Writing Your Sports Article

Seven Common Stylistic Errors Sports Writers Should Avoid

1. The 1-sentence paragraph

    *If you read your story to yourself and the story has awkward gaps, misplaced emphases, and illogical sentences, it must be rewritten. If, on the other hand, you can read the story with style and grace, if the pauses appear where they should appear, if the sentences and paragraphs have a flow and a meter and a cadence to them, then you have written your story well.

2.  The Excessive Example
*Descriptive phrases do not have to be used in triplicate to be effective.

3. The Blind Attribution
* Don't needlessly confuse your readers. Don't play guessing games with your readers and don't make them mentally sort through the most obscure of sports trivia to identify subjects in your articles.

4. Excessive Adjective and Adverb Usage
* If you make all the decisions for the reader in the article, if you qualify all the achievements and times, then you leave the reader very little room to be involved in the article.

5. The Q & A Format
    * Unless you are requested to do so, avoid the pure questions-and-answer format. This format leaves little involvement for the reader.

6. Cliches
*Avoid every cliche. Every one. To use any cliche (except in a direct quotation) is to signal to your readers that you are sloppy, mediocre, and unimaginative. 

7. Unfathomable Numbers
*Sports writers are often tempted to chain statistics together, assuming the chain must mean something.

Quick 'n' Dirty Guide to Sports Leads

**Answering these questions may help the writer find the best type of lead for the article in progress**

    * What is the best anecdote I have in my notes?
    * What is the best quotation?
    * What is the best description?
    * What did I see when I was covering the story?
    * Was there anything important behind the scenes?
    *What would the reader expect to know?

Quick 'n' Dirty Guide to Game Stories

* The final score, usually in the top three paragraphs, often in the first paragraph
    * Names of the teams
    * When the game took place and where (the where is often in the dateline)
    * Key players or outstanding plays or both
    * Coaching strategies
    * Crowd
    * Quotations from players or coaches
    * Injuries
    * Records set during the game
    * Effect of game on league standings
    * Any oddities, length of game, number of penalties, etc.
    * Weather--if a factor in outcome

**The Sports Writing Handbook by Thomas Fensch** 1995