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How to write for Socialist Worker

We don't want the articles published in Socialist Worker to fit into a single mold, so they sound like they are all written by the same person. But there are some basic ingredients in all good stories, and some common mistakes that are important to avoid. Here are a few suggestions that may help comrades planning to write an article for the website or paper:

o Remember that you're telling a story to a few people who may know the background to a protest or a political argument, but a lot of people who don't. So be sure to lay out the basic facts right from the start. The rule of journalism is that a news story should answer as many of the 5 Ws as possible in the first sentence or two: who, what, when, where and why. Try to think of whether you've answered these questions as you write.

o Check your facts carefully. Nothing discredits an article, a writer and a publication as quickly as getting basic information wrong. That includes the names of people, institutions, organizations, etc.

o Don't try to write like the New York Times, or worse yet, an academic journal. These publications are designed to twist the reality of what's taking place, or at the very least, speak to an audience of specialists with their own special lingo, so they use language that complicates and confuses. When you write for Socialist Worker, use a clear and simple style. As George Orwell said in Why I Write, good prose is like a window pane. He meant good writing doesn't draw attention to itself, but to the ideas, facts and events that the writing is about.

o Be careful when using left or socialist terms. Remember that a lot of readers won't have a background in left-wing politics, so try as much as possible to define any terms you use, and to fill in the political and historical background for readers who are new to an issue.

o Be concise. There's no reason to write more than we need to, especially if the protests or activism were reporting on are still modest. Relate the facts, give a flavor of the event, let people who participated say what they think via quotations, and wrap it up.

o Part of using a simple style means using the most descriptive and understandable language that you can. Orwell again: Never use a long word where a short one will do.

o If you're repeating someone's ideas or research, even if you're paraphrasing them, you should cite where they came from. This is important not just in avoiding plagiarism, but in giving your writing the authority of having sources to support it.

o Let people's voices be heard. Often, the most effective and persuasive points come from the people whose stories we're telling. If you can quote someone talking about the lessons they learned from a struggle, that's much better than putting the same points in your own words. Remember that the subject of your story is more important than how you write about it.

o Don't try to write an article that will answer every question about a particular issue. Especially in news stories about activism, but also in opinion articles, the more specific the focus of an article, the more effective it will be.

o You don't need to make the case for socialist revolution or explain how the Obama administration has disappointed its supporters in every article.

Remember that your article will be one among many on the website or in the paper edition of Socialist Worker. You can count on the rest of the publication to take up the full range of socialist politics. If you can stay focused on the immediate details of what you're writing about and the specific political arguments that flow from them, your article will be more effective.