You have finally realised that you have a lot to say – some of which may actually be of help to someone else – and you have decided to write a blog, or contribute articles to other publications or websites. Perhaps you have been writing short stories or journaling on a personal level for years, so you are comfortable with your writing skills and may even have received compliments over the years on your writing ability. Now the time has come to put your writing out into the public arena for others to enjoy or learn from. You are now writing for a purpose other than your own pleasure, so you need to write at a level which is suitable for the subject and its intended audience. This is a whole new ballgame, and one which you will need to master quickly if you want to attract and keep your reading public coming back for more. There are a number of things you need to remember when you start your writing journey. Here are just a few pointers to begin with …
Keep Your Reader’s Attention
If you are writing articles on specific subjects with which you are familiar, you are already in a position where your writing will be based on definite knowledge and understanding. Whilst this may appear to be a great advantage initially, it may also become your downfall if you cannot write clearly and concisely and get your point across quickly. Generally, a reader who looks up an article is doing it because he is looking for something in particular, whether it is answers to a question or further information on a subject. Someone will rarely take the time to actively look up an article through boredom or just as a means of passing the time. The answers or information must be readily available within the content of the article without too much searching.
Keep to the point in factual writing
Imagine that you are giving a talk on a specific subject and only have a certain amount of time to deliver this talk. Run out of time before you have hit the main point of the talk, and you have wasted both your time and that of the audience. The same rule applies to writing. It is incredibly easy to divert from the subject when writing, just as one does when holding a conversation. Whilst it is tempting to offer various examples and stories relating to the subject, it is not relevant in a short article and can easily confuse the reader or lose his interest altogether. Relevant information should be provided clearly and quickly. If there are many points to be made in an article which is intended to be brief and factual, stick strictly to the subject matter and provide the information in quick formats such as through bullet points or numbered lists. Remember, your reader wants the information to be provided quickly, so he can get on with other things. Check your writing when you have finished, and if you find that you have wandered off the subject, tighten it up. If you lose track of the subject, you have usually lost the reader as well.
Don’t talk down to the reader
There are rules in place when it comes to writing factual content. By all means, explain more complex matters in easily understood sentences which are easy to follow and form a written word map leading the reader to the point where you want him to be. Never, ever, treat your reader as a child or a fool who is incapable of understanding what you are trying to explain. If you are concerned that you will lose your reader through the use of too much technical jargon, simplify complex theories and processes into more easily understood explanations. Remember that some readers may know just as much, if not more, than you might, and may be reading the article mainly for interest purposes.
It is important to remember that the readers are adults seeking information, learning or advice, and you should be helping them to find it, not lecturing them.
Don’t use over-exaggerated language
When you are excited about a subject, it is very easy to exaggerate when talking or writing about it. It is not a birthday party – it is a serious matter that you are trying to share with others. At the same time, whilst you might be providing facts, remember that dry, dull prose will put off the reader quicker than you think.
Be factual, but use everyday language which will make the reader feel comfortable whilst absorbing the subject matter.
Don’t be afraid to use humour in your writing
Writing in a stiff, formal manner is fine in technical manuals and legal documents, but not in articles where you are trying to attract the reader’s attention. Some of the best articles I have read have included short humorous asides which have kept me amused and maintained my interest in the article. These are the articles I remember later and whose authors I seek out for further information. Remember, humour keeps the tone light whilst still imparting important information.
Keep the content concise
Never assume that long articles will have more impact than shorter ones. Sadly, it is often the long, drawn-out article which loses the reader and often the thread of the subject matter. People do not have time to sit and read reams of information which take a long time to actually get to the point. Even technical or scientific explanations can be condensed into a few sentences, if well constructed. Verbosity is not your ally when writing articles; keeping to the point will win you far more readers.
Writing is a lot like talking. It needs to convey ideas and information, but is very much a two-way process. When you write, you are writing for the readers, although you cannot see them. Just as you would not wish someone to walk away in the middle of a conversation with you, so you do not wish your reader to stop reading your article part way through. Keep it centred around the point you are trying to make in a manner which draws the reader in and holds his interest.
Most of all, enjoy your writing, and this will come through clearly for all to see.