TIP ~ INKAS ~ #5

Moving on with INKAS… Something perhaps pertinent to our times,  NEWS FEATURE & NEWS EDITORIAL.

5 minutes


We  hear a lot today about “fake news”. While historically there have been plenty of news articles containing errors or even purposefully misdirecting information, the abundance of disinformation and accusations that accurately written objective  articles are the phony ones is a relatively recent phenomenon.

It was in 2014 that Craig Silverman coined the term “fake news” when studying and blogging about misinformation as it appears online. As his study dug deeper and deeper into the Internet, he discovered web sites that looked authentic and wrote articles in the style of news features, but their content was totally false. Many of these purported to be based in the US but in fact were the products of foreign actors with an interest in interfering in the lives of Americans by influencing our beliefs about the world. At worst, they led people to believe things that completely untrue; at the least, they confused us.

In addition to publishing incorrect information for us to read and accept as fact, these sites muddy the waters in a more insidious fashion. Once sites are exposed as “fake news” as Silverman dubbed it, their existence calls into question any/all news media and their sources. Without the savvy necessary to suss out what is fake and what is not, people tend to accept stories that align with their own beliefs and biases.

People who do not trust the government are ready to believe the worst about it; false stories about government wrongdoing simply serve to reinforce what they suspect and strengthen their resolve to hold that position.

Critical thinking skills allow us to tell fact from fiction, truth from lie. These skills–learned when we are of school age–are essential to living a responsible life and essential to protecting our democracy and our way of living.

So what can a writer do?

When I created INKAS for my Writing Club kids, the situation was much different. Occurrences of fake news were far fewer and far less likely to have effects the level of today’s turmoil.


The characteristics of News Features  are simple: they report on events or situations that are of current interest to the general population. Things that are happening that you want to read about.

News Features are factual and objective; there is no place for an opinion in a News Feature, at least not the opinion of the writer. Reporting must often include quotes from the people written about. However, that is part of the story, and the opinions should be clearly attributed to the people who hold them.

Finally, there is a structure used in writing News Features. You provide the most important information first, then support it with details and more facts. This style of structure is referred to as the inverted pyramid.

News Features are generally written by reporters. In contrast,News Editorials may be written by actual editors or sometimes other news writers or publishers. Pieces written by members of the reading public are published under the category Op Ed or Letters to the Editor. Some publications will print a guest editorial written by an expert or a person prominently in the news.


News Editorials are specifically written to express the writer’s opinion. In this case, the reader knows from the beginning that it is opinion, and not necessarily fact. However, well-written editorials are often supported by details and factual references. These pieces are commentary on current events and are usually written to try and persuade others to agree with the writer’s point of view.

News Editorials will often deal with politics, local events, global issues–such as climate change or how a disaster has been handled or how societies change. Their scope may be anything from global to local. Their intent may be heartfelt, or calculated.


Challenge yourself to read some news articles carefully. Do this with articles you expect will be features and ones you expect to be editorials.

Now for a News Feature, ask yourself:

  • Has the writer chosen the right information to put first?
  • Is their opening information clearly explained with supporting facts and details?
  • Do their itemized facts check out with other sources?
  • Is there an opinion hidden in the piece, maybe by how words are ordered or what words are used?

For a News Editorial, ask:

  • Was this article either presented or identified as a News Editorial?
  • Is there a clear explanation of the writer’s opinion?
  • Is it clear when the writer is offering opinion versus any facts they may use to support their ideas?
  • Do you feel the writer is trying to persuade you to join them in their beliefs?
  • If you are feeling persuaded, is it because of facts you can identify in the piece or is it an emotional response to the feelings and beliefs contained in the piece?

Congratulate yourself! You have just applied critical thinking to the news articles you read. I hope you found that enlightening. If you think anything you read in those articles was questionable, I hope you will try to check the facts with other sources and think about what you learn.

… and the next step is to try your own hand at this type of writing!

TIP ~ INKAS ~ #3

Finally returning to our INKAS.  Poetry is  the next form of writing I want to discuss.


Working with multiple age levels in poetry can be tricky, something I learned early on in the years I coached Writer’s Club. Levels of understanding vary as much as levels of ability. On the other hand, nothing is more refreshing than to hear the original thinking that goes on in a new poet, especially when they are young. And, there is a form of poetry for everyone.

