Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What is a Magazine Article?

A magazine article is a nonfiction composition that stands on its own within a publication. Examples include a profile of a significant person, an opinion piece, or personal essay. Usually, a magazine article is between 1,000 and 5,000 words, either short or long, depending on the subject. It will have accompanying photographs or advertising. A magazine often has a team of staff writers who set a theme of one issue of the magazine so that all features and essays are thematically related within the issue. For example, a themed issue might cover philanthropy or living on a budget.

It is important to understand how magazine articles differ in format from other print forms such as books and newspapers. Newspaper reporters are trained to give the most important points first in a news story. Magazine articles, however, often begin with a tantalizing mystery, question, or scenario to hook the reader into reading the entire article. Moreover, newspaper reports are objective records of events while magazine articles, often subjective, deal with a specific subject, and take a specific angle or point of view. Learning how to write a magazine article requires knowing the focus of a particular magazine in order to appeal to that magazine’s readership.

Magazines are focused on a specific subject

Magazines are focused on a specific subject

Magazine Article Format

Writers of magazine articles often follow a common article format. Similar to fiction writing, constructing nonfiction magazine articles depends on following the guidelines for telling a good story. Writers begin with an engaging introduction, developing an angle or point of view with interesting facts or anecdotes, and finish the article with a memorable conclusion.

An effective article often includes a sidebar to highlight a specific aspect of the subject. A sidebar helps readers get an idea of what the article is about. Furthermore, a sidebar should focus on a specific aspect of the subject in order to help readers make a connection.

Cover of Life Magazine depicting the 1923 Summer Olympics

Cover of Life Magazine depicting the 1923 Summer Olympics

Types of Magazine Articles

A good magazine writer will be able to discern the different types of magazine articles. Each type serves a specific purpose and appeals to a specific audience. For any given hobby, vocation, or interest there is a corresponding magazine. For example, there are magazines for pet lovers, military history buffs, and even backyard astronomers.

A service piece presents tips, advice, and opinion essays about issues that concern its readers and helps them decide how to take action. A service piece teaches the reader how to do, deal with, or where to find something. Examples of service pieces include articles about traveling on a budget, how to decorate for a party, or tips on fashion and budgets. In other words, service pieces advise readers as to how to solve problems, which can range in variety from humor to think pieces.

A profile is a written portrait of a celebrity or an inspirational person who is involved in the subject of a magazine. Typically, a staff writer will interview the person in the profile to gather facts and record interesting quotes. The profile will have engaging photographs to show the personality of the subject. A good example of a profile is an article that highlights the activities and character of the First Lady of the United States.

An investigative article exposes political wrongdoing, corporate corruption, and dereliction of public duty. To expose these kinds of stories, investigative journalists often take months or years to uncover hidden facts and interview eyewitnesses. Often, stories of corruption or malfeasance require undercover techniques.

A personal essay relates a significant personal experience, helping the reader make an empathetic connection to a real event. Writers often share personal experiences in order to make a point that reveals a universal theme. A good example of a personal essay is a reflection about returning to one’s roots or to one’s hometown after being away for many years.

How to Write a Magazine Article

There are several important aspects to consider when writing a magazine article. An effective magazine article begins with a compelling idea. A good writer can find kernels of compelling stories everywhere. Any story can be told in different ways, so choosing an angle is also important. Good writers usually support their writing with research on a topic to give context and factual detail. Writers shape an article through an engaging introduction, detailed body, and unforgettable conclusion.

Getting an Idea

Coming up with an idea for a magazine article is the first step in good writing. Some ways to generate ideas include:

  • Keeping a journal to record breaking news, an interesting quote, or a personal experience
  • Making a video log about current events or an interesting subject
  • Networking with people who participate in an activity such as a sport, craft, or hobby
  • Contacting editors of magazines to find out if upcoming issues have special themes
  • Reading what others have written about a subject and developing a complementary angle
  • Keeping up with reputable news outlets and current events for ideas

Choosing an Angle

Since every article has points that can be emphasized, deciding which points to focus on is, perhaps, the first important step in presenting the topic. In fact, two articles can cover the same topic but have completely different headlines. For example, one article about the possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth might cover the technologies used to detect Near-Earth Orbit objects. Another article might cover some of the deadly asteroids that have impacted Earth in the past. Having an angle serves as a guide towards what to write and promotes interest in the given subject. An effective angle not only increases the interest of readers but also lends credibility to the writer.

