So You Want to Write an Article?
You’re planning you write an article. Perhaps you have a fantastic way to organize your CSS or perhaps you’re a designer with the ability to communicate effectively with programmers, or perhaps you know the best way to utilize the latest technology. Whatever the subject you’ve got a good idea that you’ve gathered from the fundamentals to find your unique voice and are now ready to create and submit your first piece to the world’s leading publication. The thing is that the majority of article submissions don’t go well. You don’t have to be among them.
We at A List Apart A List Apart, we’d like to see some of the most brilliant minds from the industry write the next best pieces, and you might become one of us. I’ve been part of the editorial team for the past nine months and have done a fair amount of articles on here too. One of my responsibilities is to look over article submissions and provide feedback on the things that are working and not working. We publish various types of content, however many of the articles I receive–especially by new writers–fall into the same mistakes. If you’re looking to publish an article on The List or elsewhere Be aware of these common mistakes that can increase the chances of getting published.
Make introductions brief and quick.
Did you go through the introduction? I’m guessing that a good portion of readers skipped right to the end. This is pretty normal, particularly for articles that provide multiple answers to a simple question. It’s acceptable. In the event that you’re writing, you must realize that there are people who will exactly the same thing. There are ways to increase the odds of having your introduction read, however.
Try opening with an explosion. A recent piece by Caroline Roberts has perhaps the best illustration of this I’ve seen “I won an Emmy for keeping a website free of dick pics.” When I read about it in the article I was immediately intrigued and read the whole article. It’s hilarious, and it illustrates her expertise in handling content and illustrates that the subject is far more complex and fascinating than it first appears. An easier overview of the topic of procurement of content would appear to be boring in comparison. Your ideas are intriguing and you should show them quickly if you can. A relatable or funny tale can be an excellent way to get to an article. But be sure to keep it short!
If you’re unable to begin with a bang, make your opening brief. Then, you can mention the importance of it or what you’re competent to discuss it and then move on to the main point in the shortest time possible. If the line you include in your introduction doesn’t contribute to the content then remove it. There’s no room for rambling in professional content however there is absolutely no need for it in introductions.
You can get specific
In my first article for the magazine A List Apart in the years before my joining the staff I was looking to show off my expertise and talent and I decided that the best method to accomplish this was to present the entirety of the skills in one piece. I wrote a summary of the skills needed by professional web professionals. There was some excellent information there that was based on my many years of experience climbing the ranks and managing workplace tension. I was extremely proud of the article I wrote when I submitted it. The article was not accepted, but I received great feedback from the editor-in-chief Get more specific.
The most powerful articles I read focus on one idea at the heart. The more different concepts I find in an article more disjointed and influential the article is. There are some exceptions, however, they are less frequent than those that are a victim of this. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage when you choose a method that fails more often than it is successful.
A thorough discussion of one concept in depth using evidence and examples to support it generally goes more effectively in demonstrating your knowledge than a summary of many different ideas. In reality that a lot of people may have come to the same conclusions as you do. Your ideas aren’t as significant as the evidence you provide and your elegance in communicating your ideas.
What is an overview article that can be useful? Yes but you have to place it within a specific issue. One excellent example I have seen was a comprehensive overview of accessibility on the web (which isn’t released yet). The report followed a fictional project from start to finish by illustrating how each team member could contribute to the objective of accessibility. The idea was not only about accessibility but how project managers and their leaders could delegate responsibility to accessibility. It was an excellent proposal because it was based on the issue of breadth and offered a full solution to this issue. It only succeeded because it was specifically written for a target audience that was required to be able to comprehend the entire process. That is the comprehensive nature of the piece was the main point and it stayed with this.
Keep your audience in mind
There is a viewpoint. One of the problems I encounter with new entries is the inability to recognize that the audience too has their own perspective. It is important to understand your target audience and be aware of the way the audience’s perspective matches your own or doesn’t. In reality, you’ll be required to specify in your opening paragraph who your target audience is in order to attract the appropriate readers. For a great article, you must be aware of the readership and write specifically for that audience.
