How to Write a Tabloid Style Article
There's a reason why supermarket checkout aisles are arrayed with racks of the National Enquirer instead of the New York Times. Tabloid journalism goes straight for the gut, and many people love to read it. "We wrote about stories that regular people could relate to," former editor in chief Ian Calder told DuJour.com in a [story about the Enquirer's history] (http://dujour.com/news/national-enquirer-history-scandal/). "They were human-interest stories with some odd or freakish twist that would make them interesting.” In tabloid writing, the basic facts and "five W's" must be included and accurate, but they're told in a way that maximizes drama and emotional impact.
Choosing a Tabloid Story
Look for a subject that is bizarre, emotionally intense, or has a strong ironic twist. Tabloid writing focuses on human interest; much of it concerns crime, romance, family dysfunction and scandal. You want a story that will stick in people's minds and get talked about on social media and over lunch. The juicier your material, the easier it will be to tell your story tabloid style.
The best-known tabloid headline in journalism history used alliteration to play with words in reporting a murder: "Headless Body in Topless Bar." If you can think of a clever, in-your-face way to use alliteration or rhyme in your headline, all the better; generally, keep it short, punchy, witty and breezy. Tabloid headlines can take liberties that traditional journalism wouldn't touch. Consider the Daily News headline after a speech by president Gerald R. Ford: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD." The president did not use those exact words, but [even the staid New York Times allows] ( http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/28/nyregion/28veto.html) that the headline captured "arguably the essence of his remarks."
In traditional journalism, the police arrested a criminal. In a tabloid story of the same event, the cops busted a thug. Tabloid stories are written in a conversational, informal style, using simple, vivid everyday language. "Straight" news writers strive for an objective tone; in a tabloid story, the writer's use of adjectives, wordplay and personalized detail often leave the reader with little doubt about his feelings. The goal of tabloid style is to make the reader feel, whether disgusted, elated, outraged or amused.
Tabloid Story Structure
A good tabloid lead sentence summarizes the story right up front in a way that's designed to maximize shock value. Pull the reader in and don't let go; sentences and paragraphs are typically short and to the point. Rather than the common inverted pyramid structure of a standard news story, in which the less important information is often in the concluding paragraphs, a tabloid story should circle around and restate the essence of the lead, often adding one more telling or ironic detail for a dramatic grand finale.
- Writers Digest.com: Writing Articles: Improve My Writing: Ten Tabloid Tips To Better Writing
- National Council for Curriculum and Assessment: Post-Primary Education: Junior Cycle: Sample Materials: A Tabloid Style Report
- New York Magazine: News and Politics: Greatest Tabloid Headlines
- Dujour.com: The Secret History of the National Enquirer
- New York Times: Infamous ‘Drop Dead’ Was Never Said by Ford
Anne Pyburn Craig has written for a range of regional and local publications ranging from in-depth local investigative journalism to parenting, business, real estate and green building publications. She frequently writes tourism and lifestyle articles for chamber of commerce publications and is a respected book reviewer.