Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Do's and Don'ts Of Freelance Sports Writing

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

Having a love for sports is not the only thing that makes a good sports writer. You must also have the ability to communicate well with your writing. That being said, the question I get asked the most is, "What am I doing wrong?" The answer to that could be any number of things.

So I decided to make a little guide, if you will, listing some of the major Do's and Don'ts for freelance sports writers.

Let's start with the Do's.

1. Tell a story instead of just "listing" events. No one likes to read instruction manuals, especially sports fans. Try to work a personal experience into the material that readers can relate to. Doing this will help them to see you as a person, rather than a robot spouting information.

2. Have up-to-date material. The Super Bowl is right around the corner. Fans don't want to hear about games from a month ago. They want all the information they can get about the play-offs leading up to the big day. Injury reports and so forth are hot topics right now.

3. Do your homework. I can't stress this enough. Having knowledge about players, coaches and stats will give you more credibility when writing. I feel that historical information is a big plus when it comes to sports writing. Being able to slip some history into your piece makes for an interesting read.

Now for the Don'ts.

1. Don't assume who is reading your work, cater to the audience as a whole. Even though most people associate sports with men, that's not always the case. My 80 year-old grandmother was the biggest fan of baseball that I've ever known. She could quote stats, player line-ups, and final scores going back to the late 40's.

2. Don't focus on play-by-play too much. Instead, integrate highlights into your work. Play-by-plays are great for awesome moments in sports, (ie. Tiger on the 18th, about to win The Masters for the first time), but highlights are just as catchy and help to break the monotony.

3. Don't force your opinion on your readers. Everyone wants to express their opinions, writers a little more-so than others. Let your opinion be known, but not in a "my word is law" type of way. As a writer it helps to be the mediator for your readers' opinions when discussing different topics. This creates a social network of like-minded individuals swapping opinions and ideas back and forth, making the audience a part of the whole story.

I hope that this helps some of you. If you have any other questions, feel free to write me anytime. I can be contacted via this blog or regular e-mail. Write on!

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