Conducting Research

An important part of writing articles is knowing the importance of conducting research. The first line of research is conducting interviews. Experts understand the significance of a topic and can give an insider’s perspective. In fact, expert statements are a good source of quotes that give credibility to an article. Online sources are plentiful, though finding reliable sources ensures accuracy.

Steps for conducting research include the following:

  • Formulate interview questions prior to scheduling an interview
  • Read the most up-to-date information on a subject to find a fresh angle yet to be covered
  • Review the results of polls conducted for the most recent information about what readers think about a topic
  • Outline ways to overturn a misconception or misunderstanding about a topic
  • Network with other writers who have covered the same topic


Begin writing with a strong lead, the opening segment that hooks the reader into reading the full article. Leads can come in the form of dialogues, questions, statistics, polls, and anecdotes. For example, an article about the Moon might begin with how every two hours the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter makes a pass 12 miles above the lunar surface. A lead like this can help readers visualize active research being conducted on the Moon. Sometimes, the lead will include the nut graph, a paragraph that gives the necessary details to understand what the article is about. The lead and the nut graph give the reader context for understanding the article.

The Middle

The middle segment is the main body of an article. In the body, writers use the evidence they have gathered from research and interviews to develop the significance of their topic. The organization of the body can be thematic, that is, covering a topic’s distinct aspects. An article may also be organized chronologically. Personal essays lend themselves to chronological organization, detailing experiences that happen over time. Sometimes, writers might organize details from the least to most important point, thereby building a subject’s significance. For example, if a writer covers the latest developments in treatments for a disease, the writer might show how past treatments have paved the way for newer, less invasive treatments.

The Conclusion

Writing an effective conclusion of a magazine article may be the biggest challenge writers face. Some articles leave the reader with a question. Often in a conclusion, writers explain the ‘so what’ about a topic. In other words, the writer explains why the subject is important within a larger context. Strong conclusions often come in the form of a solid statement, question, or anecdote. A good conclusion will leave the reader with a message to think about or act upon.

Magazine Article Example

A good magazine article example will have a proper format, including a compelling introduction, an engaging body, and a strong, insightful conclusion. For example, a profile article might focus on how a ballerina broke through stereotypes to become a renowned dancer. The introduction might showcase some of the famous ballerinas of the past and how those dancers have created classical styles of dance. The profile subject, however, has managed to bring fresh energy to classical dancing by introducing new styles or techniques. The ballerina, thus, inspires others to attempt new styles. The conclusion might leave the reader with a statement about how dance has evolved through the years because of innovative and daring new figures.

Lesson Summary

A magazine article is a nonfiction composition such as profile or personal essay that stands on its own within a publication. While newspaper reports are an objective record of events, magazine articles are subjective accounts shaped by a writer who selects details and chooses an angle or way of presenting a subject. The proper format for a magazine article includes a beginning, middle or body, and conclusion. A sidebar gives additional information to engage readers. Types of magazine articles include a service piece that teaches the reader how to do something, deal with something, or where to find something, a profile or written portrait of a person, an investigative report that exposes corruption or crime, and a personal essay that offers insight about a universal theme.

Writing a magazine article involves beginning with a compelling idea, choosing an effective angle, conducting research for context and facts, and then shaping an article’s introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction begins with a strong lead or the opening hook, along with a nut graph that gives the necessary details for understanding what a story is about. The body of an article may be organized thematically, chronologically, or other ways that emphasize the subject’s importance. The conclusion shows the significance of a subject. A good example of a magazine article is a profile about how a ballerina has reshaped classical dance in a way that inspires others to try new styles.

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