Category: article

Think about your audience before writing that article or blog post

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Your audience is composed of individuals who have a wide range of interests and knowledge. However, for the purpose of your writing, you can place them into two basic categories:

  • Specialists (e.g., CEOs, industry professionals) who have a deep (or technical) understanding of your topic, as well as the language
  • Generalists (e.g., end users, general public) with a wide range of knowledge and experience, but not a deep understanding of the topic or language

Both groups should be interested in the main subject of your writing. But they will have different goals when reading your writing.

  • Specialists do not need a lot of basic information or an introduction to the topic. They might prefer a high-level technical description, supporting facts and arguments, and a higher level discussion of the subject matter.
  • Generalists want the background information, clear explanations of features and benefits, and definitions or descriptions of technical language or specific terms. They want to understand the subject and how it appeals to them.

Establishing your audience will guide the tone and attitude of your writing. Your writing must respect your audience’s level of knowledge and experience. You can develop appropriate examples and case studies that will speak to that audience. Avoid writing for both audiences at the same time (where possible) as you will not be able to meet both groups’ needs.

Ask the right questions to define your audience

To help evaluate your audience, answer the following questions:

  • What does the audience know about the topic?
  • What is the audience’s attitude toward the topic?
  • Does the audience have interest in the topic, and why or why not?
  • Why is the audience reading about this topic?
  • What level of supporting information does the audience need to accept your position on the topic?

Knowing your audience will help to guide your writing and speak to them more effectively. If you can focus it even more to specific groups within the large group, so much the better. Understand and respect your audience in your writing, and you will achieve a greater response from your audience.

Need help with writing for your audience? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

How to write effective opening, closing, and connecting paragraphs for blogs, articles, and letters

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In a previous blog post, I wrote about writing different types of paragraphs for your blog, article or letter. Whether you’re writing a blog, article or marketing letter, you will always have to write three types of paragraphs, each of which has different purposes: the opening paragraph, the closing paragraph, and the connecting paragraphs. Make effective use of each type to get the most out of your writing and compel your audience to read all the way through your document.

Opening paragraph

This paragraph serves as your map – it guides you (the writer) and the reader through the rest of the document. The topic sentence in the opening paragraph sets the foundation to guide your writing. The rest of the sentences in the opening paragraph should support the topic sentence.

Your opening paragraph should also interest the reader so that they will continue reading. It needs a hook to spark interest – it can be a quote, an illustration, an interesting statistic or an example. Whatever the hook, it must pull the reader in and make them want to read more.

Closing paragraph

This paragraph enables you to restate the main idea. It repeats what was stated in the opening paragraph in a different way. The supporting sentences should also support the topic sentence, using different yet effective wording.

You should also include a call to action. You want the reader to do something when they’ve finished reading – contact you, sign up for a newsletter, visit a website, download an ebook, etc. The reader has made it all the way through your document, and they are presumably interested in what you have to say. Tell them what to do next.

Connecting paragraphs

These paragraphs serve several purposes:

  • They support the topic sentence and opening paragraph.
  • They allow you to transition between different points so that they are not jumbled into one large mass of text.
  • They do the heavy lifting. You can’t state your entire case in the opening paragraph, so they provide the details to fill in the gaps.
  • They make your case. You intrigued the reader with the opening paragraph, and now you have to prove why they were right to keep reading.

Each connecting paragraph should focus on a central theme with its own topic sentence, but it should be connected to the topic sentence in the opening paragraph. Organize your writing properly to get the greatest impact. Use paragraphs like the tools that they were meant to be.

 

Do you need help with writing better paragraphs? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Ten tips on publishing your own newsletter

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When I worked at a small publishing company, I wrote a weekly newsletter called Cram This! I used the newsletter to promote the company to our customers, discuss new and existing titles, provide useful information found in our titles, entice people with special offers, and more. It was quite popular and effective during its time.

I’ve written, edited and subscribed to enough newsletters over the years to understand how useful they are in building a brand and a business. Newsletters are great for educating and informing your current clients, and attracting new clients by establishing yourself as an expert in your field. I’ve thought about writing a newsletter to do the same with my current business. However, I current write LinkedIn posts and tweet, and am not sure how a newsletter would significantly differ. It would also require more time away from my business and other activities. Still, I am seriously considering developing a newsletter to help grow and promote my business – but it has to be useful, interesting, entertaining, and different.

