One of the first considerations when writing a feature article is the intended audience. Is it intended for the general public or a particular group of readers? If you are writing for the readers of a lifestyle magazine or the lifestyle section of a newspaper, for instance, you must decide whether to use the third or second person.
The majority of feature articles are written in the third person. The exception is when the story is about ‘what you should get,’ such as for a special occasion or during the holiday season. Rarely is the first person employed in feature writing, unless the author is relating his or her personal experience.
Consider, for instance, the first paragraph of a third-person article on entrepreneurship.
- John lost his job two years ago as a result of the recession. Believing it to be temporary, he actively seeks employment while taking short-term courses to improve his skills. He is still unemployed as of today. Now that he is 41 years old, he is compelled to consider self-employment and entrepreneurship, but he is hesitant because he has spent his entire working life as an employee.
If written in the second person, this first paragraph would read:
- You have been an employee throughout your entire career. You lost your job due to the economic downturn two years ago. You actively seek employment while enhancing your skills through short-term courses because you believe the economic downturn to be only temporary. Today, you continue to be unemployed.
As you can see from the two approaches, the third person’s voice engages readers more effectively than the second person’s voice because personal involvement in the story is unnecessary unless it is a call to action. It is acceptable to use the second person when writing for a lifestyle magazine showcasing shopping goods, but not when writing a news feature that aims to convey a message containing facts and recommendations.
There are four elements to consider when writing a news feature: anecdotes, quotes, facts, and theme statements.
A news feature anecdote should be written in the third person as the narrator. This is intended to utilize content ‘pull’ to entice readers with a sense of reading a novel or storybook. Include at least one anecdote to help readers visualize the’reality’ of a situation or the life of the person being described in the anecdote.
A feature should also contain facts and quotes for human-interest angles. The facts may be quantifiable research findings, official statistical figures, or actual events witnessed by individuals:
- According to official data from the department of labor, unemployment is currently at 4.5 percent.
Witnesses or interviewees provide a verbatim account of an event in the form of a quotation. They can be either direct or indirect. In order for a feature article to be credible and engaging, both direct and indirect quotations are required.
A direct quote is the exact words spoken by an interviewee.
- John Doe, 41, a laid-off worker, stated, “I have been an employee my entire working life.”
Indirect quotations are paraphrased or rewritten versions of actual words spoken by interviewees.
- John Doe, age 41, claims to have spent his entire career as an employee.
Theme statements are sentences that connect the story’s original theme to various plot elements. This is particularly useful when there are multiple sections or plot points that need to be elaborated upon in different areas of the feature. The purpose of theme statements is to remind the reader of the story’s central theme.
Typically, each paragraph in a feature article compels the reader to continue reading to the point of closure, conclusion, or further instructions. It is customary to conclude a story by bringing the reader’s attention back to the points made in the introductory paragraph, but with additional information.