Writing and Structuring Content: Part 3 – Articles for the Web

11 mins read

This article is written to provide a layout for writing and structuring long-form articles for publication online.

Writing an article is like putting together a hamburger. Consider the hamburger you are now dreaming about having around a backyard barbecue. Two halves of a bun, some condiments, maybe some lettuce, tomato, or onion, and of course, the hamburger patty, make the finest hamburger imagination can buy. So how is an article like a hamburger? The introduction and conclusion are your bun, your main argument, idea, or point is the hamburger itself, and the things you use to dress it up like humour, personality, and statistics are the fixings! Without having the right amount of any one of these things, your hamburger can become unbalanced. The same can happen to your article when it does not have the right balance of content, introduction and conclusion, and spice to keep things interesting. Let’s take a closer look at building a balanced article in 4 key steps.

1. Preparation and Outline:

The first thing to do when planning to write an article is to plan things out. By taking the time to figure out what you want to say, doing the necessary research, and creating even a rough outline of the direction you want your article to go, your writing will be direct and come across with purpose. It’s important to get your ideas roughly out on paper or onscreen, as moving ideas from your mind to something visual is often a huge help in getting organized and ensuring you don’t miss anything you wanted to say.

2. Introduction

Here at B!G, we use an introductory sentence before our introduction paragraph. This introductory sentence or phrase is one-to-two sentences of short copy, designed to provide the reader with a fast overview of what the article is about, what subjects it will include, and what to expect when you read.

Your introductory paragraph is where you will really hook your readers, providing enough intrigue to keep reading the article and enough information to understand what value it might bring them. Often, a call to action can be great within your introduction, depending on what kind of article you are writing. For example, if you are selling a service, you might mention your reader get involved today, and then use the rest of the article to prove your point. Opening with your call to action can be a great way to intrigue your audience to keep reading.

Pro Tip: Your first sentence is perhaps the most important sentence you’ll write. This is the first real piece of content your reader will take in, and it needs to be interesting. Whether it is a question, a statement of fact, or an interesting hook, your first sentence should spark something in your audience to continue reading.

Along with our hamburger analogy, consider the introduction as an inverted pyramid, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. In a general sense, this is a great way to format your introduction paragraph. Open with something broad, something relatable or more global. Then, as you write your introduction, narrow your focus. Bring that broad topic smaller and tighter into what you are specifically going to write about. By the time you reach your concluding sentence, you should be very specific regarding what the article is about.

3. Body

The body of your article is where your ideas can truly shine! This is where you want to include all of your information, really flesh out your ideas, and get your points across. How can you do this effectively? When writing longer articles, try using subheadings to help direct your readers to the general direction of your article. As mentioned in part 2 of this series, using subheadings can help convince serial-skimmers to read even a few sections of your article. Once you have their interest and have provided structure enough for your reader to know what value your article will add, they are much more likely to continue reading. Another great way to break up a wall of text is to use bullet points, numbered lists, or throw some images in for colour and visual interest. For more information on using images in your business, check out our article here!

When it comes to writing the body of your work, don’t be afraid to add a little personality! Use humour, stories, and anecdotes – though do so with consideration. You want these asides to be relevant and to remain as asides, not to take up the entire article. Your ideas, products, or services are the most important thing to impart. Creating human connection through writing is the number one way to demonstrate the value of your ideas, products, or services. It is through genuine writing that your words will connect with and establish a relationship with your reader.

Pro Tip: If you’re not sure how a sentence is reading, read it aloud to yourself. Write in a way that would interest you as a reader, and always keep in mind what your response might be were you the reader and not the writer.

If you are relaying information in your article, statistics, or facts, back your words up with sources. The fastest way to establish yourself as credible is to use credible sources. This way your readers will know that the information they are gaining is legitimate, and that you are positioned as someone who is working with the facts to create new ideas, or situated amongst the facts one way or another.

4. Conclusion

Finally, we have reached the conclusion. By the time you get here, you may be tired and want to dash it off haphazardly, but slow down, because your conclusion is fundamental to your article. Just as the introduction is the first thing your reader will experience, your conclusion is the last. This is what you leave your reader with, the final effort to get your ideas across. Make it count!

Just as the introduction is an inverted pyramid, your conclusion is an upright pyramid. Early in your conclusion, stay specific. This might mean touching on key points from the body of your article, or readdressing the main purpose or idea of the article. Then, begin to broaden your view. What does your article mean, in a larger sense? What kinds of BIG questions can you ask to keep your reader thinking? Include a call to action. Whether this call to action is for your reader to go forward thinking about what they’ve read, or to make changes in their life through your services, products, or ideas, this will lead your audience out of your article with a sense of purpose, retaining what they have read, and recognizing the value you have provided. To help keep your final words of interest, try being snappy, funny, meaningful, etc., as emotion and human connection will help your words stick with your reader.

Putting The Write Foot Forward

As you can see, lots goes into writing a meaningful, well-balanced article. Not every article or piece of long writing will be the same, sometimes humour or stories are not appropriate given the subject matter, but by creating an organized outline, and thinking through the construction of your introduction, body, and conclusion, your article will flow well and connect with a wider audience of readers. People look for quality, and the first step in quality is creating an effective framework on which your ideas can stand strong. The next time you are writing an article, or even a long piece of copy, ask yourself not only “what am I writing,” but “how am I writing,” and “why am I writing?” Writing may be about selling an idea, product, or service, but it is also about making human connections and establishing relationship with your reader. Take your time, and make those connections.

There you have it, you’ve written your article! That’s it, right? Not quite. There is one final, important step to writing, whether that’s short copy, long-form, or a structured article. Stay tuned for the 4th and final part in this series, where we discuss this fundamental final step of writing: editing.

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