It’s late in the afternoon, and you’ve been given the daunting task of writing a business article. As you sit at your desk with your head in your hands, you realize you’re in the same place you were five hours ago — absolutely nowhere.
You’ve got no topic, no material, no ideas and certainly not one word on the blank screen in front of you. In fact, the only thing you do have is a headache.
Though writing an article can be intimidating, especially when writing doesn’t come naturally, a few simple steps can help make it easier:
• Know your audience. Knowing your audience can not only help you come up with a topic, it can help you with the level of material you present.
Ask yourself these questions when brainstorming about a topic: What are my audience’s likes and interests? What would be relevant and practical to them? Do they need advice in a certain area? While your audience may have some differences, they at least have one thing in common — they are all reading the same publication.
If you don’t know much about your audience in particular, you can quickly research the publication.
When fleshing out your article, consider your audience’s level of knowledge. For example, if the material is too simple, your audience will become bored. And if you provide information that is too advanced, it will be over the reader’s head, and he or she will not want to finish reading it.
• Keep it simple. Most people are crunched for time, and unless they are reading a genuinely entertaining article, they often don’t want to spend precious moments reading a lengthy, overly detailed article.
Headings, bullets and numbered items can help you stay focused and get your point across. You can provide details under these items. If a reader doesn’t have time to read the entire article, he or she can find information on a specific point if your article is laid out this way.
• Pay attention to redundancies. If you repeat something over and over (especially if you’re simply trying to lengthen your article), you’re going to lose the reader’s attention. It’s also important to edit unnecessary words.
Sometimes a reader can lose focus if a sentence is too lengthy. When re-reading your article, make sure each word is beneficial. If you use each word wisely, you will get your point across.
• Make it relevant. This goes back to knowing your audience. When composing your article, continually ask yourself if what you’re writing is relevant to your readers. Ask questions such as: Is this information beneficial to the reader? Is it information they can use now and in the future? Would they pass this material on to others? These are just a few examples of questions that can be asked regarding relevance.
When you present a topic, make sure everything you write is relevant to that topic. Avoid going off on tangents. Writing one sentence may lead to another idea, but make sure your article is organized so you don’t end up with ideas and sentences that aren’t even related to the idea or topic you originally presented.
• Make it enjoyable. This is harder for some topics than others, but if you grasp your audience’s attention immediately, they’re going to want to continue reading.
After reading the first few sentences, the reader has made up his or her mind on whether to continue. Ideas on getting the reader’s attention in the introduction include a relevant story, question, or quote — anything to get them thinking or wanting more information.
If you use a story, it’s often a good idea to leave the reader “hanging.” For instance, you can begin a story in the introduction and finish it in the conclusion of your article. This helps keep the reader interested.
• Get feedback. Finally, it’s important to have someone else read your article to provide constructive criticism. It’s also a good idea for that person to be in your targeted audience.
A simple checklist can help with direction when providing positive feedback. Have the reader answer the following questions: Did you enjoy the article? Was it relevant? Did it make sense? Did it flow well? Constructive criticism will help you make necessary and beneficial changes.
Now that you know writing a business article doesn’t have to be a daunting, stressful task, that headache you had begins to go away. As your headache disappears, words begin to appear on that once blank screen of yours, and before you know it, you’ve created a masterpiece.
Angela Nicholson is an administrative assistant at Deemer Dana & Froehle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-238-1001.