If your articles seem dull, try these tips for writing better articles. Make them spicy and exciting as well as informative. You can capture your readers’ attention and make them anxious to read more.
1. Examine the Angle
Angling the article to highlight an aspect of the subject helps narrow it down and give it flavor.
For example if you were to write an article about San Francisco you’d find that a very broad subject – one that’s been done a million times before. But if you concentrated on the history of the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park, you could produce a richly detailed article that would appeal to people who love the aquarium, or biologists who love reading about fish.
Consider who your prospective audience will be and decide how your article might help the reader. What does that person want and need? How can you give the information?
2. Tap the News
A way to give human impact to your article is to mention a recent major news item that brings up the reader’s opinions and feelings. For example if I mention the Twin Towers disaster or Terri Shaivo’s right to die, you’ve already got feelings on these issues that are instantly brought to mind.
In order to do this effectively the article’s topic should tie directly to the news story. If I were writing an article about families and mention heartbreaking separations due to service in the war in Iraq, it gives a human dimension to the article, and whether you’re for the war or against it, you’ve got feelings that are brought into play. This stimulates reader interest and makes an article more interesting.
3. Bring up the Statistics
When writing about statistical data it’s helpful to the reader when you can include simple, easy-to-interpret charts and graphs. Even better is an explanation of the data that brings in a human element.
For example many people write that children are ten times more likely to be abused in foster homes than in their natural family homes. Showing actual data from federal statistics, and how statisticians use it to establish a fact, would be helpful to the reader who wants to understand how you came up with the statement. Otherwise you’re sure to have readers saying that statistics are easily misinterpreted.
When using statistical data, go to the source. Using other people’s ideas on what the statistics say is asking for trouble in the form of a challenge.
4. Interview Someone
Interviews are excellent tools for bringing life to an otherwise dull topic. Instead of simply writing about the health problems in your community you could interview a local doctor and his nurse to get their impressions about local health conditions. Introducing them as concerned and knowledgeable citizens will insert a human element and validate your article.
5. Show By Example
You can add a human element to your article by giving examples, as I’ve done throughout this article. Showing how your topic affects the reader or another person through an illustrative example is a great way to keep your article from being dry and boring.
Examples can be real or a fictional composit based on a collection of examples you’ve found. If you are writing about the effects of methamphetamine on the lives of addicts you might not want to be specific, giving details of a particular person’s life. But after interviewing three or four users you could come up with a merged personality displaying several of the typical problems experienced by these people.
On the other hand you might want to portray your meth users individually, telling the story of each person on a case-by-case basis to show how each had their lives devastated by the unwise use of this drug. The case-study article or series of articles provides an effective method for making an article human rather than flat.
Use of photography is the ultimate way to show by example. The old saying that ‘one picture is worth 1000 words’ is as true now as it ever was. If you want a reader’s eyes to gravitate toward your article, an intriguing photo and informative caption will always do the job.
7. Contrast Past And Present
Contrasting a current situation with a prior condition is a helpful rhetorical device. For example in an article about forest fire danger we could compare a dry, low-rainfall year’s forest conditions with the lush, green forest of a year with heavy snowfall. In other words, show how a person or place has been affected by current conditions.
An idea that works for many types of articles is to fictionalize it. Tell history as a story and you’ll be sure to keep a reader’s interest longer than if you turn out a dry article with boring facts and dates.
9. Produce A Personal Memoir
Closely related to the fiction format is a memoir, which is equally entertaining. Tell how you did something, where you went, and who you met.
For example instead of giving a recipe, tell what it was like to gather your ingredients, break open the eggs, and burn yourself putting cookies into the oven. This brings in the personal element that captures a reader’s attention.
Personification is a quick, brief mention of an inanimate object giving it a human characteristic. For example you might be writing about computer maintenance and say of the hard drive, “he’s sure to run better when defragged regularly”. Not many of us usually think of our computer as a “he” or “she” but when you use that term it brings the human element into play in the reader’s mind. This should not be done much as over-use of the technique is tacky.
11. Make ’em Laugh
Humor is a wonderful tension-reliever in the midst of an article. Some skilled writers can use it throughout, but most of us are lucky to find a few key points to tweak into laughable phrases. Naturally any humor-bearing anecdotes must be woven into the manuscript in a way to show they have importance to the topic of the article.
A humorous anecdote might work as an opener for an interview article when it directly relates to the person who is the subject of your article.
The most important and essential element needed is your own enthusiasm for the subject. If you care, that shines through the words, and conversely, if you don’t have that spark of excitement for your topic, it will obviously show. Think about what interests you regarding your article’s subject. That’s the angle that might save your article from editorial rejection. Identify what matters to you and you’ll know what your readers are likely to care about as well.
About the author: Linda Jo Martin is a content writer, blogger, and novelist who helps families afflicted with false accusations, paints folk art, and loves children’s literature.
This article was originally published on this blog, on Oct 9, 2005.
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