Poetry expresses our innermost thoughts and feelings. Poems can be funny — think Dr. Seuss — or sad. A poem can tell a story, as in a ballad, or it can describe a single internal moment in a person’s soul. Poetry is recited for entertainment and for learning. It can brighten our memories with a description of a grand day at the beach or touch our hearts with tender lines of love. Poetry connects the mind with the heart and the soul.

You will find that there are all kinds of poetry. There are poems that rhyme every other line, and there are poems that rhyme no words at all. There are poems only two lines long – couplets, and there are poems over 70 lines long: ballads.

Rhyming patterns – referred to as schemes – are described by assigning rhyming words the same letter. So, a limerick, where the 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines rhyme and the 3rd and 4th lines rhyme would be described as having a rhyme scheme of ‘aabba’.

APoemSometimes new poets like the idea of writing poetry because it is short – but that is an illusion. It takes thought to put expression into a few words or phrases. A good poem can take as long to write as a long story. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write a poem quickly, especially if you are excited about it.

One thing that young poets don’t always seem to know is how to present a poem visually.

Poetry is usually not written in complete sentences but in phrases.  It is not shaped like a paragraph but takes shape on a screen or paper in such a way that the reader knows went to stop and start and what the rhythm of the poem is. The look of the poem adds to the pleasure and meaning of the poem.

I find it easier to write a poem completely, then look it over and adjust the punctuation, the capitalization, and the lines so that it reads the way I want it to.

I said earlier that there is a form of poetry for everyone. Below is a  not all-encompassing of some of the different forms of poetry. Some you will recognize; some you won’t. You can read more about poetry forms and how to write it, including such details as meter and stanza, imagery and onomatopoeia, at Poetry 101: Learn about Poetry (where you can also find a link to details on US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’s MasterClass).  I’m not posting this info as a promotion, it’s just a fact that you will find the link there.


We write for many reasons, and we choose the form our writing takes based on those reasons. For expressing emotion, discerning truth, and unlocking secrets of the universe, there is nothing so useful as poetry. Happy writing!


TIPS Re-Boot

Along with starting up my blog again, I am revisiting the concept of blogging TIPS for new writers and others who find them useful. Eventually these TIPS will be collected and made available as a separate document.

The writing group I’m in accepts writers of all levels. This can include teenagers who’ve decide they want to be a poet or adults who have decided they have a story to tell to septuagenarians who either wish to leave their sage advice behind or write that racy love story/mystery/ science fantasy they’ve always wanted to write.  Any of the above people can be new to writing, so we often find ourselves starting at the beginning with our advice, or even fundamental explanations.

One time we found it necessary to clear up what constitutes a paragraph. For coaches, parents, or teachers who are trying to get the concept across, here’s a simple explanation of paragraphs.

[note: in fairness to subscribers and readers, this information appeared in a post here in 2018. I’ve re-posted it in its entirety for readers’ convenience.]

3 Basic Rules for Starting New Paragraphs

Okay, so you want to write – a book, a story, an essay – whatever you want to write. But you have ZERO experience.  

You know pages have words on them, and they seem to be broken up into patterns called paragraphs, but how do you know when to do that? Here are the beginning rules. Use them to get started writing your work the way it should be written.

1. Begin a new paragraph whenever you change speakers .

This means, in dialogue, one person says something, then another one says something.

Each time this happens, each time the speaker changes, they get a new paragraph all to themselves, and their spoken words are contained in quote marks (BONUS tip there)

2. Begin a new paragraph whenever you change topic.

You begin your essay by describing the outside of your house. Then you want to move on to describing the inside of it. Make a new paragraph for the inside description. When you want to describe what the back yard looks like, that is another new paragraph.

3. Begin a new paragraph when it feels like one is needed.

This can be for a pause, a change of direction in the action, or just to change theme or thought, much like a change of topic.

You may have spent some time describing how you felt when the ambulance arrived. Then the EMT has you move into the ambulance, and you need to describe how you felt – maybe more physically than emotionally -, and what the inside of the ambulance looked like.

The arrival is one paragraph, the move into the ambulance is a second, and the description of the interior is a third.

Most of all, watch for these things in your reading. As you identify them in what you read, it will be easier for you to remember to use these tips in your writing.