A common error I’ve seen authors make is using their articles to vent their anger over people who don’t listen to their arguments. The issue is that the readers of our publications usually agree with the writer on these issues and a lengthy rant on the reasons why they are correct is in the end useless. If you’re writing for similar individuals, it’s recommended to assume that the readers are in agreement with you. then look into ways to achieve the goal you’re trying to achieve or offer them ideas to engage in conversations in their work environment. Write about the type of advice you’d like to have received before those issues first came to light.
The definition of your audience can assist in understanding the perspective of your audience. When I come across an article that has two opposing concepts, they’re written to different groups. In the article that I’ve already mentioned, I offer a few links to developers who are unfamiliar with object-oriented programming but the main target readers are developers who are familiar with the subject and are looking to learn more. Trying to address the two audiences would not have increased the number of readers, but it would have lowered the number of readers by making a significant portion of the content less useful to the readers.
Make sure it’s practical
I’ll admit that of the many tips I’ve read of which I’ve heard, this one is one I have the biggest difficulty with. I’m a creative writer who is enthralled by ideas and enjoys the process of explaining them in detail. Although there are a few readers who are enthused by this, most of them are looking for tangible ways to improve the quality of something. It’s not saying that big ideas don’t have a place in professional writing however, you should be able to ask yourself why they’re there. Are your five paragraphs of description of the background of your concept necessary for the reader to consider the enhancements that you propose?
This was evident to me during my very first article about managing your ego in the workplace. I’m a big fan of psychology and included a lengthy introduction about how self-esteem stems from the strengths we relied on as kids. While I was fascinated by this, however, it was not the best choice for a group of internet professionals seeking guidance on how they can improve their relationships with colleagues. Based on the feedback from readers, I decided to remove the entire section and instead included a section on the best ways to handle your personal self-esteem in the workplace. It was much more practical. It was a popular section in the final product.
Successful articles solve a problem. Begin by identifying the issue and setting the issue in your opening paragraph, perhaps provide a brief tale that demonstrates how the problem is manifested, then make an argument to support your solution. The issue should be obvious to the reader from early into the article and the remainder of the article must be based on that issue. There’s no place for rambling and pontificating in an article that is professional. If the article isn’t pertinent and useful the reader is likely to go to other topics.
The most reliable way to determine the value of your essay is to distill it into an outline. Of course, all your writing is more valuable as an outline. However, take a look at your outline. There ought to be multiple sentences that read “Do this,” or “Don’t do this.” You may include other assertions obviously, but they should be all pointing toward an end-to-end result that includes concrete steps for the reader to follow to resolve the issue you’ve identified in the introduction.
It’s a tough lesson that you must learn as a writer. You’ll be more enthralled by your thoughts than your readers will. Writing professional articles is not about self-expression–it’s about helping and serving your readers. The more concise and clear your article’s content is the more likely it is that your piece will be shared and read.
Do your words
Your thoughts, without proof to back them, are only going to get you to a certain point. As writers, your ideas may be based on much real-world evidence but the readers you write for don’t realize that. You’ll need to prove that. What can you do to show that? Draft a draft first and let your thoughts out. Do a second draft to search for stories, statistics, or studies that help you with your thoughts. Making a statement that doesn’t include at minimum one is challenging and at worst a waste of hype. Professionals working in your field are not as inclined to make up nonsense and are more concerned with outcomes. The presence of evidence to support your claims will go an extended way in proving your knowledge and prove your assertion.
In the context of my initial post that appeared in the magazine A List Apart that dealt with defusing workplace tension, I had an abstract idea to prove and had to prove that my ideas were a reality. The editor of the article was awe-inspiring and was able to ask the right questions to guide me towards proving the truthfulness of my theories in a meaningful manner. Personal stories formed the core of the article. I was able to find studies in social psychology to prove my assertions. The illustrations were more effective than the actual ideas, and the piece was well-liked by the public.
