Sports Writing Tips: Avoid Doing These 2 Things

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you a sportswriter or want to be one? Are you looking for sports writing tips?

Sports writing is a form of nonfiction that reports on topics involving sports, such as athletes, games, and competitions. Zinsser notes two problems sportswriters face: making the story about them and flaunting their knowledge.

Here’s why you should avoid both.

Sports Writing

Zinsser’s first sports writing tip is to write from your own perspective, but don’t make a story all about you. He believes sportswriters often make themselves and their knowledge the focus rather than the athlete or the game. For example, you can report on a professional basketball game without describing your personal history of playing basketball in grade school.

Second, many sportswriters flaunt their knowledge by describing what it’s like to be an athlete or to suffer a particular injury. But sportswriters don’t have the expertise to comment on the mindset of a certain athlete or to explain what an injury felt like. 

Types of Sports Stories

Zinsser discusses common problems with sports writing, but he doesn’t expand on the purpose or different types of sports writing. To improve your sports writing, first identify the key components of any sports story: the highlights of the game, the team names, the score, and when and where the game took place. Make these elements the most important part of the story—details and commentary should only support these main elements. 

Then identify what kind of sports story you’re writing. There are five main types of sports writing:

1) Straight-Lead Game Story: This is the most common kind of sports writing, and it provides a basic summary of the game. You should quickly present the final score, who won, and what the star player did during the game. 

2) Feature Game Story: These stories present a fresh look at a game and are more in-depth than a straight-lead game story. For example, you could discuss the coach’s background to give more context to the game. However, the game should be the focus, not your opinion. 

3) Columns: If you’re writing a column, your opinions will be a focal point of the piece. You can share your thoughts or frustrations with a team, coach, player, or game. 

4) Profiles: Profiles discuss the story and experiences of an individual person, such as an athlete or coach. 

5) Season Preview or Wrap-Up: These stories provide a top-level, general look at a game season. Preview stories illustrate expectations of an upcoming game season, including predictions or attitudes about the teams. Wrap-up stories discuss the game season as a whole after it has ended. 
Sports Writing Tips: Avoid Doing These 2 Things

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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