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From the Writing Desk: How to Write Articles

Whether you’re writing an article or blog post for fun, school, or work, it can be an intimidating task! From coming up with an idea to designing the perfect format, here are a collection of tips, tricks, and advice to make the process easier:

 

Brainstorming:

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is coming up with an idea. Sometimes, a good jumpstart is just what a writer needs. Ideas can come from anywhere, but having a helping hand in the idea generation process is never a bad thing.

Here are some ways to brainstorm:

  • Think about something that you’re currently interested in. It could be a TV show, a specific hobby, or a line of research. With this item in mind, do a bit of research on related topics. Write these down. What you find can be an article!
  • Create a mind map. Start with one item. This could really be anything! Write it down in the center of a piece of paper. Draw a circle around it. Now start adding related items in little bubbles of their own. These don’t have to be directly related. For example, if you put “dogs” as your center topic, one of the bubbles might be tennis, since dogs often like to play with tennis balls. Once you’ve added as many related items as you want, take a look at your mind map. What items are there? What’s something you’d want to talk about or research more? Those might be great articles!
  • Freewriting is another brainstorming process that many students are familiar with. The name might not be familiar, but the actual technique is pretty simple: just start writing! Sometimes, it is also referred to as “stream of consciousness” writing, where the writer just writes about whatever they want! It’s also a good meditation practice. It lets a writer get their feelings and thoughts onto a page instead of leaving them trapped in their head. When someone doesn’t think too much about what they’re writing and just puts it down on paper, it can reveal different topics and interests that may have otherwise been buried. After freewriting for about 10 minutes, take a look at what you have. Are there any common threads? What topic did you focus on the most? Is there anything that stands out to you?
  • My favorite method of brainstorming is to just have a conversation. Talking to others can lead to some interesting discussions, which in turn can lead to interesting articles! Brainstorming together also allows for ideas to come together and turn into something greater.
  • Let’s say you’re writing an article for a class that needs a specific topic, but you’re stuck on getting started. Take a look at the prompt. Highlight any keywords you see. What do those words mean to you? Do these words appear in your course materials? Do they appear in your regular life? Looking for connections is a great way to figure out a topic, whether it’s for an article or a paper.

 

Outlining:

Once you have a topic, the next hurdle appears: outlining. Topics can be abstract and broad, and the goal of outlining is to create a solidified, clear roadmap of your article. Some writers don’t like to outline at all and would rather just start writing and clean up from there. Others want the structure of an outline. So, if you do want an outline, how do you make one? What do you start with? Here’s what I include in my outlines in the order that I write them down:

  • A Working Title: I start with a working title. This is sort of like my thesis of the article. As I write, I can refer back to it to help me stay on track. My working title for this article was “How to Write an Article.” While that’s clearly changed, it was helpful to have a title as a guide for my writing.
  • An Elevator Pitch: An elevator pitch is often referred to as being a very quick summary you could tell someone in under 90 seconds. The “elevator pitch” term usually comes from the idea of telling a business idea to a potential investor in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator, but for writing, it can be helpful as a framing statement. My elevator pitch was as follows: “Writing an article can be tough, whether for school, work, or fun. Here are some ideas to make writing an article easier.”
  • Main/Important Points: When you start thinking about outlining, it’s okay to not have every single point planned out. What you have might not even be your main points, but you should still have a very general idea of what you want to talk about. Jot down a few points. They don’t even have to be complete sentences as long as you know what information they’re referencing! Sometimes, I like to think of these points as headers for different article sections. This article’s main points were as follows: “Brainstorming, Outlining, Drafting, Revising, and Formatting/Polishing.” As you might notice, they’re the same headers I have in the article currently!
  • Anything Else: Sometimes, I have extra notes to add to my outline. I’ll generally stick these under whichever main/important point they relate to the most. Other times, if these extra items aren’t super relevant, I’ll just leave them at the bottom of my outline so I won’t forget them.

 

Drafting:

Drafting is simultaneously the most difficult and the easiest step. Just write the article! That’s it. For some authors, this step is a lot like the brainstorming process of freewriting except with a specific topic in mind. For other authors, the outline comes in handy. It’s almost like a form that can be filled out that gives easy structure for writing. As much as I want to give a lot of advice on drafting, the best advice I have is to just try different kinds of writing. The more you write, the more you discover your own writing process.

 

Revising:

Once you’re at the revision stage, you’re in the home stretch of writing an article! Revising is a tough task but an extremely necessary one. I always want to recommend having someone else read your writing! Whether that’s the school’s writing center or a friend, another set of eyes on your writing can help find places that need some work. Even just reading it aloud to yourself can help bring to light sections that should be reviewed. (Sometimes I read my work aloud to my dog so I’m not reading it to myself.) But let’s look at a method of revising that’s easy to do by yourself.

DART is an acronym to describe a method of revision that’s broken down into four steps:

  • Delete unnecessary words. - Are you repeating yourself? Is every word in a sentence necessary? What does this sentence contribute to the main point? Is this word helping give my sentence context, or is it just there?
  • Add words that clarify. - Does this statement need context? Can you describe this better? Is my meaning clear to the reader?
  • Rearrange sentences and passages. - Does this order make sense? Can the reader follow the train of thought from the beginning to the end? Does this structure have the most impact?
  • Think about your changes. - Do these changes still convey the main point? Are you happy with the changes? Is there anything else that should be changed?

The final step is to reflect on your writing for a little bit. Let the writing sit by itself for a moment, and give your mind the chance to process what you’ve written.

 

Formatting/Polishing:

A completed article is right around the corner! The finishing touches are far more visual than anything else. When formatting, think about how the text looks on the page. Is it a block? Can that block be split up? Does it look like a list? Can it be formatted into paragraphs? The balance between too much text and not enough text is tough, but the right balance makes articles look professional and easy-to-read. The polishing is usually grammatical errors, so remember to use your spellchecker and/or send your writing to someone who knows English well!

 

Final Thoughts:

Writing an article doesn’t have to be a scary, overwhelming task! Hopefully this guide helps you get started on writing. As someone who loves writing, I am constantly looking for ways to give others a path to enjoying writing as well. If you’re still worried about writing an article, start small! Pick something you really care about. You can always work forward from wherever you are, but to go forward, you must start.

Annika G.R. Bunney is an interdisciplinary creator focusing on traditional writing, nature-based creations, and assorted textual pieces. She is a second-year in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington, Bothell. Her ever-evolving work draws on classic literature, folklore, and mass media. When not working on academics, she can be found taking care of her many cats and playing with her rescue dog. She also loves wandering in the outdoors, curling up with a good book, or playing video games.
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