The waiting room was stuffy. Cheap air freshener battled with the scent of too many sick strangers in too small a space. A runny nosed boy chewed a burly action figure while his mother talked small with an elderly stranger. Three men of assorted age studied their shoes. This was fifteen minutes I was never getting back. I picked up a newspaper and chose an article on the spread of infectious diseases. I wanted to come away from this non-event with a little learning under my belt.

Reading a magazine or feature article is a completely different than reading the news. Instead of fast facts, the reader wants information with colour, entertainment, background and a new perspective on an old subject.

The authors of Leaving Certificate English Paper 1 may call on you to write an essay in the magazine, or feature, article format. Like the news story described in last week’s Mediascope, the feature format has a set of conventions that distinguish it from other kinds of text. They are not the only options, but if you read soft news writing on a regular basis you will encounter them again and again. They exist to draw the reader in, and to make him feel comfortable. They make promises about the content to come and they leave the reader satisfied and with a sense of closure.

Many feature articles begin like this one did – by setting a scene. Describing a scene, a hypothetical scenario, a conundrum, a character, or an event are all effective ways of drawing the reader from his own world and into the world of your article. If, for example, you are writing a feature about asylum seekers, you might start with a short description of one asylum seeker’s experience. Now the reader is on your wavelength, you can broaden out the theme.

Your opening description, anecdote, question or conundrum should be quickly followed by what is described in the American press as a ‘nut graph’. This tells the reader why you have just described the experience of an asylum seeker and where...

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