Writers Guide

Tabloid Style Guide: Guidance for Tabloid Writers


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This document has been created for first time writers and will focus specifically on basic advice when writing for a Tabloid Newspaper. The guidance here applies mainly for writing for print; writing for the web takes a slightly different approach.



Think about how you would tell your tale to 92-year-old Doris Smith in the Post Office queue, your mate Big Ron down the local, and your 8-year-old nephew. They all need to be able to understand and follow it. As much as we might disagree with their politics, The Sun and The Daily Mail are very good at good writing: short, sharp, to the point and grabbing.


Key Points to consider

Use simple, ordinary language

The most IMPORTANT thing is that anyone picking up your story can understand it. The stories that we cover may be complex in nature but the language we use to present these needs to be accessible to be understood. As much as you might disagree with their politics, The Sun and the Daily Mail are very good at good writing: short, sharp, to the point and grabbing.

Pretty much all straight news reports follow the same formula whether they are a 500-word page lead, or a 100-200 word nib (news-in-brief).

01. First of all, is your story a story? What MAKES a story? It needs to be timely, relevant and of public interest.

02. Make sure you cover the: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, and WHY.

03. Try to SHOW your reader, don’t tell them. If your story is about a community group winning a “prestigious” award – don’t tell them it is prestigious, SHOW them why it is prestigious.

04. Strive to be human. Think conversation down the pub or luncheon club, humour or real life stories over university lecture.

05. Always put people before things!!

06. Use everyday language, no jargon! You should always assume that your reader has no prior knowledge of the issue.

07. What is the ‘F*** Me Dorris?’ point of story – What is the thing that will make your reader, sat at his breakfast table turn to his wife and say ‘Fuck me, Doris, have you about heard this?!’

08. A paragraph should be no more than two sentences long and keep your sentences short. There should be no more than 25 words in a sentence.

09. In each new paragraph you should be introducing something new to the story. Drip-feed information, make sure each paragraph has value and lead your reader through the story.

10. If your next paragraph isn’t adding anything new, then why is it there? Space is limited and you need to avoid repetition.


General Structure

Make sure your structure is LOGICAL. Your story must be easy to say out loud and to hear.
Keep it simple and well-organised.

The most important stuff in the story must come at the top. Prioritise your information, build a hierarchy of facts. This should help you to build a series of priorities/developments in the story that build up to a narrative.



In all news stories, you must grab the reader in the first paragraph. Your first paragraph is the reader’s entry into the story. The first paragraph is what is known as your “top line” – this is the story summed up in one sentence. It should give a flavour of your story and paint a picture.

Your first three paragraphs should be written so that if you were to get rid of the rest of the story then the reader would still know exactly what your story is. This goes pretty much for the entire story. You should be able to cut the story at any point and it should still make sense.


Size matters

Size matters when it comes to intros. Keep them SHORT and easy to say in a single breath. Read your intro out loud and see if it follows the breath test. Tabloids will aim for a 15-word intro on average. When you write your intros, aim for NO MORE than 25 words.


Word choices

Use active and engaging words, not clichés. Your introduction needs to paint a picture for the reader. One great verb can make all the difference: A TODDLER survived six days trapped in a house huddled by the decomposing body of his father. The word “huddled” here is much better than ‘sat’ or ‘staying’. The word ‘huddled’ really paints a picture.

Final Notes

01. Tabloids need to be visual (describe a situation visually): 'RETIRED judge Charles Munro hung his head in shame…' Think of an image to put in the reader’s mind.

02. Try to use the simple past tense when reporting on things that happened

03. Use puns: 'A BUTCHER had a bone to pick with his neighbours after discovering they’d been raiding his bins to feed their dogs'

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