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Any attempt to classify all of the forms of magazine articles would probably prove to be inadequate. However, certain characteristics do tend to identify seven general categories. These categories frequently overlap, and the dividing lines that separate them often become blurred. Even so, this classification serves as a starting point for learning to recognize the various types of magazine articles. This knowledge is necessary before you can even consider writing for the magazine industry. For our purposes, there are seven basic types of magazine articles. They are as follows:

Personality sketch

Personal experience






Personality Sketch

The personality sketch is a short biography that includes an individual's achievements. The "purpose of an article of this type, whether a success article or a profile, is to portray the intimate details of character and personality of someone. The person may be widely known, one who has achieved some form of greatness or someone whose life is in some way interesting or remarkable. The individual does not have to be a famous show business or political personality; this type of story could just as well be written about a Navy person.

A Navy jet pilot who adopted an entire orphanage of Japanese children was the subject of an article of this kind. Another dealt with a sailor aboard a destroyer who spent his reenlistment bonus on football equipment so his shipmates could compete against the crew members of larger Navy ships. Still other sketches have been written about Navy scientists, combat heroes, chaplains, test pilots and athletes.

Personal Experience

Unusual adventures, unique accomplishments, rare travel experiences and countless other personal experiences lend themselves to treatment in this type of article.

"My 60 Days Under the Sea in an Atomic Submarine," "I Fly With the Blue Angels" and "I Walked on the Moon" are typical titles of personal experience articles.

Thousands of Navy men and women have had exciting personal experiences they might have developed into good magazine articles. Quite often, however, they do not have the ability, the time or the inclination to write these experiences on paper. Nevertheless, they usually will talk about their experiences which can provide a good story opportunist y for a journalist in search of ideas.

When you write this type of article, use the "as told to..." byline. You should also use caution when writing in the first person. The frequent use of "I" can become, or appear, egotistical.


The confession article is not necessarily a "shocker" or scandal story. Instead, it is an "inside story" of conditions or problems normally unfamiliar to the average reader. The confession article often involves handicaps or disadvantages that are overcome by determination and common sense.

Incidents related in confession articles are often typical of everyday life. A spoiled, rich kid learns discipline and responsibility aboard a Navy destroyer. A midshipman's determination to overcome a speech defect saves his Navy career. A young man cures a morbid fear of water by joining the Navy. Subjects like these have been used in confession articles. The most noticeable characteristic of the confession story is the intimate, confidential tone in which the writer seems to be personally revealing a secret to the reader. Although the subject matter is personal, it must evoke an emphatic response from the reader.

Humor should not be overlooked in this type of article. An individual's willingness to tell the story shows that he or she is not ashamed. If humor can be injected into the account, it indicates an objective approach.

Some subjects are best when given a humorous treatment. Many interesting articles about common phobias, such as a visit to the dentist, have been written that way. This approach often helps readers to see that most of the fear is unfounded. If the humor is skillfully handled, the readers will probably be amused.

Keep in mind, though, that humor must fit the situation. Flippant treatment of serious or distressful subjects will likely alienate your readers.


The narrative is especially suitable for writing about Navy subjects. Sharp characterization, vivid description, dialogue, action and suspense are skillfully woven into the framework of a narrative article to dramatize the facts. However, the facts must be adapted to this type of treatment. The writer does not invent them, exaggerate them or embellish them in any way. The story must be authentic even in the smallest detail.

The real life exploits and adventures of sailors the world over are told in magazine articles using the narrative approach. A heroic rescue, an epic battle, a dramatic struggle against the elements, a display of bravery and determination in the face of overwhelming difficulties are all subjects that maybe developed into narrative articles.

Careful research is important in writing the narrative article. This is especially true if it is about an event in which many of the magazine's readers may have participated. An important error or omission will immediately be noted by these people, and they will then be skeptical of the entire article. Also, the writing should be colorful and fast-paced. Otherwise it may sound like a chapter out of a history textbook.


Any process, product, method or idea that will help the reader become wiser, healthier, wealthier or happier is a subject for the utility article. Also called the "how-to-do-it" article, the utility article is generally shorter than most other articles and the writing is usually expository or explanatory.

The Navy offers a wealth of ideas for the utility article. Atone time or another, practically everyone has devised a scheme to improve a job, working conditions or equipment. These ideas are especially valuable if they can be tailored for a specific magazine. There are thousands of trade and employee magazines constantly looking for material of this type. Editors of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics build their entire magazines around this type of article.

The utility article can be compared to a set of instructions presented in an interesting and lively manner. Writers should ask themselves the questions they feel readers are most likely to ask, then answer

them clearly and simply. Even though some readers may be experts, writers must assume that every reader is unfamiliar with the information and provide complete details. A routine set of instructions for building a simple cabinet can be interesting if it is presented properly.

You can use the first, second or third person in writing this article. The personal experience approach can be very effective in the utility article. The third person style should be used only if the idea presented involves dramatic or entertaining situations. The most common approach is to use the second person, imperative voice (You fit the wrench ...).


Interview articles present questions and answers that offer a subject's views on a given topic. Little background information is given in the article if the subject is widel y known to the readers and the emphasis is on the topic of discussion. The interview requires much advance planning, however, and the writer should research the subject thoroughly before conducting the interview. Each edition of Playboy presents an excellent example of the interview article.


The featurette is probably the most popular and best-selling short article found in magazines today. It is short and simple, and it contains the element of oddity or humor, and sometimes both. The purpose of the featurette is to entertain.

"Humor in Uniform" and "Life in These United States," regular sections in Reader's Digest, are good examples of the featurette. Nearly every magazine carries at least one anecdote as filler material in each issue.


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