Here are the two most popular types of magazine articles in online and print publishing, plus descriptions of roundups, personality profiles, research shorts, human interest, and “how to” articles. Perfect for freelance writers (or journalist students) who need to spark their creativity and get more article assignments (or do their assignment for journalism class).
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“Two types of articles continue to dominate the changing field of magazine publishing,” writes Nancy Hamilton in Magazine Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Success. “The personality profile and the how-to story with its self-help variant. Together, they account for an estimated 72% of magazine feature material.”
This blog post offers a breakdown and brief description of 11 different types of magazine articles. It’s a good start for journalism students and curious “wanna be” writers. If you’re actually serious about selling your writing and making money as a freelancer, you need to go more in-depth. Read books such as The Complete Guide to Article Writing: How to Write Successful Articles for Online and Print Markets.
The most important thing to remember when you’re looking for different types of magazine articles to write is your audience. Learn how to slant your writing to the target audience, publisher, and editor of the magazine or publication. Books like The Complete Guide to Article Writing and Magazine Writing and Writer’s Market (which I link to at the end of this article) – are essential to your professional success because they offer details and information you won’t find online.
Here, I briefly describe 11 types of magazine articles to show you what editors look for. You’ll learn the basics, and maybe even come up with a few good story ideas to write about. But if you really want to make money as a freelance writer, you need to invest in your own education.
Here’s a tip from bestselling author Natalie Goldberg about being a successful writer: “I hear people say they’re going to write. I ask, when? They give me vague statements,” she writes in Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft. “Indefinite plans get dubious results.”
What are your writing goals, and how will you achieve them? Have you made a specific plan? After you read through these different types of articles to write for magazines, create goals for yourself. If you have questions about writing, feel free to ask me in the comments section below! I make no guarantees and don’t offer advice, but I might have a thought or two to share.
11 Different Types of Magazine Articles
I’ve been published in several different magazines (such as Reader’s Digest, Chatelaine, Women’s Health and More) and have written each one of these different types of magazine articles…except for the exposé. My favorite is writing research shorts for magazines – but they are just that (too short!) and thus don’t pay much.
As you read through the following types of articles, think about which one you most like to read. This will help you decide what type of article to research and write. The best writing comes from writers who are enjoying their work and passionate about their topic, so don’t hesitate to choose the project that lights your fire.
1. “How To” Articles
“Easily the most popular and the shortest and easiest to write, the how-to article with its self-help variant gives instructions for how to do or be something or how to do it better,” writes Hamilton in Magazine Writing.
“How to” articles:
- Make a rousing promise of success
- Describe what you need in easy to follow instructions
- Give step-by-step directions (sometimes with subtitles)
- Include shortcomings or warnings
- Tell how to locate supplies
- Give proofs and promises
- Make referrals to other sources
Examples of “how to” articles are: “How to Write Magazine Articles That Editors Love to Publish” or “How Freelance Writers Earn a $100,000 Every Year” or How to Think Like a Magazine Editor – 8 Tips for Writers. “How to” articles are my favorite type of feature articles; they simply tell readers how to do something.
Tip for freelance writers: Some magazine or newspaper editors require writers to submit their own photos for how-to articles. Before you accept an assignment from an editor, ask what their photo policy is.
2. Profile and Interview Articles
This popular type of article describes a contemporary or historical person – but a profile doesn’t have to be about a human being! Animals, communities, nations, states, provinces, companies, associations, churches can all be profiled (but not necessarily interviewed).
Personality profiles and interview articles:
- Have different definitions. In a personality profile, you use additional sources, such as friends, family, kids, neighbors, colleagues. In an interview, you talk to the source him or herself – preferably in person.
- Can have a theme or focus.
- Can be presented as a “Q & A” or a written article.
- Require strong interviewing and perception skills for the “best” information
Examples of profiles or interview articles are: “The Real Natalie Goldberg and Her Real Writing Career” or “Anne Lamott Shares Her Secrets for Writing Different Types of Magazine Articles.” Profiles and interview are two different types of magazine articles to write.
