Use technical terms sparingly, and include
informal definitions as you go along.
Dress up difficult or dull passages with human
Quote authorities as necessary to make the reader
feel the facts are authentic.
Simplify facts by the use of analogy.
Break down statistical material into figures the
reader can comprehend.
Compare scientific concepts and technology to
objects with which the reader is familiar.
Weave the necessary background into the story
end and because the ending was a piece of artistic
for unity and coherence.
For example, assume you are describing some
microtubing used in a new guided missile. If you tell the
readers it is three one-thousandths of an inch in
diameter, they will have trouble visualizing it. Tell them
it compares in size to a human hair and they can
visualize its size immediately.
In another story, you can point out that a new jet
aircraft carries more than 17,000 gallons of fuel. This is
an impressive figure, but it does not mean much to the
average reader. It would be more meaningful for you to
tell the reader that the same amount of gasoline could
power his car for the next 20 years.
Whenever possible, avoid generalizations. Use
figures to backup any broad claims you may make. Do
not merely say that the average sailor uses too much
water aboard ship. Add force and emphasis to the
statement with understandable figures. Tell the reader
the average sailor drinks from two to four quarts of water
a day. He uses five gallons of water daily merely to
shave, brush his teeth and wash his hands. Cleaning and
food preparation in the galley takes an additional five to
eight gallons per crew member. In addition, he uses up
to 10 gallons of water when he takes a shower. Then tell
the reader why this is important: because the Navy
makes its own water, drop by drop, by distilling it
If pictures are not available and you have to describe
a mechanical device, describe it in terms with which the
reader is familiar: The Navys new supercavitating
propeller looks like the screw part of an ordinary kitchen
naval engagement but not a shot was
In studying feature techniques, the writer should not
overlook the finest training material of all the
published work of other feature writers. When you
discover a piece in a newspaper or magazine that
particularly interests you, you should read it again and
analyze the devices the author used to make the work
interesting, informative, entertaining or gripping. With
a little adaptation and practice you can make the same
techniques your own.
One thing you will probably discover is that when
a story leaves you with a satisfying aftertaste, it is often
because it was good enough to hold your interest to the
writing in itself.
The conclusion of all good feature stories
terminates the article in a positive manner. As in the lead,
the writer is limited only by the ability in composing a
One device frequently used is to summarize the key
points of the story. Another way to end a story is to
present a new fact, generally a fact that highlights the
importance of the subject of the article. No matter how
you do it, though, the ending should leave the reader
satisfied that the time spent reading the piece was time
well-spent. If you provided a tantalizing lead and a
well-constructed body that held the readers interest,
you owe to the story and the reader an equally
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the feature lead
example about USS Norfolk intercepting the Russian
missile-loaded freighter sums up the action and puts the
story in a new light by using a different twist. Consider
the following excerpt:
Eventually, on orders from
Moscow, canvas was rolled back on all
eight 70-foot missiles. In six hours,
governments had been contacted,
orders issued and received, proving
photographs taken, and not a shot was
Suddenly the meeting was news
as much so as if it had been a major
fired. The dull patrol of USS Norfolk
had been broken, and momentarily the
endless watches became meaningful.
Its mission had been accomplished.
The next day, Norfolk returned to
its station on the now familiar patrol
and observed a famous armistice on