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It’s the moment of truth. You built your website. You have it hosted. Now it’s time to start supplying great content and build your following. One problem, though: you’re not sure how to write an article.
Like creating any other kind of content for the web, there are different approaches to take. What works for one writer may not work as well for another. Nevertheless, we’ll go over some general tips intended to improve your article writing skills.
These should help with many of the usual things writers stress about when wondering how to write a blog post. Improving your writing fluidity, selecting topics, creating your space, and much more.
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Here's how to write an article
1. Create your writing space
One of the greatest mistakes aspiring writers make is not doing their prep. Some gifted writers can knock out a post under any circumstances. Chance are, you’re not one of them. No shame, though, because most people aren’t.
You want to maximize your chance at writing content that people want to read. This means creating a perfect writing space. Here’s one take on crafting your writer’s area:
First, get all the tools you’ll need to write. At a minimum, you’ll need a computer (chances are you’re already set there). It doesn’t have to be fancy, or super-powerful. Make sure it’s robust enough to run all the programs you’ll need to write, though.
Speaking of software, there’s no shortage of them for writers. Every few months, it seems like some new software is out, marketed directly at busy writers. You’ll have to find which ones work best for you. You should look into getting programs for drafting, editing, etc.
Everyone knows about Microsoft Office and Open Office. If you want to try something different, however, there are few names to get you started:
Next, you need a surface on which to set your computer. Some like a desk in the corner. Others like a large table. I’m fond of the kitchen bar, myself. It may seem like a trivial decision, but location matters.
Your spot should have sufficient lighting. It should have access to electrical outlets to plug in your computer and other tools. It should have space for you to move. It should be functional above all else but needs a personal touch to motivate you.
Which means you should decorate it in a way that inspires you. When you’re writing, you’ll have to take a break now and again. During your break, you want your surroundings to refresh you and prepare you to dive back in. Include a painting that you will love or a list of “writer’s commandments” to follow.
What you don’t want your space to do is distract you and pull you out of writing mode. Keep your phone, gaming console, and television separate from the writing space. They’re likely to throw you off your game.
As always, the internet provides plenty of examples of beautiful spaces to emulate. Mix and match ideas until you find what might work for you.
2. Finding what to write an article about
Mind map a topic
One method is to enter a focus state and start mind mapping. Think about things that might interest you or your readers. Jot down whatever ideas you generate. Start to create connections. Soon you’ll have a “big picture” of potential topics at your fingertips.
Grab a large piece of paper and some colored pencils. In the center, write “article topic.”
Now, think about sources of inspiration. Maybe topical current events? A problem your readers need to have solved? Perhaps an interaction you had earlier in the day?
Write these down as branches off of your main topic on your map. Now go deeper.
- What current events are relevant?
- What problems might readers need solving?
- Who did you interact with that day?
These become sub-branches on the map.
Keep going until you arrive at potential titles for your next post. Write down as many as you can, then analyze them when you finish. Did you come up with anything worthwhile?
Many writers enjoy the flexibility this method offers. It’s not for everyone, though. Some writers need more constraints, more guidelines. You can always turn to some tried-and-true templates if that is the case.
Stock article ideas
There are a few stock article ideas that you can run with, starting with the Newsjacking Post. It’s one of the most popular post types around. So much so, there’s a whole book on how to do it!
The idea is simple. A story in the news is gaining popularity. You ride that wave of popularity by writing a post that ties the news story to your content in a unique way.
You could relate it to your industry or websites focus. You might have a specific point you want to get across that the news story illustrates. Either way, when people want to read about the story in question, your post will be right there in the mix.
To do it right, you have to be quick, though. You’ll need to stay abreast of stories that are just gaining legs. If it’s already peaked, you’ve missed your opportunity to newsjack. HubSpot has a great guide on how to go about it.
They recommend setting up RSS feeds and alerts to scan major news outlets. Then, they advise doing keyword research and brushing up on the topic in question. Write your story, and bring your unique take to the table. Then spread the word and watch that sweet, sweet traffic flow.
If you’re not the quick post type or don’t feel like reading the news all day, there are other stock posts you can try. Perhaps a List Post is more to your liking?
No doubt you’ve seen one of these before. They’re all the rage in 2016: “”17 Horror Movie Villains Who Were Totally In The Right,” “15 Hot Celebs We Wished Posed Topless Before Playboy’s Ban,” “10 Origin Stories Of Famous Sports,” and so on.
