ABC of the Perfect Article

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The story of all stories, the one that will give you the Pulitzer prize? Or just make an editor buy your idea? Get the ABC of the perfect article.

ABC of the Perfect Article

A – Amazing Idea

It’s as simple as that. A perfect story begins with a perfect idea. Anything less of amazing is not acceptable. Because, if you don’t love it, why would anybody else? An amazing idea will also help you in your work. It will naturally lend the form for the story and it makes it easy to write the article. An amazing idea answers the question How? instead of What? If you can put your idea in one sentence, you’re very close to perfection – you’ve distilled the essential.

B – Bad Idea

You know the idea is not quite what it should be, but what part of it is lacking? A somewhat less perfect idea is not current, there’s no style or clear narrator in it. This often results from a freelancer trying to sell the same piece of writing to too many channels without customizing it.

The idea must resonate with the reader. And if you are a freelancer selling articles, your first reader to please is the editor of the publication you’re targeting.

C – Clarity is everything

A good story has a clear style, there’s no ambiguity of whose voice it is we’re listening to, the focus is well-defined and the article gives an answer to one main question.

Easy to say, harder to accomplish

So, how do you get this perfect, amazing idea and article? It all begins with planning. Make a list of sources to get ideas: friends, social media, sports group, small ads on a notice board – an amazing idea can come to you anywhere, but most likely somewhere else than your desk. Be active!

When you have the idea, figure out the perfect focus and scope for your article. It is possible to make an interesting story about almost anything when you choose the right angle. Think out of the box!

Plan the structure of the article before you launch for the materials. What do you need for the story? Research? Interviews? Graphics?

When you have your materials, decide which elements work best in which part of the story. Make a skeleton of your article with the subtitles. This helps you find out if you need to rearrange the elements or whether the story is not flowing, even before writing it.

Decide the beginning and the end first. Then you know what you’ll need for the middle. The beginning is often the cutting point for a reader: to continue or not to continue. Thus, the beginning must wake up your reader, make him intrigued. The beginning also tells to the reader what to expect: what is the style, genre, topic… These promises must be redeemed in the article.

If you have time, let the article rest awhile before making the final polishes. You’ll then have fresh eyes to contemplate whether you’ve accomplish what you wanted. Another option is to have a second opinion. Get someone else read the article and comment it.

Susan

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Anatomy of an Article

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An article is like a living creature. It will flourish if it’s taken care of and suffer if some of its parts are neglected. All parts of a good article work in unison. But if the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, the feet get tangled and the head is spinning, then things don’t look too bright. So, keep your articles fit and firm.

Anatomy of an Article

Head: Title

Without the head one doesn’t survive. Neither does an article. The title can make the story fly or sink it into the bottom of the troubled media waters. A good title is catchy, witty and descriptive – and it doesn’t misdirect the reader. You know all those tabloid titles that promise a hurricane and deliver a stir in a glass of water. That kind of disappointments will eat your readers, so better not fall into the tabloid trap.

Heart: Lead

There’s no end to the importance of a good lead in a press article. The lead contains the main point of the article, attracts the reader to consume the whole story and what’s most important – is not redundant with the main text. The lead brings up the juiciest bit of the story, but leaves the reader still wanting more.

Right Hand: Beginning

The beginning tells what the story is about and why it matters. Go straight to the point here. Numerous articles I receive for the publications I’m editing start with background information. No, no and no. Please don’t make the reader yawn.

Left Hand: Subtitles

The subtitles are an often neglected part of an article. Many writers don’t seem to know what they’re for. However, subtitles are an integral part of the anatomy of an article. They divide the text into bite size pieces and thus facilitate reading. They should also tell a story of their own to those who only skim through the article. A good subtitle will catch the attention of a lukewarm reader and get him hooked.

Body: Main Text

The main text tells the story. Here you should include all the necessary parts that make your point and illustrate your angle to the topic. An interesting article is fit and nicely trimmed. Depending on the media, the allowed word count may be quite limited. Don’t flesh out your story unnecessarily. E.g. in a tabloid size newspaper no extra fat is allowed – the leaner and meaner the story, the better. An article is not supposed to tell everything about a topic, it’s supposed to make a point.

Knees: End

Time to wrap it up. The end is the last chance to make an impression on the reader. If you can make him go weak at the knees with your writing, he’ll certainly remember at least one thing from you article. So save one savoury bit for the ending of your story.

Feet: Captions

Together with subtitles, captions are the most misunderstood part of an article. If the article has wonderful pictures, they’ll easily draw the attention away from the main text. This is where great captions can lure the reader back to the main text. They are equally important with mediocre or worse pictures and can save the article. Make captions tell something extra you didn’t put into the actual article – it’s your bonus for the reader.

Susan

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