The art of storytelling can be a fantastic way to bring your ideas to reality. Fictional or real stories, well-crafted and well-researched, can help to make the most complex concepts easier to comprehend and work best when they depict typical situations rather than extreme instances. If your tale goes against general knowledge readers will be able to detect the issue immediately and you’ll likely receive some negative feedback. Do not use a story to support a claim without any tangible proof to back it up. Instead, you should use stories to illustrate your points or make issues more accessible. Stories that are engaging and entertaining are usually the most memorable part of articles, and they will make your thoughts and arguments easier to recall.
Statistics are among the most efficient ways to present an argument. If you’re saying that ignoring the accessibility of websites could negatively affect the company, then some concrete figures will say much more than stories. If you can find a solid statistic to back up your claim be sure to mention it and be looking for the relevant figures. Similar to stories it is not advisable to make use of statistics to alter the truth or support the point of view without any other facts to back it up. Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It is not wise to decide on what you’re going to say and then search the web for ways to prove it. Your ideas should be based on statistics, don’t base your decision-making facts on what you think is true.
The research, which includes the study of user experience as well as studies on social psychology, is located between stories and statistics with many of the same benefits and drawbacks also applying. The majority of research can be written in a narrative form. Write a short piece from the point of perspective of the participant in the study Then, go back to describe what’s happening. It can be as captivating and memorable as a great story but most studies yield statistics that usually increase the credibility of the story. reliable. Be sure to add a link to the study for those who would like to learn further about the subject!
Make sure that your research was not disproved by subsequent studies. In my initial article, which you can read here, I initially mentioned a study in order to establish the bystander effect. However, an editor advised me that there’s plenty of evidence to disprove this conclusion of the widely-cited study. Interpretations may change with time, particularly when new data is released. I discovered new research that was more pertinent to the issue. It made the point clearer and was not widely known, which made more sense as a story.
Kill your darlings
Early twentieth-century writer and critic Arthur Quiller-Couch once said in a speech, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it–whole-heartedly–and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your lovers.” Variants of this phrase were recited by numerous authors through the 20th century, and the same is true in the present as it was when he first made it clear.
What does this mean for your essay? Excellent prose, fantastic analogies, amazing stories, and any other words of great writing you write about only matter in the extent that they contribute to the topic of discussion. If they don’t add anything, it must be thrown out.
As you prepare your article to submit, your most reliable partner is the delete or backspace key on your keyboard. Before you submit, take an extensive read-through with the sole goal of deleting everything you can in order to reduce the length of your article. Articles aren’t books. The ability to write concisely is a virtue and usually, it results in being one of the main qualities of article submissions.
Your introduction should contain an unambiguous thesis to let readers understand what the piece is about. Every piece of writing considers whether it contributes to your thesis. Does it help to illustrate the problem or offer a solution? Does it convey compassion for or understanding of the people you’re trying to assist? Does it provide them with guidance on how they can have these discussions in their workplaces? If you are unable to connect an entire sentence back to your thesis statement regardless of how great it is, it should be removed.
Humor can be helpful however many jokes function as a mere side note to distract from your primary idea. Don’t disrupt your stream of thought by making a funny gag. Use a joke to aid in your thinking. No matter how humorous the joke is If it’s not helping to illustrate or strengthen one of your ideas the joke should be removed.
There are occasions when a photograph is worth the words. Do not go overboard with illustrations and images in your work, however, If a short image can make it easier to understand choose that option.
What are you waiting for?
The industry is in need of great advice in the form of articles, and many of you can provide it. The issues I’ve explored in this piece aren’t just formalities and nebulous concepts; the editorial staff from A List Apart has offered their opinion on these issues, and they are ones which we frequently encounter that make articles less effective and more difficult to read for readers. This advice can help you improve your professional content, no matter if you’re planning to submit your work to the A-List Apart or any other. The next great article to be published on the A-List Apart could be yours and we’d love to see you reach it.