How-To Write Articles for Your Blog:
If you run a personal blog, or if you write and edit for a publishing site like Her Campus, then you may find yourself writing articles. An article is a piece of writing that is typically published in a newspaper or on a website, and it can vary in word length and topic, so you have a lot of freedom as an online writer. If you are new to writing for online publications or don’t know how to adapt your writing for online audiences, here is a quick and easy how-to guide to writing articles that can teach you the basics!
- Decide on a Topic
The first step is to pick a topic! Depending on where your articles are published and who your target audience is should help you figure out what topics to write on. For example, if your blog is a personal account, you can write about your personal thoughts and feelings like a journal. If you write for Left Handers Day newsletter, you can write about the science, experiences, or history of left-handed people. Think about what will both fit on your blog and what will interest your readers the most.
“This is by far the hardest part,” says Grace Sovine, writer and media coordinator for The Odyssey. “You’re starting from square one here, so it’s hard to think of an interesting topic that you would find enjoyable and would appeal to your wider audience. When in doubt, write about something you’re passionate about. Your writing will be better because you’re invested in the topic. Then, it might be more prudent to publicize your article to a specific audience, rather than initially writing it for them.”
“Target audience is so important,” according to Lee Martin, Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus CNU chapter. “If you want your article to go to, say, college women, you want it to have something in the title and the body about college women to say ‘this is for you.’ When you try to get ‘everyone,’ it falls apart.”
- Pick an Article Type
Now that you have a topic, you must decide what type of article to write. This is important because you want to make your article as interesting as possible— find the best method of conveying your message to interest as many readers as possible. A list of a few different article types are:
Martin recommends going short & sweet, with the more popular article styles. “Listicles generally get the most traffic flow, but people also really enjoy interviews–its just easier to just read the question and then answer. I personally really like profiling people.” There are many different ways to approach your article, but think about which approach is best for your purposes!
- Research and Plan the Article
(Via VLS Productions)
Next is the planning stage. Start brainstorming how you want to write your article, go online and find more information, and jot everything down on a piece of paper, in a word document. “It’s best to brainstorm different ideas that will help build up your final piece of writing,” says Summer Enger, an English major and experienced writer at CNU. “So that way you can go back and use it as a reference for the outline of your article.” It is good to get organized and to have everything you want to talk about written down somewhere so that in the process of writing you don’t forget an interesting detail, or you forget where a source came from. Map everything out, it will make it much easier to get into the writing groove for the next step.
Sovine stresses the importance of getting the information you provide correct. “When you’re putting information out there, it is your job as a writer to make sure you’re giving out the most accurate information available. All you have is your credibility, especially in the journalism business. If you’re not credible, people won’t publish your work.”
Martin recommends getting a little physical with your research to give your article that extra kick of authenticity, “Even if you’re not using direct quotes, interviewing someone and not making the whole article about them, but still using the information that they gave you and then attributing them.”
- Start Writing
“When you’re writing something, you can tell if it’s going to do really well. If it excites you, then I think it’ll be a good article,” Martin says. The trick is to just start somewhere! Take what you’ve put together in your research and planning, and flesh it all out. Some tips for writing are to watch out for passive sentences, and to vary your sentence length. Don’t make things too complicated for the reader to understand, but give enough information and context.
(Via Barry Overeem)
Writing is not the last step in this process; you’ve still got to make it perfect! Editing your article is important: you should check for spelling and format errors, correct citations and punctuation, fix up awkward and jumbled sentences, etc. Let a friend read over your article and listen to their suggestions for improvement! It is always a good idea to get someone else to read your work, in case they see something you miss. “All I have to say about this is: Do it. Over and over and over again. Once is not enough,” Martin advises. “Have someone else edit it, and then the last person edit it, and then look it over yourself again.”
- Add other Media
Depending on the publication, this would be what comes next after you’ve finished writing the article. This is where you add appropriate pictures, .gifs, videos, music, or any other media that can supplement your article. “It is super important to have images and .gifs throughout the body of the texts to break it up. People don’t like reading anything that’s longer than a few paragraphs,” Martin stresses.
Find a cover image that portrays what the article is about to the reader, so that they will know immediately what they will be reading if they click on a link to it. Add images or .gifs throughout the body of the text (if appropriate) in order to break up the article into smaller, digestible pieces. This is important for online readers since they like to get information fast and easily. Post a video at the top or bottom of the article to supplement the text. It is also good to remember to credit any image or video that you use in your article back to the original poster. Some articles will not require any or all of these techniques, so decide what works best for your article!
- Preview the Post
(Via Google Images)
After adding any supplemental media to the article, it is a good idea to look at a preview of the final product to see how everything appears on a webpage. Most blogging and web publishing websites should have a “preview” or “draft” function in the posting platform. Look at the preview for the article to see what a reader will see if you publish the article as-is. Martin shared a little trick of the trade and suggested starting your article in a Word processor first, then pasting it onto your hosting website. “A lot of the time, if you’re copy-pasting in from somewhere [like Word], the formatting may be messed up. So make sure that it all flows on the website you’re publishing on, like Odyssey, or WordPress.”
This is like another editing process, so take this opportunity to move things around in your article so that it is easier to read and more visually organized. Do you have too many or too few images? Are your headlines recognizable? Do your links work?
“Formatting is extremely important,” Sovine states. “Previewing your article helps you find those mistakes in text alignment, image attribution, etc. You need to make sure that your formatting is in the guidelines of the company that you’re writing for. If you’re writing for yourself, find a format that works for you and make it consistent throughout your articles.”
8. Title and Tags
(Via TCK Publishing)
“Before it is set to publish, think of that awesome title,” is the last thing Martin recommends you do. Depending on your writing method, it is ok to have a potential or draft title at the start of writing, although it is important to recognize how much the article can change before you are done with it. Make sure that your title is short and concise, straightforward, and attention-grabbing.
Enger lists a few important factors to consider when coming up with your title, “Misleading titles are very frustrating. Don’t break promises to your audience. Don’t make the title too vague, either. Making your title more specific gives your audience a better understanding of what your article is actually about.”
When tagging, it is important to use keywords from the title and article– this boosts search engine optimization and can increase the likelihood of someone finding your article through Google or your blog’s search function. “Just know what is ‘click-worthy,’ and what will get people,” Martin says. “A lot of that is the title.”
9. Publish and Share
(Via Social Media Examiner)
Once you have finished moving things around in your article, and you are satisfied with the writing and appearance, you can publish it! Publishing the article sends it out into cyberspace, so be doubly sure that you are finished with it. After the article is published, you should look at increasing traffic to your website in order to encourage readers to view it. Share links on Facebook and Twitter, forward it to your friends via email, feature the article on your websites’ homepage if possible.
When asked what social media platforms tend to get the most hits, Martin replied, “Besides Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is one of the best ways to get article views, oddly enough.” Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when it comes to sharing your article!
You have successfully written and published a blog article, congratulations! Following these steps will show you the basics, and from here on out you can continue to improve your writing techniques and increase your online presence.