We’ve all been in this situation before. Be it a story, a piece for school/college, a blog post you need to update, or even commissioned work as a ghostwriter, writing an article for a website can appear daunting from the outset. The haunting blank space with a blinking cursor practically teasing you to write, but no words are coming to mind. It may be down to writer’s block, or trepidation about the impending deadline.
However, help is at hand! As a freelance writer (and amateur poet, just to flex a little), I have over the years compiled a lot of skills and knowledge to improve my writings with every new thing I publish. And right now, I can share that knowledge with you. From utilising your grammar so you can make sense of those pesky run-on sentences to writing an emphatic and memorable monologue, you’ll never be fretting about deadlines again!
First of all, it’s important to mention that people have different writing styles. While you are free to take away as many or as few tips from here, try to preserve your own way of writing. This is because, whether you’re writing something for personal or public use, your individuality is what makes you stand out to anyone who reads your work. When it lists your name after the proud title that begins the foray into your text, you want to be able to look at that and be proud of yourself, to say “Yes, I wrote this piece.”
Letting your experiences, insight and personal outlook on the world shape your writing brings something that literally no other person could, so maintain a strong sense of ownership with the things you note. Examples vary from person to person, but can include word choices, motifs and metaphors you like, even personal experience where necessary! Don’t be afraid to explore and try out new ideas, that’s what the backspace key is for. However you learn best, continue to practice and develop your skills without fear; first-hand experience is an excellent way to let your writing skills flourish!
Now, it’s time to start writing the article, right? Well, perhaps. As mentioned above, people write differently. As such, a few may prefer to write their piece chronologically so their ideas have a continuous and linked dynamic, whereas others prefer to plot out a summary first. If you belong to the latter category, then here’s a few tips and tricks that can help the development stage easier:
- Note down clear points that you want the audience to learn from your article
- Take the most important three or four, then make them the main focus
- Use the context of the article to order the points in an interesting way
The fastest way to lose readers mid-sentence is by deviating from the main focus of the article. For example, nobody reading an article on surefire writing tips wants to learn about the writer’s YouTube channel or other shameless self promotions. Be clear, direct and concise when forming your ideas; if it takes more than one sentence to explain a specific point then it is recommended that you break it down into smaller pieces, both for your benefit when writing and the audiences’ when reading.
Remember that a lot of the things you write are supposed to be tailored to people who are perhaps interested in that subject. A reader interested in finance, for example, will be more likely to read business articles rather than geographical top tens. Therefore, you should keep in mind who exactly you are writing for and what they may do with the things you’re telling them. Try not to assume stereotypes about your target audience, and use data if possible so you don’t risk alienating potential readers browsing content because you’ve accidentally excluded them.
Additionally, if you are not writing the article chronologically then ordering your paragraphs is important. If you are talking about a movie franchise then it’s universally accepted to talk about the films in order so as not to confuse the reader, and this carries over to any topic you may consider including or mentioning. If necessary, number your facts when plotting the outline so you yourself don’t accidentally put them in the wrong places and end up having to adjust the paragraph order in post. Either way, consider how your audience will receive any news you want to inform or educate them with. Keep the primary information clear and simple, with a strict order that has a natural progression.
So, let’s say you’ve got a prompt for an article about your favourite musician/band, and you’ve noted down the main points your readers NEED to know about them e.g: what makes them stand out in the music business. Now you need to expand on those ideas. Here is where you get to build the majority of the text, but you need balance in order to keep your article fresh and enticing to a reader who has perhaps never ever heard of them. This can be done by sticking to simple but effective writing techniques:
- Begin each new paragraph with a new point that you wish to make. If it is a continuation from the previous paragraph, write a distinctly different sentence
- Cite your sources!!! If you have some statistical data and/or noteworthy quotations that can be included in your article, always include their origin
- PQE/PEEL paragraph structure is a helpful way to order your writings and ensures the direction of your piece is not lost in the process
In case you’ve never had to go through the laborious process that is English essays, PQE and PEEL stand for ‘Point, Quotation, Explanation’ and ‘Point, Evidence, Explanation, Link’ respectively. PQE is used for things like factual media articles, where quotations from interviews and/or spokespersons are necessary to back up the relevant points. The PEEL paragraphs are for more opinionated posts, where you need to provide evidence and explain it in a way that helps the audience make sense of what you are claiming. Finally, link it back to the whole article through your own words to prove why this specific paragraph has to be included in your article.
Citing your sources is also a step that should ideally be done before or during the article construction, not after. This is because some “evidence” that people spread via gossip and word of mouth may be unfounded, so this is a good way to avoid accidentally publishing something that turns out to be false. If you’re unsure about the validity of one source, try and find one or two more reliable sources that back up exactly what the first one is claiming. If you’re still unsure after that, it’s best to leave it alone and find something else. An unpublished article is better than a completed article that has misinformation being spread to a wider audience. After all, you don’t want to make your work ‘unforgettable’ for the wrong reasons.
When you’ve fully expanded out your ideas into a legible article with well-formed paragraphs and accurate evidence, now it’s time to double check your article. It’s always a good idea to read back through what you have written during the project, but a final summary read is important too. This isn’t just to catch any misspelt words or grammar errors. It can be beneficial to survey other elements like your word choice, repetitions, or even if certain sentences sound good. Perhaps ask yourself the following questions while reviewing:
- Am I using the same word(s) too many times in one paragraph? If so, maybe it’s time to look up some synonyms to add some variety to the text
- Have I counted too many commas? This can lead to run-on sentences or sentence clauses that don’t end properly. If you find any, try to divide them up using semicolons (;) or full stops where necessary to preserve a natural sounding and easy-to-read layout
- Do I need everything that I’ve written? A good article is finished not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to remove. Highlight certain sentences that you feel may be unnecessary or could be shortened and see how well the article works with them removed
Ultimately, good writing comes with practice and time. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and make a personal indent on your pieces. Keep in mind any of the tips and tricks you want to include in your writings, and you’ll be good to go. I look forward to reading more of your unforgettable articles in future!