Article Writing: 5 General Steps

Aug 26, 2013
Learning how to write a persuasive, informative article is a skill that can open up many doors for students and working people alike. Whether for your teacher, a magazine, or a newspaper, there are a few basic steps that must be followed in order to achieve the desired result. Always remember that article writing is very different from creative writing, which has far fewer rules. As a result, it requires careful planning. With that in mind, we will discuss five fundamental steps that must be taken each and every time you write an article.

1. Find a Subject

It's obviously impossible to write an article if you don't have a subject, which can then be narrowed down to a specific topic. For example, let's say you're writing about the growth of NASCAR in the American South. You wouldn't write an article that regurgitates all the same statistics other writers have used before because it add nothing to the discussion, which is the only reason most people read articles.
Instead, you might choose to write an article from the fan's perspective that involves interviews with real-life NASCAR addicts. Asking them why they enjoy the sport is far more interesting and enlightening than simply rattling off numbers. It will also help you get to know your readership and what is important to them. For starters, what do they want to know about NASCAR that they might not already know?
It is also important to note that most new article writers make the mistake of writing for editors instead of for their readers. And that is not what editors want to see. After all, it's their job to select stories that their readership will find interesting. The feelings of the editors are therefore secondary to that of the newspaper or magazine's audience.
Last but not least, you should care about the topic you select, because if you don't, your readers won't. Indifference about a topic also increases the chance that you will simply go through the motions and submit a mediocre, uninspired article. You really must have passion for your subject to convince others to keep reading.

2. Research Your Topic

Many of the great scandals in American history, from Watergate to journalistic fraud at The New York Times, were uncovered because some enterprising reporter put in extra research hours and found the proverbial smoking gun. Of course, most articles do not involve national scandals. But that doesn't mean that the writer can get lazy and make assumptions based on personal opinion. As every veteran reporter knows, a story is only as strong as its facts, and facts can only be gathered and confirmed through research.
The good news for contemporary writers is that research can be completed far more expeditiously than in the past with the help of the internet. Just make certain that every source you cite is on a legitimate website, preferably a university, news, or research website. It is also always a good idea to double, even triple check that the information you acquire is in fact correct. Because the aforementioned web addresses are often cited by experts in the field, many of them list their sources, making it much easier to confirm that the information is accurate.

3. Write the Article

In most cases, writers and reporters know before they start how long their articles and stories must be. If they're working for a magazine or a newspaper their editors will assign a word count. But if there is no word limit, you must select one before you start your research, otherwise you won't know how much outside information you need.
Next, you should write at least a basic outline, especially for formal writing. These articles are often highly structured and should move from point to point with supporting evidence. Failure to compose a detailed outline for a work such as that can and often does result in a cluttered, discursive article that lacks cohesion, focus, and flow.
It is also imperative that you, once again, consider your audience. This will help you determine the appropriate structure, style, and voice. Why is this important? Well, let's say you're composing an article for schoolchildren. You would most likely write in a more familiar, colloquial voice, rather than a highly technical one. And you would also, obviously, want to avoid using too many big words they might not understand.

4. Edit

A good idea becomes a good story by following the previous three steps. But it can only become a good article through the editing process. It might not be the most exciting step, in fact it can be quite tedious, but it is essential. It is also the step that often separates true professionals from aspiring amateurs. Accomplished writers and reporters very rarely submit articles rife with spelling and grammatical errors; and not because they don't make mistakes. They may make just as many as the amateur, but they take the time to correct them during the editing process.
Our process? Time permitting, it is often a good idea to put the finished article aside for a day or two and come back to it fresh. Why? Because sometimes when we get too close to an assignment, we miss errors we might have spotted at a later date, when our minds are clear. It is also important to reread the article several times. Some writers are famous for rereading their work dozens, even hundreds of times until it is properly polished and everything is just the way they want it. But at the very least you should read the article once to correct glaring errors, read it again to ensure that you didn't miss anything, and then peruse it a third and final time just to make sure everything is in order.

5. Provide Proper Documentation

Most formal and academic articles require the writer to cite his sources either in the body of the work or at the end on the Works Cited Page. Occasionally, a teacher, editor, or expert in the field might ask the writer to do both. The process typically only takes a few minutes, but it is extremely important. You might dismiss them off as sticklers, but some teachers and editors won't even look at your article if you fail to complete this crucial step.
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By Martha Buckly. Martha is a good freelance writer and loves sharing posts on different topics including tips and guidelines for articles and academic writing. Her professional experience helps to create interesting and useful material.

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