Do you want to put out your own newsletter? Then consider the following tips for making it more effective for your business:

  1. Always provide contact information so that readers can contact you for more details about you and your business. Provide links to your website, email address, social media pages, phone numbers and so on.
  2. Write in a personal style so that they feel like you are speaking just to them. Or find a style that works best for you.
  3. Make sure that the headline is clear and powerful. The headline pulls the reader in – the content keeps them there.
  4. Keep individual stories to less than half a page. Provide links for additional content.
  5. Ensure that your newsletter contains useful information, not strictly advertising or promotional material for your business.
  6. Remember that the goal for your newsletter is to attract new business while also building your image. Everything in your newsletter should build upon that.
  7. Create a plan for your newsletter, where you know what you will be writing for the next few issues. Publish an editorial calendar if possible so that your readers know what to expect in coming issues.
  8. Publish regularly – whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, keep it regular so that your readers know when they will get the next issue.
  9. It can be difficult to come up with new and interesting ideas for each issue of your newsletter. Consider the following sources:
    – Press releases related to your industry
    – Clippings of your work in other publications
    – Free and pay clipping services
    – Academic publications
    – Library
    – Filler services with prewritten material
    – Government publications (mostly free, reusable content!)
    – Trade magazines
    – Online resources (via search engines and meta-engines)
    – Customers and employees
    – Experts
  10. What should you include as regular features in your newsletter? Consider the following suggestions:
    – Case studies related to how your clients used your services to improve their business
    – Contributions from readers and clients
    – Articles on new products and services related to your industry
    – Quizzes and self-analysis sheets
    – Interviews with experts
    – Short tips and top ten lists
    – Summaries of materials from other sources
    – Quotes, jokes, trivia, etc.

Need help with writing or editing your newsletter? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Top 10 criteria for editing articles and documents

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I found some great editing advice in The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists by Arthur Plotnik. It’s called “Criteria for Evaluating Manuscripts.” It’s a list of criteria that editors can use to evaluate manuscripts. It can also be used to score a manuscript out of 100 (as a teacher or editor would do), and functions as a scorecard for the writer to evaluate his or her own writing.

The criteria are divided into three categories:

  • Content
  • Readability
  • Impact

I’ve modified the criteria so that it can apply to articles and business writing.

Content

1. Information: It delivers a body of facts, uses authoritative resources, involves competent and original research methods, and supports opinion with information.

2. Analysis and interpretation: Facts are properly organized and evaluated. Concepts embody facts and reflect the author’s voice. Difficult concepts are understandable and thoughtful interpretation leads to specific viewpoint. Content imparts both knowledge and information.

3. Balance: Opinions are separate from fact, other opinions or viewpoints are presented or acknowledged, and the reader can fairly judge the information’s readability.

4. Originality: Content is innovative and insightful, and it shows awareness of previous viewpoints on the subject.

Readability

5. Appeal: Writing is inviting, and motivates the reader to continue reading. It sustains interest throughout, and there is momentum to continue reading through organization of interesting facts and concepts.

6. Concreteness and clarity: Writing emphasizes concrete over abstract concepts, avoids jargon and gets to the point. Point of view is clearly stated, it invites discussion and reads with clarity.

7. Colour and tone: Voice is intelligent and conversational, and uses active voice whenever possible. Writing uses examples, anecdotes and contrast where applicable. Writing avoids elements that can impede flow of information and ideas.

Impact

8. Enlightenment: Writing informs but does not preach. Content provides new channels of understanding and offers clear benefits from reading.

9. Force: Writing is authoritative and persuasive, is solidified by intensity of conviction and logic, and is based on modern ideas with long-lasting impact.

10. Relevance: Content is current and applicable to reader’s interests, while also extending or challenging those interests.

Conclusion

Remember – content, readability and impact are the keys to powerful writing, and helping you to edit writing to make it more powerful.

