Fact: An article on love and relationship will probably attract more readers than an article on environmental pollution. And an article on money making secrets will also attract more readers as supposed to one on why Pi is special to math.
That’s just the way it is worldwide. Some subject areas generate more interest than others. This is one of the skills a newspaper editor/writer/ blogger have to possess – the ability to fish out the gripping headlines to sell papers or generate traffic to a site. With the paper, I suppose once it’s bought, you can’t really return it. Online however, it’s not just about generating traffic to the site but how long visitors stay engaged. It’s all good and well, coming up with a sensational headline to attract clicks, but how do you ensure those click translate into engagement or that customer returns to purchase your paper tomorrow.
How do you make a specialist topic interesting to the layman? Here are 10 tips to guide you (based on my own experience).
1. Setting the Scene – Before even attempting to start an article, the environment must be conducive. Believe it or not this can make a huge difference to how efficient you write and quality of the content. Obviously practice makes perfect. Many professional writers come to the point where they can generate 1000 words in under 2hours. This is a skill developed over a period of time but even they would confess, you must tune your mind to the job. Many have particular times in the day set aside to write. Eventually you find what works best for you; early mornings, late nights, a corner in the library, sitting with nature, total silence or music in the background. Get the scene right and you’re good to go.
2. Topic Selection – To attract an audience your headline must generate curiosity. I should read the title and think, hmm! What’s that about? You can do this without being misleading and papers are often guilty of generating misleading headlines. You see a headline which reads, “red meat causes cancer” only to read on and realize that a scientist somewhere did an experiment to show there is a 0.001% chance of getting cancer from eating too much red meat. So the headline was not necessarily a lie but surely that’s misleading. Either way by the time you scroll to the end of the article and realize you have nothing to worry about, the author’s aim has been achieved – click, engage, generate traffic.
With topics less appealing to the general public, you must find that catchy phrase to put in the subject that’ll make readers want to enquire further. Once you catch attention, how do you maintain interest?
3. Who, What, Why, When, So What? – Whether you’re writing about Kofi and Ama or protecting endangered species, your article should tell a story in a logical order. One anyone can follow and make sense of what you’re saying. The 5 W’s is always a good guide. Who are you talking about? (the key subject), What have they done? (the story), Why did they do that? (reason for the story), When did it happen? (context), So What? (what’s this got to do with me?)
Without necessarily being in the same order your article should aim to cover the 5W’s. By doing this you usually end up covering all angles and the average reader stays engaged.
4. Research – Research, research, research. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s not about quantity but quality. Spend some time to research the subject area even if it’s your area of expertise. There’s always new information to find. The worse thing you can do is report an earthquake to a nation based on a text message without checking facts (sorry Joy FM). A well-researched article is always obvious to the reader.
5. Be original – Please don’t try to rewrite someone else’s work in your own words. Not quite the same as plagiarism but we all recognize cliché’s. The world always has something to talk about. If you’ve done your research you should find your niche. The subject area may be the same but as the saying goes; there is more than one way to skin a cat. Find your own angle, own your voice and make your point.
6. Plagiarism – plagiarism is a crime, avoid it. Simple as. There is nothing wrong with quoting or referring to other peoples work provided you give credit where due. If you’ve covered all of the above points, this should never have to be an issue. Remember; research, be original and give credit where due.
7. Grammar – This reminds me of the famous 50 shades of grey. Still not quite sure how it got so much hype. My husband bought me the books, I started to read and oh! did I struggle. Never quite made it through book 1. The whole thing was a mess from grammar to the story, at least the chapters I read. I’m pretty certain it was for other reasons that 50 shades got past the publisher despite its terrible grammar. However the point is, no one wants to read your bad grammar. When you’re looking over the same thing for so long, you miss a lot. It good practice to stop, read over, stop and read over again. You’ll be amazed what you find each time. If you can, get someone else to read it, they have a better chance of spotting what you’re likely to miss.
8. Jargons – We’re not all in your head, we don’t all get your sense of humor, and we didn’t all roll in the same circles so please keep jargons to a minimum. Where they have to be used, do interpret/define them the first instance of use so it makes sense to the rest of us if you later have to refer to it.
9. Timelines and Deadlines – As a guide, it never hurts to have timelines and deadlines. If you’re employed to write or write professionally this is usually not an issue but even if you’re writing at your own leisure it is good practice to set yourself timelines and headlines. You may change them as often as you want but do have a guide, it’s just good practice. Where you do work to deadlines, allow time for proof reading and any further changes or additions. Rushed work is never as good as a well nurtured article. I had about 6 weeks to write this and only started 3 days to the deadline. It’s all about getting in the mind set and setting the scene right from the beginning. I must say prior research had already been done plus I’ve had practice.
10. Finally, enjoy your story, have an interest in your topic and enjoy your journey so the reader can come along with you.