Definition of a Sidebar

illustration of person opening magazine
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A sidebar is simply a shorter piece or text that accompanies a longer article in a publication such as a magazine or newspaper, often graphically separate, but related to the main idea. A sidebar can be anywhere from a few sentences to whole other page, and may complement or contrast the article it's placed with. 

Sidebar: What Freelancers Should Know

First and foremost, know that the sidebar complements or supplements the article it accompanies.

This may be a necessity for a full article, or it may be simply a function of space.

Sidebars often provide graphic relief to the eye; that is, they may be used to break up long boxes of article text. They may also be used to catch the eye of the magazine reader as they're flipping through the publication.

Editors often request sidebars with your writing assignment, but it's also a good idea to suggest some possibilities when you pitch a story. This shows that you've thought about your idea fully, from all angles.

Sometimes, a writer may also be asked to write sidebars to go with others' articles. Either way, it's often a great assignment, as the article itself carries much of the weight on the topic, and sidebars are a bit easier and can be more interesting.

How to Write a Sidebar

Good ideas for sidebars include a dissenting opinion, resources for further information, a true life applicable story that goes with the article, or an expert's viewpoint.

Your sidebar should be relatable to the main work, and will often number between 100 and 400 words. Freelance writers may want to brainstorm potential sidebars using questions like "What is another, additional perspective?" or "What am I leaving out that a person might want to know?"

Sidebars: Also Known As...

Sidebars may be called a filler at times.

In addition, they've been referred to as a "boxout" or even a "call out box."