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First Words Magazine

Our monthly publication

First Words Magazine is our monthly publication featuring in-depth stories and news from around our campuses and faith. It was created to acquaint newcomers and others with the purposes and principles of Unitarian Universalism through articles on campus events, interviews, and social justice witness, among others. Submissions are due the 20th of the month, and will appear in the next month's issue. Each article should be 500 words or less and will be edited for clarity, brevity, and style. First Words is not issued during the summer. 

Ten tips to good writing

By Anne Krueger (reprinted from February 2008 First Words).

  1. Most newsletter articles should focus on the future. Plan programs well in advance so they can be included. A report of what is going to happen is usually more interesting than a report of what happened a month ago.
  2. Be sure every article includes the 5 Ws of journalism - who, what, when, where and why. If you’re writing about a speaker, explain that person’s credentials and background.
  3. Put your most important information in the first couple of sentences.Use the inverted pyramid. After the first paragraph, every subsequent paragraph amplifies and explains information already written, but in a descending order of importance. This allows the editors to safely cut the last paragraphs if space is tight.
  4. Your article should be written so it can be appreciated by newcomers as well as members of your group. Don’t use insider terms or abbreviations that won’t be understood by a casual reader.
  5. Write simply and plainly. If your material is readable - full of facts and unencumbered by subjectivity - it’s more likely to be read and remembered. And the more information is remembered, the more likely it will motivate people to act.
  6. Use neutral, objective language.Try to avoid using “we” or “us.” Some readers will feel excluded by that language, feeling like the group is an exclusive closed club.
  7. Avoid using “there” or “this.” Instead of saying, “There will be a meeting of the church council,” say “The church council will meet.”
  8. Always look for unnecessary words to remove, or a shorter way to convey your thought. Examples: instead of “Easter Sunday,” say “Easter”; instead of “in the event of,” say “if”; instead of “due to the fact that,” say “because.”
  9. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Break up sentences if they’re getting too long. Paragraphs should be just two or three sentences. Keep them short to allow white space at the end of a paragraph - it’s easier on a reader’s eye.
  10. Try to use the active voice. The subject should be the actor (The ushers collected the offering) instead of the passive voice. (The offering was collected by the ushers.)