As a writer and editor of The Digital Camera Zone, I spend hours every day scouring the ezine barns for articles to put in front of an information hungry public.
I definitely find a lot of articles, all right. They number in the thousands. Because I need content to feed a voracious audience, I select as many as I can even though I’m often not really happy with many of them.
”Why,” I can hear you ask, “do you publish articles that you are not happy with?”
Well, the answer lies in several unfortunate deficiencies in many of the articles published in article barns…
DEFICIENCY NUMBER ONE: INADEQUATE CONTENT
Many articles are glaringly superficial. The author may start with a good premise, say, the need to research out digital cameras before buying one, but then drops the ball.
In essence, the only thing the article says, in 500 – 600 words or so, is “Do your homework”.
—There are no concrete suggestions as to how to do the research.
—There are no suggested sources where the reader can go to find information.
—There are no criteria by which the reader can decide which camera is best for her.
In short, the article might not as well have been written. The writer is merely telling the reader what she already knew and provides no real information. Remember: it’s not “content that is king¨; it’s quality content that is king.
DEFICIENCY NUMBER TWO: OVERDEPENDENCE ON KEYWORD ANALYSIS
Just about every article on writing articles for the web emphasizes that your creation should be “rich” in the keywords your readership is inputting into the search engines.
The trouble comes when you try to include all of the right keywords in your article so that people will find and read it. The danger is that you actually degrade the content of the article and make it less useful.
DEFICIENCY NUMBER THREE: NOT GRABBING THE READER’S ATTENTION AT THE BEGINNING
There’s nothing that attracts a reader more quickly to an article than a short story, anecdote or personal experience that identifies her with the subject.
This anecdote or short story should be based on experience, either your own, an acquaintance, or a plausible situation, and should confront the reader with a problem, immerse her in a dilemma, or invoke an emotion that directly leads to the solution posed by the article.
Many article writers start firing facts at the reader and doggedly go on in the same paragraph to advance the solution, without really building up the reader’s curiosity or expectations.
DEFICIENCY NUMBER FOUR: NO ORGANIZATION
Many writers, when they decide it’s time to pump out their daily (or minute-ly) articles, sit down and write paragraph after paragraph until the word count reaches 850 words or so without any discernible organization to their work.
Then they stop, and fire it off.
DEFICIENCY NUMBER FIVE: NO SUB HEADS OR BULLETS
We load up the article with long paragraphs which exhibit no logical breaks.
The article has no:
— Subheads. A pithy subhead for each paragraph will pique your reader’s interest and lead her into it. If your readers don’t encounter at least one subhead after reading a couple of paragraphs, you’ve probably lost them.
—Bullets. If you’ve got several points you want to make in a paragraph, create as many bullets as you need. Don’t overdo it of course. Bullets are like salt.
—Numbers. If you’ve got sequential steps you want the reader to take, number them. It makes it so much easier to figure out what you’re trying to say.
DEFICIENCY NUMBER SIX AND THE FINAL HORROR: GRAMMATICAL AND SPELLING MISTAKES
—Gramatical Mistakes. Yes, you knew this one was coming—things like “your¨, when you mean “you’re¨; “its¨ when you meant “it’s¨.
—Spelling Errors. Your reader will assume that if you can’t spell, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
—Incomplete Sentences. Have a subject, a verb and an object unless you’re being fancy, and know you’re being fancy.
—Missing Words. Missing words, for example, “I went New York”, are enough to blow any reader away. My question is, “You went what?”
If your article contains any of these stoppers, your readership will never get as far as your Resource Box.
SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION? GO OUT AND HIRE A PROFESSIONAL WRITER?
No, you are the pro. Here’s what you can do to make your articles sizzle:
1) Read professionally written articles on the web until you’ve absorbed their style.
2) Develop your own voice. Do this by writing and writing.
3) Paste a picture of your hypothetical reader on the computer, and write to that person. What do you need to say to catch and keep their attention?
4) Break it up. Use subheads, bullets, and numbers. Keep pulling the reader ahead with your subheads.
—Read and re-read what you’ve written; cut out unneeded words. Think economy: less is more.
—Get somebody else to read it—somebody who neither loves you nor hates you.
—Sleep on it. Never send out an article the same day you wrote it. Your brain will “cook¨ overnight and you’ll think of all kinds of things you needed to say…and change.
—Read it from the bottom up. This is a good way to catch typos after you’ve looked at it for too long.
–Read it out loud.
—Do a spell check. In this modern age of spell checking word processors, how can anybody submit an article that contains misspelled words?
6) Beware of the spell check. It doesn’t catch words used in the wrong context.
The bottom line is, take more time with your stuff. Write something that will make ezines glow like comets and you’ll see your dreams come true.