How to Write a Great Article
When Hubber, Ibrahim K. Shafin asked about how a “normal hubber” can write a hub that would get featured , he didn’t get many replies. Some of the advice he received was spot-on useful, but some of it was cynical and not so helpful.
After my hub, Using Raw Cocoa Butter was featured within the first few weeks of my joining Hub Pages, a friend suggested that I reply to this question as a “normal hubber” who’s been there.
I can't speak for Hub Pages officials, but here is what I’ve noticed as a writer …
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Readers want more than just basic facts. They want details you noticed, photos you took and your opinions/feelings/ideas ... things they can relate to. People want things that catch their interest on a personal level.
For example, I included a section in my hub on cocoa butter that outlined personal testing done with the product. That connected me to my readers and gave my article more credibility. It also got me "bonus points" for originality.
A Note on Relatability ...
Being relatable is sometimes confused with being personal. Relatable means creating a sense of connection without giving them too much information about oneself. Restrict how much personal information you give. Sadly, there are unsavoury folk lurking online, even at reputable websites. Authors can sometimes share too much. For example, I’ve come across writers who give information about their children in articles; little titbits here and there spread throughout various articles which all add up.
A studious follower can learn what the children look like, the school they attend, the area of town they live in, after-school activities they participate it, favourite toys, the names of close friends … More than enough for some unwholesome individual to track down those innocent ones. Be safe!
Anyone can regurgitate facts they found on the web, but it won't get you positive attention. Even if you're covering "safe" or "popular" topics, take your article one step further. Be creative and original in presentation and content. Show the reader something they won't find in someone else's article.
My topic of cocoa butter may be considered "conventional" and "non-controversial." There are several articles online that cover cocoa butter and its benefits or give a general description of the product. However, I couldn't find anything online that addressed the topic of actually using raw cocoa butter.
So, I took my article further which made it unique in its content. Besides the section on product testing, I discussed my experience trying to find the product locally (which led to a separate article) and included photos I took.
Informative does not have to equal boring!
You only have a few lines to grab a reader, so pique their interest with a catchy or quirky title, opening paragraph and even photo. If your readers can relate to you and feel entertained, they will read your article, even if the topic is not normally of interest to them. I know I have.
Readers like to have information outlined in an easy-to-follow fashion. For my raw cocoa butter hub, I broke down the product to help people who have never used it before. I addressed description, application, benefits, cost, alternate uses, storage, side-effects, availability and product testing. Each was in its own section and flowed coherently as a whole (I hope).
Have Your Own Voice
Readers don't want to feel like they're trapped in a wiki. Even when writing professionally, a good writer has a distinct voice/personality that readers can relate to and feel comfortable with. This comfort level brings readers back, plus it helps you create a personal style and branding.
When writing an informational piece, be careful to balance your writing. Writers sometimes make the mistake of giving too much of their opinions. While opinions have their uses in creating balance and relatability, too much can skew an informational piece into an opinion piece which will turn away a reader who is looking for facts.
It also goes the other way, as well. Rants and opinion bits are very popular, however the ones that hit the mark with audiences include facts. They give important information while entertaining or opining. This balance keeps their audience coming back for more.
It may seem obvious, however some writers don’t actually grasp this part. Quality counts. Even the newest writer can garner positive attention if they present their work in a professional manner.
Make sure your articles have correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization. A writer doesn’t have to be college educated to use the spell-checker and grammar-corrector applications that comes with every word processing program.
Avoid clichés or catch phrases; these are the signs of rookies and writers that haven’t studied their craft enough to grow.
Professionalism also includes double-checking your facts. While I’ve noticed that it isn’t always essential to state your sources, you must take the time to check and cross-compare information before putting it out into the ‘net as fact.
Note on Text-to-Speech
Mac computers come with the software called, VoiceOver Utility. To adjust it, click on the Speech icon in System Preferences. To use it, simply highlight what you want read, right click and select Speech --> Start Speaking.
Windows has an option called, Text-to-Speech which can be activated and set via the Control Panel. The program is called Natural Reader. If you do not have it or wish to upgrade, you can download the latest version for free at the Natural Readers website.
Because I have the option, I have my computer read an article back to me slowly so I can catch any errors or awkwardness. I like this better than reading it out loud myself because I know what the article is supposed to say and sometimes fill that in automatically instead of reading exactly what is written.
If you don’t have this option, read each article you write s-l-o-w-l-y and carefully out loud to someone before posting. Even better, have someone read it out loud to you.
Include Personalized Photos and/or Videos
There are dozens of sites on the internet that offer royalty-free and cost-free stock photos or video. Some are very professional looking and some … well, not so much. Again, originality and relatability come into play. When possible, use photos or videos you’ve taken/made yourself. This shows that you care enough about your audience and topic to take the time to create the content for your article. This means a lot to your readers. It gives them a feeling of being included in your life which creates interest and a sense of connection … which leads to return audiences.
I hope this answers Ibrahim’s question and possibly some of your questions, as well. Happy hubbing!
© 2011 Rosa Marchisella