My first “official” writing project was an article. And I didn’t start with one of the simple article formats. I wrote a feature article.
I didn’t know any better. And to be fair, the feature article was an assignment from my writing instructor. An article is the ideal medium for beginning writers and my instructor took me through all the steps needed to write a good one.
If I was learning to write all over again, I’d start with an article. But rather than starting with a feature article, I’d probably choose one of three article formats that you can learn to write easily:
Because each one has a built-in outline. Rather than worry about organizing your content in an outline – say, in a simple to complex arrangement or whole to parts format – your outline structure is ready-made.
That means putting together your article is easy. Your outline is predetermined, so you simply tackle one item in the outline at a time.
List articles, also called “listicles” (list + article = listicle), are popular because they are fun to read, easy to write, offer practical or unusual information, and are sharable. Each item on the list is one item in your outline. Those items can be tips, facts, reasons, methods, habits, traditions, people – a list article offer endless creative avenues.
A successful list article …
One reason this article format is so well loved? Lists are easy for the brain to digest. That’s especially true on the internet, known as the Information Snacker’s Paradise. Article content in list form is easy to scan and easy to share.
A word of caution when writing a list article: offer a surprise. You need to find a special twist or unique approach for your content and then indicate that slant in the headline. At all costs avoid writing a trite or predictable headline like, “3 Article Formats You Can Learn to Write.” Snooze.
But “3 Article Formats You Can Learn to Write Easily”? That offers a twist. There’s a benefit there.
A how-to article provides a step-by-step instructions to help your reader complete a task. Each step in the process is one item in your outline. Tidy, right?
It’s one of my favorite types of articles to write because it’s so logical and sequential. But therein lies the challenge. Two challenges, actually.
Challenge #1: Don’t leave out steps.
For instance, if you are writing an article titled, “How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich,” you must include steps like …
But you didn’t give a list of materials. A reader who is not familiar with sandwich making may be confused about how to spread the sandwich fillings and resort to using his index finger rather than a knife.
Challenge #2: Give detailed instructions.
Instructions that read, “Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread” can lead an unsuspecting reader to cover the entire slice with the sticky stuff. Better to say, “Spread peanut butter on one side of one slice of bread.”
In other words, when writing a how-to don’t make assumptions. Ask yourself, “If I knew nothing about this topic, would my instructions make sense?”
Q & A is short for “Question and Answer.” Each question and its answer make up one item in your outline. The two most common Q & A articles are:
A Q & A article can take other forms, too.
There are dozens of other article formats. You can write features … profiles … news reports … reviews … inspirational stories … opinion pieces …
But whether you’re a beginning writer or building a stable of clips, if you want to learn how to write articles quickly, try one of these three most-structured article formats.
Doing so means you avoid a big part of the article planning process -- outlining. The article structure is predetermined. That allows you to concentrate on producing an enticing headline, quality content in each section of your article, and a conclusion that gives the reader a takeaway to remember.
More article writing tips
Award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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