Magazine Writing: Style Tips

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Magazine Writing

Style Tips:

  • Be careful about starting an article with a question. It’s a mark of laziness since they are often rhetorical. If you are directing a question at the reader, chances are you’re going to answer it, so why not make a statement.
  • Write the way you speak, but the way you speak on your best day, not your worst. Good writing is often conversational in nature, and I can always tell when a writer is using words he wouldn’t use in his everyday conversation. You don’t want to give the reader the sense that you’re carrying a thesaurus in your hip pocket.
  • Find the right word. As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” As a writer it’s your job to be precise, especially when it comes to language. Take the time to find the right word not one that just approximates what you’re trying to say.
  • Do your research carefully. If readers or editors pick up mistakes in your work, no matter how well written it is, your conclusions won’t be trusted.
  • Be authentic. Readers can tell a phony, someone  who puts on airs. Occasionally, I’ll come across an article that makes me think the writer is either full of himself or, to put bluntly, a pompous ass. Remember, you represent yourself in everything you write. If the reader doesn’t like you, the narrator (or worse, if he mistrust you), you’ll lose all credibility.
  • Don’t mix metaphors. Be consistent. A mixed metaphor is a succession of incongruous or ludicrous comparisons, i.e. “So now what we are dealing with is the rubber meeting the road, and instead of biting the bullet on these issues, we just want to punt.” (Chicago Tribune, cited by The New Yorker, August 13, 2007)
  • Be alert for words and phrases that have taken a pounding i.e., clichés. Some clichés have now lost all meaning from overuse. In every case, there’s a better, tighter, fresher way to say what you want to say. And it’s your job as a writer to find that way.

Next week: 

We’ll visit Types of Articles.

I highly recommend The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. It’s on Amazon for under $13 right now. This book discusses Fiction, Memoir/Personal Essay, Poetry and Magazine Articles. The information I have been providing for the past several months has been from this book.


I decided to stick with the theme from yesterday. I wrote about the Space Needle in the state of Washington using the haiku prompt, “needle,” from Haiku Horizons. Today, I am using a landscape picture, that was taken in Washington, for my haiku prompt.




Today’s Haiku

white ruffles
cascading over rocks
an endless journey


Have you ever read something with a mixed metaphor? I would love to hear your examples.

Happy Tuesday and thanks for stopping by!


5 thoughts on “Magazine Writing: Style Tips

    • Yes. I have been sharing tips every Tuesday since last fall. You can go to my calendar that is posted on the right hand side and select any Tuesday and it will provide tips for you. The last several months have been about magazine writing and before that it was about poetry. 🙂 I think last week or the week before I may not have posted about tips because I had a special post in its place. However, that doesn’t happen very often. 🙂 I hope you find the tips useful!

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