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Some Thoughts on Sports Writing

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William Perlman/NJ Advance Media-USA TODAY Sports

Even though we're a New York Jets blog, I'd like to talk for a minute about sports writing. I, along with the other writers here, often get requests for advice or tips on how to get involved in blogging or, more often, how to become a better writer. We have a lot of younger readers, so this isn't surprising. Here are some thoughts; my apologies if it's a bit disjointed.

I got my start here simply by asking John B. one day if he had a moderator spot open. He did, and soon I asked if he had any staff writer spots open. Be aggressive. Decide what you want to do and figure out a plan to get it. I did, and I've now been happily writing here for nearly four and a half years. John started by creating his own blog, and he was so good at it that he was soon approached by SBNation to create GangGreenNation. Everyone's path will be different, but don't waste any time in starting your own journey. Nobody will give you anything for free; you're going to have to earn it.

We also get a lot of e-mails about writing advice. I don't proclaim to be an expert, but since people have asked, here it is. My advice for is to read as much as you can, and to write as much as you can. It's not fun advice or a "one easy trick," but it's the only way to become good at what you want to do. Read as many different authors as you can, in as many different genres as you can. You'll start to notice great writing and poor writing.

For example, compare the writing styles of J.K. Rowling vs. Stephanie Meyer and how they create worlds, and build/describe characters or emotions. Read David McCullough or Robert Caro to learn how to tell historical stories. Read John Steinbeck to learn how to describe settings and scenery, to immerse yourself in an experience. Regardless of your personal politics, read some speeches by Presidents Kennedy and Obama to learn about how to make your writing flow, or visit American Rhetoric. McCullough and Steinbeck are my personal favorites, and I can't even begin to explain how much I've learned from them. Their guidance has helped me write both breaking news stories and my more preferred longforms. They've helped me professionally as well, as a lawyer. I also recommend reading The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. If you use correct spelling and proper grammar, you will instantly have more credibility over someone that doesn't, especially on the Internet. If you can't spell correctly, no newspaper is going to hire you to cover a team.

If you're interested in sports, visit the Grantland Archives. Peter King can be biased towards the NFL, but read some of his works for a reliable demonstration in how to incorporate your opinions and sources. Read FiveThirtyEight to see how to incorporate data and advanced statistics into your work. You'll soon start picking up what makes their writing good, and others bad.

Once you start recognizing this, use it. Practice it. Write short stories nobody but you will ever see, go find a sports blog and write for free, even if nobody is commenting. You'll get better the more you practice. One of my favorite techniques is quite literally to read your writing out loud as if it were a speech. You'll start noticing what sounds bad or lazy.

It isn't necessary to major in journalism or to go to J-School to write about sports. Do what interests you. I love history, so I was a history major in college. It was great because it gave me a ton of practice writing both short and long works. If you really like math, do that. You'll gain a unique perspective on incorporating advanced statistics.

Finally, be calm and measured. Nobody likes the guy that gets defensive or angry. Nobody likes the ultra-reactive writers or the ones that are so biased it's hard to take their opinions seriously. Take what information you get, weigh and measure it for what it's worth, and write. Re-write. Delete your entire writing and sit on it for a few hours until you're sure that's what you want to say and it's written in a way people can understand and relate to it.

Again, I know this isn't our standard fare here on a Jets blog, but we get a number of requests about this, so I wanted to put it in one place. We're a community, so please don't be afraid to contact any of the writers here to talk.