Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Write a Good Article: The 7 Rules

 

With Social media and networking sites becoming more and more popular, good article writers are becoming a dying breed. Journalism is getting shittier and shittier by the day. Click Baiting headlines and crappy, populist topics discussed in the most un inspiring, ungenuine, crass manner possible have become quite the norm. But even in this shitstorm of 'likes for tits' and 'shares for laughs' era of journalism and literature, good writing does hold its own place. And it's a respectable place indeed. 

If your intention is to write click baiting shit, skip this page now and get on to your 9gag or porntube or whatever you were fapping to. But if your intention is to write credible, worthy articles, that will stand the test of time, reach out to help a genuinely interested audience and earn you some respect not from the millions of fappers sitting on their mobile devices and laptops with only one hand on the keys, but from peers, clients and true knowledge seekers, THIS IS THE ARTICLE YOU NEED TO READ. That does not mean you can't write funny or include memes and some funnies. Hell, the best writing in all of literature is the one that can make you laugh even at your own misery. And the best advertising too is almost always made memorable by humour - but yes, you need to place it well and always keep it relevant. Use humour as a tool to drive in your point if needed, but dont make it all your article is about if you even want to keep a shimmering hope of being taken seriously. 

So now, let's cut the crap, and get to the meat of this article.
From all my experience in writing for ads, blogs, magazines and media, I have gathered that There are SEVEN RULES or essentials to writing a good article:

1. CHOOSE YOUR TOPIC AND TITLE CAREFULLY
That's obviously without stating the fact that you need to KNOW the subject you are writing about, thoroughly. If you don't know shit, don't write shit. It will only make you look like an idiot, maybe for eternity on the webspace. As I'm presuming you understand this 'knowing your topic'  as a basic necessity of writing an article, I will move on.

Pick a topic that genuinely needs discussion or answering. Pick a topic that bothers you or your friends or students. Pick a topic that hounds your brain. And then, put it in those very words as simply as possible - keeping the title below 7 words if you can (coz by the widely accepted and definitely proven theory of 'chunking' in psychology, 7 units is the far end of the human minds memory and retention capacity - a guideline often followed to the tee by good advertising copywriters). Keep your title humble, real and far away from exaggerations and over promises.
That topic which you have now carved out of chaos, will be the foundation stone and the flag of your article. 


2. INTRODUCE INTRESTINGLY

Then comes the body. Don't just jump off into the droles of information you have in your head.
Your first line, your first para - that's the hook to your reader.
It is also what establishes the purpose of the reader investing his/her time in reading on. Make sure you make it clear what the reader stands to benefit from reading your article. You could also draw attention to your article by providing an insight that cannot be refuted or an anecdote that makes an interesting read. 


3. BREAK IT DOWN THOUGHTFULLY
Social media has reduced the attention span of people more than you think. Even active readers find themselves wandering away from proses that get too long on a lit up screen. 
Simplify your subject matter and break it down into small sets of useable information. 
Exactly like I'm doing with this article. Don't trivialise your subject. Don't over intellectualise it. The true skill lies in finding that balance between length and brevity. With practice you will learn how much is too much and where to cut short. But you wont get practice unless you start writing. So, please do.


4. SPEAK IN RELEVANT PICTURES
We humans have become increasingly visual dependant. Our attention span drops without images to break the monotony of words. But, it is also true that a relevant image speaks better than a million words can. So if you can illustrate your point with an image or illustration or video, please do. Utilize the incredible array of media the modern world has given you.  If you are writing a fitness article for example, support your words with images from your workout or training regime or whatever you are talking about. It also serves to show that you are not just a yapper, but indeed a doer. 
If you can't provide pictures, atleast use JOHNSON BOXES - or separations in your text. That helps your prose to not look like an endless sermon and allows people to quickly focus on whats important even at just a glance. 

5. PROVIDE REFERENCES IF POSSIBLE
I know this sounds like asking too much, but it really helps to provide references to what you are saying. It is what makes your article hold its own in an argument/alternate perspective. Add in anecdotes, but avoid making your article an anecdotal evidence. 
A good writer will discuss an anecdote, cross reference the findings/observations with studies and FACTS, and then write about it as an article. 
No good writer will ever expect his audience to take his word for the truth. So its only fair that provide references to the facts you are stating or atleast make sure that what you have stated is reference proof and will stand true if cross checked. 

6. SUMMARIZE AND CONCLUDE
It's easy to get lost even after all that reading. And the fact is that most people will only skim the top and bottom end of your article, interrupted by the pictures in between. Its only human.
Make sure you clearly summarize the gist of your article and draw a conclusion that the reader can take home, even if he/she hasn't had the time to read the entire article.
Infact, if the conclusion is solid, your article might just get saved to be read later. 


7. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME AND CREDENTIALS
Anything that has your name attached to it, has your honor attached to it. It shows that you take the matter seriously. It shows why you are credible to write the article and why the reader can safely take it seriously and in earnest.
Your name and credentials are your seal of earnestness.
For most people out there writing to share their knowledge, it serves as a permanent piece of 'advertising' for the hard work you have put in to gather the knowledge that makes that article a great piece worth reading and sharing. 

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Follow these basic guidelines, and you will be able to write an article that stands out of the clutter, is genuine, and worthy of reading and respect. Even if you are writing just to promote yourself or your business, follow these guidelines and in the longterm, it will do way more for you than the photo of a pussycat with a funny line. Maybe not as much as Kim Kardashian's Naked pic with you though, but maybe that a good thing.
Remember, QUALITY > QUANTITY. It's quite a writing guideline to live by - even applicable to friends, family, work and to life itself.

Hope this helps you write better. 


Pushkaraj S Shirke
Advertising Creative Director,
Editor of www.ProjectBattleready.com 
Blogger, Writer, Film-maker and Photographer

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