By Jennigay Coetzer

See updated article on this topic (June 2014): 

A major objective when writing an article is to attract the reader’s attention and keep it throughout. To achieve this, get to the point quickly without any preamble, and make strong statements that are clear and concise.

Make sure you have not left any questions in the mind of the reader, by applying the “So what?” principal to every statement you write and ensuring this question is answered in the next sentence or two.

Understand the target audience, and consider the lowest common denominator among those who might be reading the article. For example, when writing an article that is going to be published on the internet, remember that anyone might stumble across it while searching for information to enlighten or entertain them.

Have a conversation with the reader as you are writing your article, and try verbalising what you want to say, or visualising how you would say it if you were telling someone about it face to face, before you write it down, instead of trying to think of the smartest words to use.

Three important words to remember when writing articles are clarify, qualify, and quantify. Clarify what you are saying by making statements that are clear, articulate and complete and cannot be misunderstood or interpreted in different ways by different readers.

If you leave gaps in the information you are writing the reader will make his or her own assumptions as to what you meant, depending on their understanding of the topic, their background, experience, culture, personality, and other human factors.

Using examples is a powerful way to qualify your statements and put them in context by creating a clear picture in the reader’s mind. Quantifying your statements with supporting statistics will clarify what you are writing still further by giving the reader a measure, a point of reference, a place to start.

Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance writer and  journalist with 30 years experience, she runs writing skills courses, and she is the author of A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing press releases, an ebook version of which can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.za. Jennigay also provides media training.

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