Whether you suffer from low self-esteem, are unemployed, or just want to meet hot girls and boys at conferences and gatherings about how to help the poor using outdated and irrelevant European political theory, referring to yourself as a freelance journalist can really give your profile the sexy edge it needs.

The best thing about freelance journalism is that it is freelance. But the worst thing about freelance journalism is that it is journalism. Journalism comes with perks, quirks and twerks, but it takes its pound of flesh. Sooner or later, you will have to write for newspapers.

This guide will introduce you to some of the smartest techniques used by some of the greatest journalists in history, to help you do in hours what they have done in entire careers – write about things you know nothing about.

Step 1: What to write

Among the various ways in which journalists have monopolized the newspaper industry is the categorization of articles into obscure categories like reports, features and comments. Comments are articles in which you express your opinion. Reports are articles in which you put your opinions into other people’s mouth. Features are when you do that and also exploit people’s emotions. They are identical to reports, except that there is a paragraph about an angry old man, a crying woman, or a hungry child at the beginning and another one at the end.

In order to make the claim that you question the status quo, you should aim to blur the boundary between reports, features and comments.

At no stage should you limit yourself by thinking about a topic. When you write about general political and social issues, a topic will emerge by the time you finish.

Step 2: How to write

There is only one rule that you need to follow when you are writing for a newspaper. If your readers were looking for facts, they wouldn’t be reading a newspaper.

Therefore, do not clutter your writing with useless facts, statistics, names and dates. For example, instead of specifying a date a politician made a particular statement or a terrorist attack took place, use terms like “some days ago”, “recently”, “the other day”, or “a couple of days ago”. Also ensure that you do not identify who you get your information from. In fact, hide that person’s gender by referring to them using gender-neutral plural words, such as “sources”. If your cousin who works in the call center of a mobile phone company tells you his opinion about the future of the industry and Pakistan’s economy, you can use the term “experts believe.” If your friend’s father said something useful about politics, use the term “analysts are of the opinion”.

You don’t have to depend on facts to substantiate your opinion or stress the importance of certain events. There are other, more effective ways of doing that. For example, you can corroborate your opinion using such phrases as “it is an established fact that”, and you can question rival opinions using such phrases as “nothing can be further from truth than.”

It is pertinent to mention that when you use the term “it is pertinent to mention” at the beginning of a paragraph, it sets it apart from other paragraphs that are not pertinent.

Here are some expressions that can make your article look like it belongs to a professional journalist:

- All walks of life

- Dramatic new development

- Spearheading the campaign

- Law and order situation

- Painted a grim picture

- In full swing

- Inextricably linked

- Leave no stone unturned

- Speculation is rife

- Wreak havoc

Step 3: How to get published

Getting published is not about how good you are. It is a matter of chance. You can’t do much to change your fate, but there’s a lot you can do to improve your chances.

Some of the most regularly published freelance journalists of our times use this technique: if editors publish one article in every ten they receive, you have a one in ten chance of getting published. But if you email the same article ten times to each editor, there is no way they will not notice. Another way you can use the same basic principle to improve your odds is by sending the article only once, but following up with the editor ten times in a span of one or two days. If you do not get a response, do not lose hope. There is one ultimate technique that is guaranteed to work.

If you want to be absolutely sure that your article gets published no matter how little sense it makes, send it to The Nation.

 The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.

harris@nyu.edu

@cyborgasms