Magazine Writing: Types of Articles Part II

Tuesday’s Writing Tips 

Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Magazine Writing

Today’s tips are a two-part series. Last week we discussed service pieces and profiles. Today, we are discussing participatory pieces, investigative pieces and personal essays.

Types of Articles:

Some of the most popular are:

  1. service pieces – last week
  2. profiles – last week
  3. participatory pieces – today’s post
  4. investigative pieces – today’s post
  5. personal essays/op-ed pieces – today’s post


In participatory articles, the journalist either participates in an activity and writes about it, or observes someone so closely that the reader feels like she is actually participating in the event. These are awesome pieces to read when written correctly because it feels like you are walking in the shoes of someone else.

Tips to writing good participatory pieces:

  1. Make sure you’ve got a storyline—a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s your job as a writer to shape your experience so that the reader doesn’t just get a list of “what happened next.”
  2. Be sure to include detail, but not every detail. Details should add an understanding to the piece and work to move the story along. For instance, if you’re writing about a day in the gym, it would be important to the reader to know how people at the gym—staff and patrons—were dressed.
  3. Make sure you include the ups and downs of the experience. If you’re doing a piece about being a shoe salesman, include the periods of boredom (but write them, of course, in a non-boring way—you certainly don’t want to put your reader to sleep).


There are two types of investigative articles, chronological or topical. The chronological, of course, unfolds through time and the topical revolves around issues and arguments.

For this type of article, reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption or corporate wrongdoing.


There was little information about this topic in the book, so I discovered more on my own. Check out this link from Jessica Smock.

A personal essay is about self-expression. This type of work illustrates how you think or feel about a certain topic.

Here are six tips to writing a personal essay, according to Smock:

  1. Develop characters, settings and plot.
  2. Your writing should also express and reveal a larger meaning, a theme, a deeper truth, beyond the surface details of plot and character.
  3. Find your voice.
  4. Choose specific and compelling moments, memories, and feelings, and hone in on them, using those particular moments to help to convey theme and purpose.
  5. Be specific.
  6. Try out different literary devices and techniques, such as similes, personification, and metaphors.

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.


 try again haiku

Today’s Haiku

adversity strikes
skinned psyche stinging and raw
try, try again


What do you do when adversity strikes?

Have a great day!


4 thoughts on “Magazine Writing: Types of Articles Part II

  1. Well explained here, particularly about the participatory pieces, Nicole. I think it’s tempting to only include the highlights but as you say even the ‘downs’ are important to describe too.

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