you can ignore basic grammar.

Uploading to the National Student

You will have seen our snazzy new site (looks good, right?), and the system for uploading articles is equally simple to navigate. Simply log in and on your profile hit the ‘Add Article’ button. From there fill in the following:

  • Title – pretty self explanatory.
  • Alternative headline – you can leave this blank if your title is so good it doesn’t need changing, but if you have another title in mind pop it here.
  • Publication date – the date the article is to be uploaded.
  • Publication time – whatever time it is you’re uploading to the system.
  • Leader – a short sentence that sums up the article. It will appear under the headline on the site, on Facebook and wherever else it gets shared – so make it catchy.
  • Article – the bit everyone is interested in! Copy & paste your article into the article box, then follow the below formatting:
    Font: Arial
    Font size: 14pt
    Bold the first paragraph
  • Images – if you have images to add, use the ‘Add image’ button (the little icon with a tree on it). Once the ‘Edit image’ box pops up, cut and paste the image URL into the top box. Add a description of the image in the box and then hit ‘OK’!
  • Tags – the website section the article will sit in (‘News’, ‘Student Politics’, ‘Lifestyle’ etc.)
  • Categories – select the same website section detailed in the tags bit.
  • University – this is a weird one. This does NOT relate to the uni you go to, and only needs filling in if the article you upload is about a specific university. Bit confusing – sorry.
  • Meta keywords – all the keywords from the article. This bit is a tad techy – basically search engines use these keywords to find your article... If the article is about David Cameron, put ‘David Cameron’, ‘Conservative’, ‘UK politics’ etc. – but try not to be too generic, as it messes up search results. Potentially dull but necessary.
  • Meta description – again something techy. This is a sentence summarising the article using as many keywords as you can – it can be the same as the leader if you really can’t be bothered, but doing it well will help search engines recognise your article above others and make it more visible. Still potentially dull, but still necessary.

Once you’ve done all this, hit ‘Save Draft’ if you want to come back to it later or ‘Send to Editor’ if you’re done. We’ll then have a look over it and get it put on the site pronto.

For more details regarding grammar and the basic rules of writing, use the SPA Style Guide by clicking here.

That’s it! Pretty simple really. If you’re not sure of an article idea send an email to lucy.miller@bigchoicegroup.com or send a message on Facebook.

Happy typing.

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