About this type of magazine article Hamilton says, “The most successful personality profile allows the reader to experience the story directly without having to filter that experience through the ‘I’ of an unknown writer. Despite this common-sense perspective, many magazines today prefer the ‘I’ approach for personality profiles.” Why? Because most editors want to encourage a personal relationship between the magazine and the reader by addressing them personally.
5 Writing Secrets From William Shakespeare is not an example of an interview article. I was too young to interview Shakespeare before he died!
3. Informative or Service Articles
Informative articles are also know as “survey articles.” They often offer information about a specific field, such as sports medicine, health writing, ocean currents, politics, etc. Service articles are similar, but often used as shorter fillers. Service articles offer a few pieces of good advice or tips, but aren’t usually long or involved.
Informative or service articles:
- Focus on one unique aspect, or the “handle”
- Describe what-to, how-to, when-to, why-to, etc.
- Answer the journalist’s who, what, when, where, why, and how questions
- Can end with a “how-to” piece as a sidebar
Examples of this type of magazine article include: “How to Write Query Letters for Magazines” or “How to Make an Editorial Calendar for Writers” or “11 Types of Magazine Articles to Write for Magazines.”
The informative or service article is similar to the how-to type of magazine article. I’d love to write a service article for the SPCA, but I’m too busy with my blogs to pitch article ideas to editors.
4. The Alarmer-Exposé
“A Reader’s Digest staple, the alarmer-exposé is designed to alert and move the reader to action,” writes Hamilton in Magazine Writing. “Well-researched and heavy with documentation, this type of magazine article takes a stance and adopts a particular point of view on a timely and often controversial issue. Its purpose is to expose what’s wrong here.”
- Shocks or surprises readers
- Includes statistics, quotes, anecdotes
- Can range from how extension cords can kill to new info on Watergate
Freelance writing tip: “This article is best written by an established writer who is skilled in reporting an issue and building a case without flagrant – and apparant – bias,” says Hamilton.
Examples of an exposé magazine article are: “Stephen King’s Ghostwriter Reveals Secret Writing Career” or “95% of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing is From a Ghostwriter!” Those aren’t actual feature articles that were written by freelance writers – they’re just examples of the different types of magazine articles.
5. Human Interest Magazine Articles:
- Usually start with an anecdote
- Are often chronologically organized
Examples of human interest magazine articles are: “Anne Lamott Share Her Experience as a Single Working Writer” or “Mark Twain’s Great-Grandaughter Finds Her Writing Niche.” This type of feature article interests the majority of readers of a particular magazine.
People is one of the most popular magazines on the market today, and it specializes in this type of article. If you find someone who has done or experienced something extraordinary – and if your writing skills are pretty good – you might consider sending a query letter to the editors at People.
6. Essay, Narrative, or Opinion Articles
This is my least favorite type of magazine article or blog post to write! I’m not a big writer of personal stories (nor do I like to read autobiographies, biographies, or personal blogs). I’d much rather encourage readers by sharing information – such as these 11 different types of articles to write magazines 🙂
Essay, narrative, or opinion articles:
- Usually revolve around an important or timely subject (if they’re to be published in a newspaper or “serious” magazine)
- Are harder to sell if you’re an unknown or unpublished writer
- Can be found on blogs all over the internet
Here’s some great writing advice from Hamilton: “The narrative uses fiction technique to recreate the tension, the setting, the emotion – the drama – of something that actually happened. The article must have implications and ramifications that are meaningful to a reader. It must be relevant to what’s going on today – one event that relates to the larger whole.”
Examples of this type of magazine article are: “What I Think of Natalie Goldberg’s Decision to Retire From Her Writing Career” or “Anne Lamott’s Most Famous Writing Mistakes.”
If you feel overwhelmed with all these types of magazine articles, read How to Write When You Have No Ideas.
7. Humor or Satire Articles
Humor or satire articles are really hard to write. I just read today – in the University of Alberta’s Trail magazine – that it takes the Simpsons’ writers and staff SIX MONTHS to write and produce a single episode! That’s because humor writing seems easy and fast, but it’s actually the hardest type of writing to learn…not to mention master.
