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How to Write a How To Article
that Actually Gets Read Start to Finish 

If you’re a writer, you need to know how to write a how to article.

A how-to article is a durable short content form because it provides step-by-step instructions to help your reader complete a task. 

How to write a how-to article: short #ContentWriting form with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting

Personally, it’s one of my faves to write because it is so logical and sequential. First, do this. Then, do this. Do a couple more things and POOF! You’re done with the task.

But here’s an ironic little secret about writing a how-to: your reader isn’t all excited-can’t-wait-to-learn how to complete the task you explain your article.

Say what?!?

Yes, she wants to know the materials and the steps she needs to complete and in which order to complete the task. 

But for her, your how-to article is simply a means to an end. She aims for something more. And it’s not the task itself. 

She reads your article for the benefits of that task – what completing the task offers her. Your how-to article is a vehicle to make your reader’s life easier, simpler, happier, more fulfilling, safer, or cost less.

Uncover what she’s looking for and promise your reader you will deliver – and you’ll write a how-to that actually gets read from start to finish.

How to Write a How To Article that Actually Gets Read

For instance, your reader wants to know how to change the windshield wiper fluid not because she loves the blue stuff but …

  1. so that she doesn’t have to pay a mechanic to do it (she wants to save money) 
  2. so that she can see out of her window (she wants to be safe) 
  3. so that she can be self-sufficient (fulfilled and independent).

Notice each of the reasons she reads your article start with “so that.”

Writing tip: How do you find out how to write a how-to article that actually helps your reader?

Use two little words – “so that” – and complete the sentence. Then you’ll uncover the benefits your reader is seeking. And you can address them head-on in your article.

How to Write a How To A Headline: Make A Promise 

You’ve already got the first two words of your headline: “How To.” And you’ve got the next phrase – one that identifies the task you’ll describe, such as:

  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa

That’s fine. It's a decent headline. But you and I know that there are a dozen ways to make a cup of cocoa. But what unique benefit will your how-to offer your reader? 

Uncover your promise by using our two little words – “so that.” 

  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa so that you can save time
  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa so that you can save mess
  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa that tastes rich and smooth
  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa so that you can use what you already have in the pantry

She wants to drink cocoa, but she wants to avoid spending hours doing it and making a huge mess. She wants to enjoy the experience. She doesn’t’ want to have to run out to the store first.

Put those benefits in the article headline like this:

  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa in the Microwave (so that you can save time)
  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa with Less Mess (so that you can save mess)
  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa that Rivals Hershey’s (that tastes rich and smooth)
  • How to Make a Cup of Cocoa When You Don’t Have Cocoa Powder (so that you can use what you already have)

Now you’ve got a promise to your reader: “read this article and you’ll learn how to make a cup of cocoa in the microwave.” You’re going to make her life easier (or simpler, happier, more fulfilling, safer, or cost less …)

How to Write the Article Body

Your job in the article body is to keep your promise – the promise you made in the headline. Make sure you include three elements.

1. List of Materials

What materials does your reader need? List them in the order in which your reader will use them.

2. List of Steps

What steps should she take? Include every step, from start to finish, no matter how intuitive it may seem to be. Be specific. Don’t assume your reader knows what to do. Then read through steps and follow them yourself to see what you left out. Ask yourself this question: “If my reader follows these steps, will her life be easier, simpler, happier, more fulfilling, safer, or cost less?” Remember, your job is to make your reader’s life better. A missed step or an assumption can negate your goal. This is not the place to be creative or cute.

Write. Out. The. Steps.

3. List the Sequence

In what order should she take the steps? If there is more than one possible sequence, then say so and choose one for your article. For instance, you can make a mug of cocoa in the microwave or on the stove top. Your how-to should specify which.

How to Write a How To: Extra Tips

  • Use second person. Write instructions in command form (like this sentence).
  • Add images. Visuals are especially helpful in how-to articles.

Did You Keep Your Headline Promise?

At the beginning of this article, I made a promise: here’s how to write a how-to article that gets read from start to finish.

You read the entire article – from start to finish – so I’d like to think that I kept my promise.

People are surprised when people make promises and keep them.

Did you fulfill the promise you made in your how-to headline? 

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