These posts are probably always going to be popular. This is because the headlines are so attention-grabbing. They spark curiosity in the reader. “What ARE those ten sports origins?” most wonderful.
They are easy to scan. They are easy to share. They let the reader know exactly what they’ll be reading. They can target very specific audiences. They are, in short, a great content generation tool.
Unfortunately, list posts have gained a stigma that’s hard to shake. Some deride them as clickbait, a crutch for lazy writers. Others bemoan their simplicity, reasoning it’s not the right format for their site.
If you’re going to do a list post, make sure you knock it out the park. Here’s what to keep in mind:
You need a catchy title
List items should be relevant
Trim the fat from your writing
Provide lots of links
Order items in a sensible way
Keep it fun
We’ll cover some writing techniques to help you tighten up a bit later. For now, just know that if a list post is strong, it stands to gain a lot of attention.
As attention-grabbing as they may be, though, they’re not everyone’s style. You could try soliciting your audience for ideas.
This is what we call the Question And Answer Post. Perhaps you received a comment in a previous post with a reader question? Maybe you asked readers to email their queries to you directly? You could even ask yourself a question if you need to.
Whatever the source, you can turn these into fodder for new posts. Keep a file of the questions you get. Find the ones that will make the most interesting posts. Ask the questioner if you can credit them or if they would rather stay anonymous.
Answer the question. Provide thoughtful insight, and consider weaving in a life lesson. Now you have an awesome post and a place to point to if you’re ever asked the question again. Q&A posts are also a great way to generate more questions for future posts. Brilliant.
There’s a variation of this where you can ask a general question to the audience. It could be something topical that relates to your industry. “What’s Your Favorite PlayStation 4 Game,” for instance.
Provide some background on the question and possible options. List criteria for what you think the audience should consider when answering. Share your thoughts on the matter, perhaps even providing your personal answer. Then ask readers to comment.
You might spark an interesting discussion. You might also start a flame war. Done right, you should get some traffic heading to your page either way, which is the overall goal.
If you want to get even more personal, write a Story Post. This kind of post uses life events to explore a broader point. Just make sure it isn’t boring.
Talk about a time you experienced critical failure or success. Talk about changing careers, moving, a death in the family, etc. Talk about how these events changed you.
Explore what mistakes you made, what you learned, and how you might do things differently if given a second chance. These posts give readers insight into your character and are great conversation starters.
They don’t have to be your story, either. You can talk about something that happened to a friend. Or use a popular tale and relate it to another concept that you want to discuss. The possibilities open up when you do a Story Post, but you have to be willing to get personal.
Not every writer is into personal. Maybe you’re into posts with more direct practicality. You could try your hand at doing Reviews.
Nothing is off limits here, though you should focus on things related to your industry. Got a gaming site? Review games and hardware. Do you discuss music? Review new albums or instruments that you’ve tried out.
Remember that reviews should be informative. Explore what makes something good or bad, in your opinion. Present a measured take on the pros and cons. Give your overall recommendation on whether you would use an item long term, or at all. Let your audience know if that film is worth seeing or that game is worth playing.
A related concept is analyzing industry trends and then writing about them:
“I’ve been seeing this going on, and here’s what I think about it…”
“This is horrible, and it needs to stop…”
“I didn’t like this at first, but now it’s starting to grow on me…”
You can talk about what started this trend. You can delve into how it could affect other aspects of your industry. You could talk about why you think it’s a good thing, bad thing, or a mix of both.
Perhaps you’d rather provide your audience a How-To post? Identify something that a reader might need a tutorial on, then provide your take. “How to Write an Article That Your Readers Will Love” is one such example.
Lay out your steps, write your content, then provide valuable supplementary info to the reader. A similar concept is the Tip Post. You can combine the How-To with the List format, generating something like: “6 Tips For Life Success.”
Again, tackle the topic by injecting your insight and expertise. Explain why the overarching goal is important. Explain how each tip furthers the ultimate aim. It’s pretty straightforward. Perhaps too straightforward for some writers.
If that’s the case, you can try one of many structured-but-out-of-the-box ideas. This post from Yes And Yes lays them out. Incorporating short audio or video in the post is particularly clever. Give each a try to see what you favor the most.
3. Get in the mood to write
Now you have to motivate yourself to get started. Everyone has their own tips and tricks for getting in the mood. Here’s what works for me, nine times out of ten:
Clearing the mind — A quick walk around the block with the dog can help push out distractions. Meditation or a short workout can have a similar effect.