Humor or satire articles:
- Usually have a specific audience, such as the readers of The Onion
- Are usually written on spec (that is, you submit the whole article before the editors or publishers will accept it for publication in the magazine)
Examples of humor or satire articles might include: “Ode to Stephen King’s Typewriter” or “What Margaret Laurence Ate the Day She Started Writing Articles for Magazines.”
Read How To Write Funny: Your Serious, Step-By-Step Blueprint For Creating Incredibly, Irresistibly, Successfully Hilarious Writing by Scott Dikkers if you want to learn how to write humor or satire articles for magazines.
Dikkers is a master of comic writing; in this book he lays out a clear system for creating humor that gets big, “milk-coming-out-of-your-nose” laughs, reliably and repeatably. He shares the three sure-fire ways to generate material, 11 kinds of jokes and how to tell them, the secret to permanently overcoming writer’s block, and more tips, tricks and techniques for writing funny articles for magazines and more.
8. Historical Articles
What can I say? A historical article describes a moment in time. Or an epoch. Or an era. Or an eon.
- Reveal events of interest to millions (which means at least one of my examples wouldn’t work as this type of article)
- Focus on a single aspect of the subject
- Are organized chronologically
- Tell readers something new
- Go beyond history to make a current connection
Examples of this type of magazine article include: “The Typewriter Mark Twain First Used” or “How Freelance Writers Submitted Articles Before Typewriters Were Invented” or “How the Use of the Word ‘Tweet’ Evolved From 2005 to Now.”
9. Inspirational Magazine Articles
- Describe how to feel good or how to do good things
- Can describe how to feel good about yourself – this type of article can work for anyone from writers to plumbers to pilots
- Offer a moral message
- Focus on the inspirational point
Examples of different types of inspirational articles for magazines are: “How You Can Change the World With Your Writing Career” or “13 Tips to Improve Your Writing Confidence.”
This is probably my second most favorite type of feature article to write. It’s definitely the post I write most often on my Blossom blogs!
10. Round-Up Magazine Articles
- Gather a collection from many sources
- Focus on one theme
- Offer quotations, opinions, statistics, research studies, anecdotes, recipes, etc.
The Round-Up was one of my favorite types of magazine articles to write when I was freelancing. Examples of round up articles are: “12 Fiction Writing Tips From Authors and Editors” or “1,001 Types of Articles to Write for Magazines.” I enjoy writing round-ups because I can squeeze in lots of information in 1,000 words.
11. Research Shorts
- Describe current scientific information
- Are usually less than 250 words long
- Are often written on spec (at least by me)
- Are fast, effective ways to earn money as a freelance writer – if you can find the right markets
Research Shorts for the “Front of the Book” are those little blurbs of scientific research you see at the beginning of many magazines. Examples of these types of articles for magazines include: “How Alliteration Affects Your Memory” or “What Anne Lamott’s Writing Does to Your Brain Waves.”
Shorts aren’t really a type of magazine article, but they’re a great way to get your foot in the door and learn what articles editors will pay to publish.
Help Selling Your Magazine Articles for Freelance Writers
Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition 2017: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published is the best way to find magazines and markets to write for. This edition includes all-new material devoted to the business and promotion of freelance and other types of writing.
I love Writer’s Market because they always share the secrets of six-figure freelancers, how to create a productive home office, and apps that make freelancing easier, etc. Plus, these editors teach writers how to build relationships in the publishing business, use video to promote your work, and remove obstacles from your path to freelance writing success.
Writer’s Digest Magazine
Writer’s Digest is my favorite magazine about writing, and a subscription is both motivating and informative. The more you learn about freelance writing – including the business of writing – the easier it’ll be to remember the different types of magazine articles you can write for magazines.
If you want to be a freelance writer, you have to do more than just learn about the different types of magazine articles to write for magazines. You need to research professional writing organizations, learn how to write query letters for editors, and where to pitch your ideas.
If you have any thoughts or questions about writing these types of feature articles for magazines and other publications, feel free to share below!
May your writing bless your readers, point them towards truth and light, and help them grow in faith, love, hope, and peace. May you write strong and true – as if you had a message from the King. May you listen to that still small voice, be astonished, and share the wisdom that has inspired and encouraged you.