Article writing is a skill that requires both learning and practice. Writers who want to specialize in this niche should explore the industry and understand key elements of article writing. To get good enough to be paid for articles, writers should become adept at doing research, conducting interviews, compiling information and organizing words into cohesive, carefully written news-based pieces.
Articles don’t lead readers down a trail of prose, ending with the highlight. Articles give away all the juicy details right up front. In journalism circles, this is referred to as the upside-down pyramid, or the Who, What, Where, Where, Why and How of an article. The goal of journalistic writers is to answer these six questions before readers even have a chance to ask them.
Newspapers and many magazines provide good examples of how the upside-down pyramid works. In most cases, newspaper articles use the first two or three paragraphs to give readers the complete story. Statistics even show that most people who read newspaper and magazine articles limit their reading to headlines and the first several paragraphs because they learn the bottom line.
Those who read past the first few paragraphs come across the body of the newspaper or magazine articles, which provide the nitty gritty details. The end of an article often summarizes the beginning. With this kind of format, a well-written article can be cut (edited) from the bottom up without losing its essence or the key points.
Traditional articles are written in the third person. They are more formal than blogs, which are usually written in the first person. Articles are generally longer than blogs and include quotes from experts and other facts that the writer is expected to back up with proof within the text. As my journalism professor Andre Neu once said. “Journalists don’t give opinions. They present the facts so that readers can arrive at their own conclusions.”
With all the content currently being written and published on the Internet, strong-willed journalism purists are having to stand their ground. But even they admit that article-writing traditions have been taking a back seat to marketing strategies and SEO requirements. While there’s value and purpose in these two objectives, writers shouldn’t allow their work to be compromised. There’s no excuse for typos, bad grammar and confusing sentences.
The following are some general steps to take when writing an article:
- Identify the audience and plan to write directly to them.
- Research the subject of the article on Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
- Decide the angle of the article. What issue or fact will be the focal point?
- Prioritize and compile the information gathered.
- Conduct interviews by phone or email. Listen carefully for interesting statements that can turn into a quoted statement.
- Write down the who, what, where, when, why and how of your article on a separate page, then make sure to mention all these elements in the first two paragraphs of your article.
- In the body of your article, back up your statements in the first two paragraphs. Use supporting details, examples, references and quotes from experts.
- Proofread your article and read it aloud to ensure proper flow and good transitions.
Getting good at writing articles takes practice, but there’s money to be made and bylines to appear. There are a lot of good books on the subject of how to write articles. Plus, the Writer's Market provides information writers need to identify the publication that's suitable for their article, along names of editors and submission guidelines.