Fixing a drink — Nothing alcoholic, mind you. Just a warm cup of tea or something similar.
Setting the mood — Get the lighting just right. Fix the chair, so it’s in the perfect spot. Turn on some relaxing music that won’t distract, but isn’t sleep-inducing either.
Phoning a friend — Sometimes a quick chat with a buddy can do wonders. It doesn’t even have to be about writing. Just catching up on old times is enough.
Experiment with these strategies (and others) to find what gets you pumped for writing. Watching a good motivational video or two never hurt anyone either:
4. How to begin an article
Now it’s time to start writing. If you took the time to lay a foundation, this should be the easy part. First, you’ll have to write a headline for your post. The headline has to convince visitors to read your post.
ProBlogger has a great list covering how to get that perfect title. They recommend eight solid strategies:
- Communicating a benefit
- Creating controversy/debate
- Asking questions
- Personalizing the message
- Using keywords
- Using power words
- Making bold claims
- Injecting humor
Combining these strategies will help you entice readers. There are also tools you can use to gauge the efficacy of a headline. One of my favorites is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Type in your title and the analyzer will calculate its structure, grammar, and readability. It will assign a score, and give tips on improving.
This article, “How To Write an Article That Your Readers Will Love,” gets a 75. A B+, by their estimation, and in the green zone. It conveys a “positive sentiment,” which is good. It also contains “powerful” and “emotional” words that help engage readers.
Your title is but the first step, though. Now you need to craft an outline for your article. You’ll need:
- An Introduction
- Content Sections
- A Conclusion
Your intro should grab the reader with its first sentence. You can make that bold statement. You can ask a thought-provoking question. You can use a quote or a well-known saying. You can offer up a statistic, or lead in with a story.
Whatever you do, make sure not to bore your readers. If they aren’t “feeling it” within the first paragraph, you may well lose them.
Next, you have to organize your content in a way that makes sense. Do your research, so you know you’re including the pertinent details. Explore all the angles. Make sure you’re offering a unique take and not a rehash of what everyone else has done.
When using information from other sources, make sure to cite them in your post. Attribution is critical, especially when dealing with facts and data (which you should always try to include).
On the internet, readers have shorter attention spans. Think about what you are trying to convey and get to the point when you are writing. Remove redundant information. Use simple language that people will understand easily.
Add images to help make your points. Inject humor into the piece. Add some pop culture references and analogies (where appropriate) and you’ll be able to relate to your readers on a personal level.
Wrap everything up with a short conclusion that summarizes the main points of the post. You don’t have to rewrite every detail. Just include the broad strokes and call to action.
The CTA should tell the readers what you want them to do next. It could be checking out a related article. It could be watching a video. It might be subscribing to your mailing list or any number of actions.
Makes sure the CTA provides additional benefit so readers will feel more compelled to follow your instruction.
When you’re done writing, you should edit your work. Trim the fat. Correct grammatical errors. Vary your vocabulary. There are programs to help you with this task.
Grammarly is one of the most popular services. There’s also Grammark, Ginger, and SlickWrite. It will also benefit you to learn the fundamentals of proofreading. This guide can get you started, and there are plenty more resources on the web.
You should make sure that all of your work is unique. To check for plagiarism, run your content through a plagiarism checker. They can check your work against what’s out there and give you a warning if what you’ve written is too similar to existing articles.
You’ll want to do some Search Engine Optimization on your post, in most cases. Check the SEO basics, and make use of any of the SEO tools out there to tighten up your work.
5. General article writing tips
These tips will help you focus while writing:
- Do your research before you write
- Make use of multiple screens
- Break your work into chunks
- Don’t be afraid to take a quick break
- Eliminate distractions/don’t multi-task
- Don’t write and proofread at the same time
Follow these strategies for staying involved after you publish a post:
- Watch your timing
- Promote your posts heavily
- Engage with your audience
- Encourage discussion
How to write an article: conclusion
So how do you write an article? The best way you know how. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Combining some of the strategies we talked about, though, will help you devise a method that fits you.
Create your ideal space. Make sure that you are comfortable and ready to focus on writing. Choose your topics diligently, and research thoroughly. Keep your writing clear and concise. Promote your posts, and make sure to follow up.
Keep searching for new techniques to improve your article writing. ProBlogger has an excellent series on just about every aspect of the blogging trade. BloggingTips and Moz also have plenty of posts for stepping up your game.