Freelancing / General Journalism / Lessons learned

Lessons learned: adapting to different house styles.

One of the best things about writing a blog is that you do it exactly how you want to. You are your own editor, and the way you write and what you write is completely your decision.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why journalists continue to blog, even though the majority of their time is spent writing… they just do that bit more. But when you’re writing for a publication and you turn to an editor to agree, compromise and develop ideas on content, it’s no longer your own style. You’ll be adapting it to suit the needs of that target audience. Columns, of course, are different altogether and takes your own unique writing style as a continuing feature. Writing for different publications means you’re always going to come to this hurdle, you become used to a certain way of writing, and using that for a new publication just won’t suffice.

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I’ve come across this skill quite recently, because a piece that I submitted for freelance work came back to me with many changes on words, phrases, etc… and it was all down to style. Editors such as these CAN be picky, and so they should be – if you can’t write to their house style and they are having to constantly edit it, what’s the point? That said, it’s not going to come overnight, and if things don’t come naturally to you then writing features might take that bit longer to begin with.

DON’T PANIC (I say that feeling like a hypocrite because PANIC is exactly what I did). Give yourself time to get used to the house style, and think about what you’re writing. Don’t take it to heart and think it’s your skill as a writer, but take it as a positive that you’re learning more and broadening your skills as a journalist (again, hypocrite).

COMPARE BEFORE/AFTER. Take the feature you sent, paired with the feature that has changes on and compare. What exactly has been changed and why? If you don’t know why, ask. Highlight these parts and keep it, don’t just chuck it away. Refer back to it the next time you’re writing.

READ, RE-READ FEEDBACK. You don’t want to be making the same mistake again. If they say they prefer to use the term ‘children’ rather than ‘kids’ and you carry on to write kids, it’s going to irritate them.

PAST EXAMPLES. Something that really helps me is reading past features of a similar nature to the one you’re writing from the publication. If they don’t provide them, or you can’t find a way of reading it, ask for them. It will help you narrow down the house style and prevent future mistakes.

 

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