Basically, an article is a body of text that imparts information. Whether this is done in a scientific language, with an informal voice or in a more serious manner, is usually decided by the subject and type of article, and to whom it is aimed.
A scientific or medical article aimed at professionals will use the first example, i.e. scientific language. The same article aimed at the general population must be written in layman’s language that everyone can understand. An article written on a serious subject should have a similar tone of writing, while something aimed at teens or young adults about entertainment, clothing or sport eg, will take on a bright and more breezy note.
To get a human face on the issue being discussed in an article, many editors require two anecdotal pieces to be included. These will come from interviews with people who have first hand experience of the topic. In an article about home-schooling for instance, you can interview people whose children are home schooled. If you don’t know of anyone, support organizations can help by supplying names and phone numbers. They are willing to do this because your article will help to spread the word about their work.
An article usually has five sections:
· Headline – Yes, this is important, as it will inform the reader what the article is about. If it is catchy, or has a hook of some kind, so much the better. The reader will be curious to find out what it is all about and read on. Look through a paper or magazine and note some of the headlines.
· Introduction – One paragraph is usually enough for the introduction. It should build on the headline and explain the content of the article without giving it all away.
· Main body – This will contain all information that is required about the topic along with anecdotes if any.
· Conclusion – The conclusion need only be one or two paragraphs to sum up and round off the information presented. In the case of how-to articles, it should give the reader a pat on the back for all the hard work that has been done and point out the benefits. Eg, “Now you have the most unique gizmo on the block and your friends will be envious.”
· Bibliography – This is not always necessary. Some editors like to see a list of your information sources, but don’t necessarily publish them. A longer article that contains specific important information on say, health issues or scientific topics may require a bibliography.
The how-to article is a little different than other types of articles. It should be written in imperative voice, eg, “Grasp the leaf and pull down.” Not, “You should grasp the leaf and pull down.” Warning on safety, if necessary, should be presented early in the body of the text and unusual terms and names explained clearly. Let the reader know what the project entails in the introduction – they might not want to paint 200 copies of that flower after all. A list of tools and materials will be required, but it is a good idea to leave writing this list until the last, even though it should appear at the beginning. This is so no mistake can be made in the type of tools and materials used.
In general, the how-to article will be written in steps. It is important that these appear in the proper order of doing, so the reader will not be confused. Do a quick summary of what the project should look like at various stages so the reader will know whether the job is going right. Visualize each step carefully as you write. The how-to article is one of the easiest types of articles to write. If sketches are required and you cannot supply them, just do a rough job to give the general idea. Magazines usually have their own artists who will work from what you supply.
Articles about VIP’s have been done to “death”, so try and find an unusual angle to slant the information from. One writer who had tried to interview a celebrity, but failed due to the man’s ‘sniffles’, still wrote the article, but based it on his failure. Another wrote about a golfing personality and interspersed the article with golfing jokes. Editors and readers alike love a touch of humor.
One of the easiest articles to write is the “10 tips to a great (whatever)” type. The ten tips form the body of course, while the introduction explains why you need this information. The brief summary recaps the information and gives a call to action, eg, “Now you know the best way to catch that fish, go out there and do it.”
You should always keep the ‘writer’s voice’ out of your articles. People want to know what’s in it for them, not why you thought you should write it, or how you got the idea for it. And if you are writing about a topic that is so unusual that few people know about it, try to use an analogy that is familiar to them. In general, you don’t need hooks or gimmicks to start an article, simply find the point where the useful information starts and go from there.