It seems simple enough. Writing a trade article where you, as the subject matter expert, have the opportunity to submit a short article for online publication. How difficult can it be?
Many of us have years, or even decades, of experience on many business related subjects. This provides us with a wealth of knowledge. However, using this knowledge to write articles that are both informative and engaging is a challenge.
Now it’s time to put all this into practical use. The following are four tips to help you put it together:
1. TO SERVE A SNACK OR A MEAL?
In short, to communicate clearly and be read, be concise.
A long preamble or opening paragraph in an article is a huge barrier to entry for the reader. It’s best to get to the point or you’ll take the risk that they won’t bother reading the whole article. If you remind yourself that your readers aren't paying you by the word, they'll repay you by reading through to the end.
Short sentences and paragraphs help. They give the information and concepts space to ‘breathe’. A bit like the froth on my flat white!
2. THE ART OF STORY TELLING
Human interest stories are a great way of maintaining the readers' attention. Anecdotes are a brilliant way to illustrate a point and make your article memorable.
We all have a wealth of interesting stories to tell, but make sure you only tell one at a time. What’s more the stories have to be congruous with the subject and theme of the article.
Make sure the story flows logically and chronologically, and explains the topic in enough depth.
A strong beginning, middle and ending, and a story with a powerful message, can give your article direction and make it resonate with the reader.
3. MAKE YOUR WRITING INCLUSIVE, NOT EXCLUSIVE.
As the author of the article you have to bring your readers with you, and not leave them behind by using confusing acronyms or overly technical jargon. You are the expert, but don't expect the readers to be as well.
As an example, Berkshire Hathaway is the largest financial services company by revenue in the world. Yet when writing his company’s annual letter, the company chairman writes with his elderly sisters Doris and Bertie in mind.
Both of these women are well informed and long-term investors of the firm, but they’re not financial analysts.
We can learn a lot from the way Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett writes his annual letters. He clearly communicates with the right balance of accessibility and information in order to be inclusive.
4. WE'RE ALMOST THERE – THEN THE COFFEE TEST
After attending to the regular due-diligence tasks of grammar and spelling, check for flow, timing and pace of your work. Editing is one of the most difficult of chores as it means throwing out a lot of your original material in the interests of an article that’s engaging and enjoyable.
Anything that doesn't support the narrative, let it go.
When you’re finished, take a break from your desk and go get yourself a cup of coffee or whatever beverage you prefer. (Mine is a flat-white, no sugar thanks!)
Open the article and read it as you would imagine someone reading it for the first time. If you finish reading the article while you are drinking your coffee, and it was as enjoyable – your article is finished.
Alan is also a board member of MGSMAA