Quotes on the background section

What writers & others say

Quotes on the background section


“Stay within the confines of your chosen topic. If you start to stray away from your topic and find an urge to showcase everything that you know, resist that urge. Remember that you are writing a book, not the book.”
― Gudjon Bergmann, author of The Author’s Blueprint

Quotes on the background section


“Approach every story as if you were writing a letter to an individual reader who knows nothing about the subject with which you are dealing.”
— Turner Catledge, former executive editor of The New York Times

Quotes on the background section


“Background information is pretty easy to write poorly. Done wrong, it can read like a list or a lecture. But done right, background can make some of the most opaque concepts perfectly transparent.”
—Tim De Chant, editor at NOVA Next

Quotes on the background section


“We live in an age awash with information. Readers don’t just want random snatches of information flying at them from out of the ether.”
— Jack Fuller, president of Tribune Publishing, in his book News Values: Ideas for an Information Age.

Quotes on the background section


Avoid “the editor’s sentiment, an inclusive one: to explain, to overexplain, to set the threshold of comprehension for every line of a story to include 99.9 percent of readers.”
—Mark Kramer, director, Nieman Foundation Program on Narrative Journalism and writer-in residence at Harvard University

Quotes on the background section


“When you know what you want to communicate, ask yourself: Who is my audience, and what does he know about the subject?”
― Sandra Lamb, author, How to Write It

Quotes on the background section


“The structural problem you almost always face in writing such articles, then, is how to work into the story the basic information you have to supply so that readers unfamiliar with the subject know what you’re talking about. You want as few seams showing as possible. I simplified the problem by developing a standard magazine voice that I try to make clear, vigorous, and authoritative.”
— Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, in How to Write: Advice and Reflections

Quotes on the background section


“Background has a bit of an image problem among science writers. It’s clearly the underdog to its more exciting cousins, the lede and the kicker, which seem to get all our creative attention.”
— Christina Selby, freelance writer and TON fellow

Quotes on the background section


“Background, also known as exposition, provides a feature article with the history and context that help a story make sense in the moment and find its place in the bigger picture. It’s a dignified role, but too often we writers treat background as the sawdust sandwich, the murky middle, the part where we stand at the chalkboard and give a history lesson.”
— Christina Selby, freelance writer and TON fellow

Quotes on the background section


“You need only enough background to make the foreground understandable, credible and visual.”
— Sol Stein, award-winning author, playwright and editor to such authors like Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden

Quotes on the background section


“In exposition and in argument, the writer must likewise never lose his hold upon the concrete; and even when he is dealing with general principles, he must furnish particular instances of their application.”
— William Strunk, Jr., author of The Elements of Style

“I think young writers should get other degrees first, social sciences, arts degrees or even business degrees. What you learn is research skills, a necessity because a lot of writing is about trying to find information.”
― Irvine Welsh, Scottish novelist
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