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.
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.
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.
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.
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.