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The Fundamentals of Article Writing

Article writing is an art unto itself. While articles do contain some of the same elements as novels, short stories, and blogs, they have their own unique footprint on the literary landscape.

I Know It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It…and My Audience Does Too)

The golden rule: Write about something you like.

Write about something that interests you! If you are not the least bit interested in what you’re writing, chances are your audience won’t be interested in it either. A good article could take weeks or more to write – but if you find yourself falling asleep at your computer, you’re in trouble.

You see, your feelings about your subject are going to bleed through your words. You may think that you are such a nifty, gifted writer that you can mask the fact that the migration habits of warbles bore you to death – but rest assured that one way or another, your boredom will bleed through and infect your audience. Luckily, the reverse is also true. Your enthusiasm will translate through your words to your audience!

I hear you asking, “But what if it’s an assignment and I have no choice?” If you have an assignment that you must write, but it’s about a subject you really don’t have any interest in – try to find an aspect of the topic that does actually interest you.

Yes! This may be tricky. I get it. You can’t be interested in everything! But you can at least try to put yourself in the shoes of people who actually DO care about the subject matter. No matter what it is, someone out there is a fanatic about it! Try to step into their shoes, or get into their heads. If you have any acting ability, this should be easier to do, since you’ve practiced being someone else!

And if all else fails – try to find a “spin” or angle on the subject that makes it more interesting to both you and your readers.

Consider Your Audience

When you are writing an article, you need to know your audience before you write. First, think about who your audience is. If you are writing for a rock and roll magazine, there are certain buzzwords that people in the entertainment industry would immediately know that a casual fan of rock music may not. Again – step into their shoes and heads. Be sure to use terms that they would relate to, and that wouldn’t “give away” the fact that you are not a hard-core rocker.

You also want to know the education level of your audience. If you are writing a medical article for physicians, you would want to use a higher level of vocabulary than if you are writing a medical article for people at lower educational levels.

Niche – The New Buzzword

You must find your niche, or at least your angle on a piece. For example, you really can’t write an article on “rock and roll.” It’s much too broad a subject to encompass in one article. You need to narrow it down. Waaaayyyy down! Pick a favorite band or era that you find fascinating (if you’re allowed to choose, of course) and then go for it. For instance, you might want to write about Elvis, or the Beatles, or 80’s rock. Keep it specific and engaging.

Generally speaking, the more specific your topic is, the tighter your niche is – and the better your article will be.

Do Some Research

Even if you believe yourself to be an expert on a subject, a little research never hurts. Besides, you may learn some interesting facts that you didn’t know before. It might also give you some fresh ideas that might take your article into a different direction than you’d originally planned. It’s a great big world out there and there is always more to be learned. Besides, with easy access to the oracle (i.e., the internet) researching has never been easier.

Create an Outline

In article writing, as well as in many other literary pieces, an outline is essential in establishing a logical flow to your article. Review your research and think about what the article would look like if you included all of the important details. Now start your outline. Make sure to give your article a logical order and a great flow.

Now, don’t think for a minute that your outline is set in stone. You will likely change your outline a few times as you write your article. Many times, a fresh new idea will come into your head as you tap that keyboard, which necessitates a little tweaking to the outline. Not a problem. Revise away until you get it just where you want it.

Write a Rough Draft (or Two)

The rough draft is a must in article writing. There are certain fundamentals of the rough draft that you should adhere to.

The first paragraph of the rough draft should first and foremost grab the reader’s attention. In this era of talking points and memes, today’s reader has little patience for a writer who doesn’t get to the point quickly. Write something in the first paragraph that will pique the reader’s interest. Also, clearly show what is contained in the article in the first paragraph. Don’t be cryptic about it, let them know what they are about to read (or chances are – they won’t).

The body of the article should continue with the ideas that were touched upon in the first paragraph. Take those ideas and expound upon them. Be sure to use short paragraphs; four or five sentences is plenty. Short paragraphs are easier to read and will keep the reader’s attention longer.

And for goodness’ sake – no long, run-on sentences! Clarence Darrow may have been a remarkable speaker in his day (before technology), but our attention spans have shortened dramatically since then. That is simply a fact. Don’t make your readers struggle to follow your sentences, and don’t write unwieldy sentences to sound smart. (You are smart, you don’t have to prove it.) Break up your long sentences into shorter ones, and more people will read and enjoy your material. After all – that is the purpose of our writing, isn’t it?

Share all that you know and don’t hold back. In article writing, you are setting yourself up as a bit of an expert. You should use any information that you personally know to be a fact in your article.

Then use your research! Try to use statistics, definitions, quotes, stories, and anything else you can find that will enhance your article. Always be sure to cite your sources. If it is an online article, place links to those sources.

The last paragraph should summarize the entire article. It’s like the closing argument in a trial. Even though the reader has just completed the article, it is good to refresh their memory with the major points you have so effectively made in your masterpiece.

See How it Holds Up

Now that you have created your labor of love, the next fundamental of article writing is to put the article through its paces and see how it holds up. One good way to do that is to read the article out loud to yourself. Note, I did not say read it in your head. I said read it out loud. I’ve learned what echoes around as poetry in my head can sound like pure drivel when read out loud. The reader will likely hear the same thing in their head as you do when you read it out loud, so this is a very good practice to get into.

Have a friend read it. Find a friend who would be considered part of your target audience (and ideally, one who tells it like it is). A good critic is a writer’s best friend. Ask your friend questions after they’ve read the article like:

  • Did they understand it?
  • Did it entertain them?
  • How is the article’s structure and sequence? (i.e., readability)
  • Did it flow well?
  • Was there anything missing from the article?

Polish the Apple

Tweak it, rearrange it, add to it, subtract from it, and do anything else that is necessary to get your baby ready for public viewing. And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it: Double-check your grammar and spelling. You may do months of research and write an article that is pure poetry, but you can destroy your own artwork – and credibility – if you have spelling or grammatical errors.

Article Writing Takeaways

So take these article writing tips to heart, and use them to finish your labor of love. And don’t be afraid to scrap the article altogether, should that become necessary. A friend of mine recently stated that you can’t polish poop! So if the article just isn’t working no matter how much you’ve tweaked it, toss it and start over.

If you liked these article writing fundamentals, our lesson videos include more tips that will help you structure your articles and establish credibility.

P.S. Become a better writer. Find out more here.

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