So you've decided on your topic and you're ready to purge all your pent up fandom onto the page? That's great, but there's still one more thing to consider before you start smashing your keyboard: Article Structure.
An article's structure is imperative to its readability, comprehension and flow. Even articles that are well written in terms of their content, spelling and grammar can be let down due to poor structure and formatting. Generally speaking, an article is split into an introduction and a body, while longer, more editorial pieces might also include a conclusion. Let's go through each one.
All articles should contain a small introduction that establishes quickly what the article is about, initially contextualizes the article within the wider world and introduces any questions asked in the article. It is also a good opportunity to establish a general emotive tone if your article has one.
However, be careful not to give everything away all at once. Instead, the introduction should pique the interest of the reader and encourage them on to the next paragraph. If an introduction fails to do this, it's likely the reader will immediately abandon the article.
Generally speaking, an introduction's length will depend on the type of piece you are writing. If you are creating a quick news piece based on a recent event, it's in the interest of the reader to keep the introduction short and snappy. However, if you're penning a longer opinion or editorial piece, you may want to opt for a longer introduction which may have a more personal touch.
The introduction's main role is to fully prepare the reader for the meatier components of the article's body. This forms the bulk of the article and can be anything from several paragraphs to a sprawling epic.
Regardless of the article's length, it's important to maintain flow and break up large portions of text with images, videos and quotes. These not only break up intimidatingly long blocks of text, but they're also be used to further build on your claims in the text.
Sub-headlines are also a great way to place "milestones" throughout the piece and quickly introduce the next segment. On longer pieces, consider using them frequently, but ensure a consistency of formatting (e.g. bold, headline, etc.)
Furthermore, most of our visitors read our articles on mobile devices which can make long segments of text appear even more daunting. Sub-headings not only provide breathing space for readers, but they also allow anyone quickly scrolling down the article to get a general overview of what the article is about.
As mentioned above, images are a great way of adding visually pleasing assets to your articles. Always try to use the highest quality images you can find. This might mean conducting an image search in Google. Also, remember that your main image, like the headline, will immediately be seen by readers. Find something exciting that both stands out and sets up your article.
Consider avoiding stock and official images but find something original and interesting. After a while, we become accustomed to seeing the same old promotional images, so something different really stands out. However, if you use fan art or a photographer's work, make sure to include a credit in the caption to the original creator.
Not all articles will require a conclusion, especially news articles. Generally speaking, conclusions should be used for longer editorial pieces which may cover a range of issues. Conclusions should act to bring together all the various threads of an article into one place, and reconnect them to the initial question asked in the introduction. However, do not simply repeat them, but try to synthesize them together in a new and meaningful way.
Conclusions can also act to redirect your readers into different, but associated, issue areas and are also good opportunities to pose broader questions or look to the future.
Call To Action
A Call to Action is the final cherry on the top of your article and is primarily designed to encourage the reader to interact with your work. A Call to Action could consist of a question, often written using the "headline" or "bold" formats, or a poll. All articles, even those without a conclusion, should include a Call To Action. The key to a great Call to Action is finding the key issue of your article and posing that as a question to the readers.
Chapter 6 Assignment
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write an article which incorporates all of the elements discussed above.
- Does your article have a clear introduction which piques the interest of the reader, but doesn't give everything away? Read it again when you've finished your article - have you introduced any avenues or topics you didn't explore in the body? If so - make sure to exclude those points from your intro.
- Do you have a well organised, cohesive body, with paragraphs that lead on from one another and each have one clear point or argument?
- Have you used unique images, video and GIFs to keep the reader intrigued throughout?
- If you've written a longer opinion piece, do you have a strong conclusion that supports your body, and call-to-action for all other articles?
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