Do you need help with editing your articles and documents? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com

David Gargaro

How to write better articles

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I came across an article in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing called “Take Five: The Most Common Mistakes Among Beginning Freelancers,” which was written by M.L. Stein in 1976. The article outlines five common mistakes made by new writers when pitching and writing articles for magazines.

Follow these five tips to improve your article writing. You can also apply these tips to other types of writing.

  1. Leave your backyard: While you can write about your personal experiences, you cannot JUST write about your personal experiences. To be successful, you will have to talk to other people to get the facts on the topic you are writing about. You (and your friends and family) might be good sources of information, but they cannot be your only sources. You will have to talk to other people, which will improve your interviewing skills and make you a better writer.
  2. Writing about a subject, not an idea: Many writers pick very general topics to write about, and the article has no real angle. To make your article more interesting, start with an idea, then work your way down to a specific point of view within that idea that is current or interesting. Break the idea down, and talk to people who may have a particular interest in specific elements of the idea.
  3. Get the facts: Good articles need more than solid writing – they need facts. Most writers are not authorities on the topics they write about, and even when they know a lot, they still need to get their facts straight. Check your facts through interviews, observation, online research, etc. Include facts in your articles, and not just opinion or belief.
  4. Add anecdotes: Almost every article can benefit from anecdotes. These stories add a dimension of human interest by revealing an individual’s character, difficulties and triumphs. They also add credibility to your article. Use a real-life example of how something happened as described in your article to add that element of reality to your article. Remember – anecdotes come from the people you interview, which is another reason to actually talk to other people.
  5. Write with life and clarity: Articles are not essays – you need more than just the facts delivered with good writing. The article has to be interesting to read. Articles are defined by a writer’s particular style. Editors enjoy reading articles that are lively, interesting, and contemporary, as that is what will appeal to their readers. Read other articles to get a better understanding of different writing styles, and then develop your own style that will interest readers.

Do you have any tips on writing better articles? Let me know – I’d love to hear from other people and benefit from your experience. Send me an email – contact @ davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Eight types of how-to articles

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I came across an interesting article in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing. It’s called “Eight Types of How-to Articles and How to Write Them” by Hugh C. Sherwood, written in 1970. As the title suggests, the article is about writing how-to articles, which are very popular as far as a style of article. The how-to article describes a topic to the reader, and explains what the reader should learn from the article. It provides advice as well as information.

Eight Types of How-To Articles

  1. The pure how-to article: This is the most basic form of how-to article. It provides specific rules or advice on how to accomplish a particular task. It starts with the title (e.g., How to Write a How-to Article) and is supported by basic steps toward accomplishing the task.
  2. The narrative how-to article: This article uses a story format to describe how a company did something that relates to the title or main point of the article (e.g., How David Gargaro Wrote His First How-to Article). It concludes with how a reader can do what that company did.
  3. The various ways how-to article: This article describes a number of different ways to accomplish a specific goal (e.g., Eight Ways to Write a How-To Article). It provides the reader with different ways to accomplish a task.
  4. The questions-to-ask how-to article: This article provides a number of questions to ask about the central problem described in the article (e.g., Questions to Ask When Researching a How-to Article). It then provides comments on each of the questions.
  5. The pitfalls-to-avoid how-to article: This article uses real-life examples to explain how pitfalls can interfere with the reader dealing with the central problem of the article (e.g., Eight Traps to Avoid When Writing a How-to Article).
  6. The question-answer how-to article: This article poses a number of questions and provides answers that result in a how-to format in solving a particular problem. It is very effective when interviewing an expert on a topic, as the answers provide the how-to accomplish a goal (e.g., An Interview with David Gargaro on Writing How-to Articles).
  7. The do not do this how-to article: This article describes what to avoid when solving a particular problem (e.g., Five Things You Should Never Do When Writing a How-to Article). It also includes tips on what the reader should do to accomplish the task.
  8. The checklist how-to article: This article provides a checklist of questions to ask, or points to consider, about the central problem (e.g., Six Things to Consider When Writing a How-to Article).

Which type of how-to article do you enjoy reading? Do you need help with writing a how-to article? Let me know – contact @ davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro