The web may be a great place to find and share information, but it is also a pit of unchecked facts, uncensored opinion and terrible spelling. Though you certainly do not need a degree in journalism, communications or literature to create content for the web, at the base of any good article is quality writing. Obviously, the topic is crucial, but delivery will make or break a story. As a copywriter/content creator, I am meticulous about incorporating the fundamentals of my journalism background in order to produce quality content that 1. incites a person to read the article, 2. keeps the person reading the article until (hopefully) the very end, and 3. ideally incites a backlink. While this article is about content creation apart from search engine optimization considerations, a strong piece of writing gives you a better shot at attracting links.
Your headline is essentially the advertisement for your story. You want to intrigue the reader and make them want to find out more. Try and keep the headline short and to the point. Usually, no more than six words. A good little trick to save on words is to avoid verbs. Questions in the headline often work quite well for catching eyes, but it can run the risk of looking gimmicky. Use them when they’re clearly appropriate and support the content of your article. Also, avoid half-truths. Readers are not afraid to point out a headline that doesn’t match the article, so try to keep those comments positive.
Answer The 5 W’s
WHO, WHERE, WHAT, WHY, WHEN (and of course) HOW. This is the skeleton of your article. It will give you a solid point to start from and can be helpful when making an outline. Answer these questions first, and then expand.
So much information out there is just a reiteration of something else. Give the facts and be accurate but dig deeper until you find something new, another perspective that hasn’t yet been .
Use Humor, Examples and Anecdotes
These don’t necessarily need to be about your life, but find something that will give a new twist to your article.
- Don’t bury your lead. Especially on the net, people can jump around from site to site so if you don’t make your point clear and fast you run a very high risk of losing your reader.
- Keep paragraphs short, use proper punctuation, use spell check, and have someone else read it before publishing.
- Use visual elements: people are attracted to pretty things, so the more colour you have on a page, the less black & white the article will be for the reader. Pictures and videos help to support what you’re saying, and quite honestly you are 95% more likely to catch and keep a reader’s interest than if they are staring at a screen full of words. People tend to read titles, skip to the pictures and captions, unfortunately.
- Include statistics and verified data to add value to your content.
- Read, watch, and listen. Get up-to-date with what’s going on in the world around you. News sites, podcasts, social sites, blogs, and YouTube are all very handy tools in extracting topics that are current and of interest to your public.
Those are my tips, but George Orwell’s Rules from Politics of the English Language are useful too:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do (exception use a complex word if it replaces two simple words and is precise)
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon if you think of an everyday English equivalent
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous