Write a story template

Merit achievements are made up of a mix of templatized text and student data from your spreadsheet (or list). The majority of the text will be the same for everybody, but throughout the story, you'll mix in some personal details. 

To do this, you're going to want to insert some "placeholder" text into the body of your story. Much like a mail merge, these "placeholders" will reserve spots for the personalized text from your spreadsheet. They allow you to insert students' first names, last names, hometowns, majors, and more into your story. We usually recommend keeping this information in parentheses or all caps (or both), so you can tell which information is specific to individuals.  

There are two potential types of stories you may write:

You only need to write these stories once, regardless of however many students are in your list.  

Merit Achievement 

Every student will have an online story created for them. You should begin by writing a story about ONE person using some generic "placeholder" text. This version of your story will appear on student Merit pages. Here's an example of what a Merit story template could look like:

(FIRST NAME) (LAST NAME) Graduates from Merit University

(FIRST NAME) (LAST NAME), of (CITY) graduated (HONORS) with a (DEGREE) in (MAJOR) from Merit University during the May 4, 2017 commencement exercises.

(LAST) was among more than 1,000 students who received degrees.

Students who graduated with honors completed a minimum of 30 credit hours with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5

Merit will eventually create personalized stories for each person in your list by inserting their details in place of the "placeholder" text.

Press Releases

If you choose to also send your story to the media, each newspaper will receive one press release from you. That one press release will contain the names of ALL of the students from their coverage area. Because of this they will receive either a story about one person or a story about a list of people. We call these stories  Individual Press Releases and Group Press Releases.

An  Individual Press Release will (in all likelihood) be almost identical to the Merit version of your story. However, a Group Press Release should be written as if it's about more than one person. These stories are different in that they're broken up into three sections: 

  • Opening: This text will be the same for every newspaper and should serve as a lead-in to a list of students. 
  • Repeating: This section will be made up of mostly "placeholders" from your spreadsheet. It should be one paragraph of text that will repeat automatically to form a list of local students. 
  • Closing: This section includes everything after your list of students. It will be the same for every newspaper.

Here's an example of what a  Group Press Release could look like:

Local Students Graduate from Merit University


More than 1,000 students received degrees from Merit University on May 4, 2017. The following local students earned degrees:


(FIRST NAME) (LAST NAME), of (CITY), (ZIP), graduated (HONORS) with a (DEGREE) in (MAJOR).


Students who graduated with honors completed a minimum of 30 credit hours with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5.


A few things to note about press releases: 

Your Group Press Release headline should be written in plural form. We recommend something like: "Local Students Named to Merit University Dean's List"

You should end your Opening section with a line of text that leads directly into the list of students that will follow. We recommend something like: "The following local students were named to Dean's List:"
You can ONLY include "placeholders" in the Repeating Section. Any references to specific people in the Opening or Closing will appear in EVERY story, regardless of whether or not the person is local to a newspaper. 

If you've loaded a boilerplate into your account, it will be added in your story automatically. You won't need to include it in your document.  

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