Writing Compelling Articles that Readers and Search Engines Will Love
Writing can sometimes be tricky. I thought I’d share with you a few simple tips on how to write clearly and draw reader’s attention. The structure and ordering of the article can make a big impact on the ease and pleasure with which it can be read.
An opening paragraph should encompass the story, as well as telling the reader why the issue is of importance. Whilst opening paragraphs should generally contain these most important pieces of information, it’s also important that they are colourful and draws reader’s attention. I will often try to begin the first sentence with something less important and more interesting. For example, if I was writing about Hitler, I might begin with:
“He might have been an artist and vegetarian, but Hitler was no peace pipe puffing peace protestor, he committed genocide”.
The fact that Hitler was responsible for genocide is a much more important fact, but that he was an artist and vegetarian may make the opening less dry, and interest the reader more.
Asking questions in the opening paragraph is a good way of focusing the thrust of the article, for both reader and author. For this example I would probably follow the previous sentence with a question such as “But what made Adolf tick?” or “How did he mobilise the support necessary to commit mass murder?” depending on what the rest of the article was about.
It can be a good idea to come back to opening paragraphs once the rest of the article is written, as it is important the article answers the questions or addresses the issues outlined in the opener.
I generally find that the driving force of an article is one piece of information from one source, but research should not end there. The wider the variety of texts researched the more interesting and colourful the article can be. A good article crams as much information into as little text as possible.
The main principle of journalism is the inverted news pyramid; the most important piece of information appearing at the top of the article, and the article continuing with information of diminishing importance. This makes for clarity and easy editing.
This rule shouldn’t be completely adhered to because often it is good to have less important pieces of information scattered throughout, as they are generally more interesting than the ‘hard’ facts. Imagine if you were writing an article about the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, the fact of most importance (policies, presidential terms, dates of assassination) might not interest the reader as much as less important details, such as they were both shot in the head on a Friday and were succeeded by presidents named Johnson.
Any good article should have an angle, and this is why opening paragraphs are so important. Two articles could be about the same piece of news, but approach it very differently. If it’s an article about house prices, is it aimed as home owners devastated by falling house prices or for first-time buyers trying to get on the property ladder. This should make a big difference to the direction of the article, and how the reader is positioned in the opening paragraph.
Whilst good articles have an angle, every opinion should be backed up with facts, quotes and evidence, and every supportive claim should be juxtaposed with ideas to the contrary. This is not to say that an article cannot be opinionated, but it is a good idea to balance the argument to maintain some credibility.
In terms of actually writing the article, I find entering plenty of research and ideas onto a page and then re-ordering and editing works well. Remember that each paragraph should be one clear idea; you should be able to sum it up in just a fewwords. Do not worry about short paragraphs, they simply make copy easier to read and understand.
Clear & Concise
Cut out meaningless prose and omit unnecessary words. As a writer it is your responsibility to break down even the most complicated stories into simple, concise copy. It can be helpful to pretend you are trying to explain the story to a friend who knows nothing about it. Copy which the reader doesn’t understand is as bad as no copy at all.
In terms of SEO, the most important thing is that articles contain the right keywords, get read and get linked to. The best way of accomplishing this is to make sure that the article is written around certain keywords and that it is interesting, accurate and easy to understand.