Writing Articles that People Will Read: Four Pitfalls Hidden in Good Advice

Apr 23 07:25 2008 Charles J. Bonner Print This Article

When you write an article, whether you are writing it for print or electronic publication, it's easy to write an article that nobody will ever read except you.  There is plenty of good advice out there telling you how to write an article that will be effective, but be careful:  Used incorrectly, good advice can be worse than no advice at all.  This article will enable you to recognize the pitfalls of good advice so you can apply it well and start writing articles that get the attention they deserve.

One reason these four pitfalls are so deadly to your article is that they come disguised as advice for how to write a good article.  What you will learn in this article is that the simple techniques for writing an effective article must be applied carefully.  Yes,Guest Posting there are simple techniques that can be effective, but writing is still an art and not a mechanical process.  If you apply the simple techniques in a simple, unthinking manner, they will work against you.

By the way, this all applies to articles written for publication as well as to content you create for your Web site, or almost anything else you write.

So let's take a closer look at these four tips for writing a good article, and consider how they can lead you astray.

  1. Start with the keywords
  2. Use synonyms to spice up your writing
  3. Spell every word correctly
  4. Use proper grammar

Start with the Keywords

"Start with the keywords" is a bad idea?  Yes, it can be.  True, your article should use the keywords that will draw readers in.  And if your article is going to be published on the Web, it must use keywords that your keyword research has identified as effective, but that's not the place to start.  Start with the structure and content of the article first, then look for where the keywords fit in.

If you write your article by placing a bunch of keywords on the page and trying to stitch them together into sentences and paragraphs, you end up with an article that nobody will ever read.  Or if you start with a great idea for an article, then find some powerful but unrelated keywords and try to work them in, you end up with an awkward, disjointed article that nobody will ever finish reading.

Instead, you should start with your idea.  What do you want to say?  Say it, in whatever words come naturally to you, and worry about the keyword optimization later.  After the article is a complete structure, do your keyword research, and insert the keywords into the article where they fit.

Here's an example from my own experience writing an article for my hiking-related Web site.  I wanted to describe how to select good quality, inexpensive hiking shoes.  I wrote my article all about what to look for and how to find a good source of hiking shoes.  Since this is a subject I know well, the article fairly flowed out of my keyboard, and it was completed in no time.  Then I went and did my keyword research.  To my surprise, I found that the most commonly used two-word search term with "hiking" in it was "hiking boots"  It was no problem at all to edit my article and replace every occurrence of "hiking shoes" with "hiking boots."  But if I had known this at the start, I would have been distracted by paying attention to which term I was using, and my article would not have "flowed" so easily.  Yes, I used the correct keywords in the article as published, but I didn't let concern for keywords hobble my writing process.

So what happens if you have a great idea for an article, then your keyword research uncovers a powerful keyword that just doesn't quite fit the article you're working on?  Do you change your article to squeeze in that magic keyword?  No!  Finish your article with the keywords that fit it, then use the new magic keyword as the beginning idea for your next article!

Use Synonyms to Spice Up Your Writing

Of course, you don't want your article to be dull, but you can take that synonym technique to such an extreme that nobody will read your article anyway.

Yes, you should avoid being repetitive, and the occasional use of a synonym can energize your writing.  But I would caution you on two things:

  1. Don't let the fear of dullness interfere with the creative process.
  2. Don't try to impress your readers with words they don't recognize, or that don't fit.

The first point is the same as I mentioned in the previous section:  Let your thoughts flow, say what you have to say, and don't let the technical details of how you're going to say it get in the way of saying it.  Write your article in its entirety first, then go back and add the spice, if it needs any.  And allow for the possibility that maybe it doesn't even need any spicing up.

The second point should be self-evident if you place yourself in the reader's position.  Do you suppose that the reader will be thumbing through the thesaurus to identify every obscure word as they read your masterpiece?  You've seen articles like that yourself, and you know what your own reaction was.  Your readers will think the same thing:  "This clown is trying to impress me with big words, when all the big words really accomplish is to confuse me and make me see this writer as a pretentious clown."  So don't be a pretentious clown.  Don't go looking for words that might fit your article, use words that you know fit your article.  Spice it up a little, but don't get carried away.

(By the way, did you catch that use of alliteration?  "Thumbing through the thesaurus."  My 6th-grade English teacher might have been impressed.  You weren't.)

Spell Every Word Correctly

Please don't misunderstand this.  Yes, you must check your spelling before you submit your article for publication.  Submitting an article with spelling errors will guarantee that nobody will read it except the editor who rejects it.  But don't let concern for spelling cripple you as you put your article together.

If you are not in the habit of spelling words correctly, don't worry about it until the article is complete.  Are you typing in Word?  Just ignore those squiggly red underlines for now.  Get your thoughts out, compose your article, and say what you want to say.  Don't interrupt your thought process to try to figure out how to spell some word that you have never spelled correctly.  Just write your article.

But don't submit it to the publisher until you go back and make those squiggly red underlines disappear!

Use Proper Grammar

This is another suggestion that can be easily misunderstood.  Yes, your finished article must use proper grammar, but I advise you not to let concern for grammatical structure get in the way.  Part of what I'm suggesting is the same as what I suggested about spelling, but there is another point which I will get to in a moment.

First, if you are not in the habit of writing or speaking in textbook-perfect grammar, don't let concern for proper grammatical structure hinder your creative process.  Say what you want to say, in the way that comes naturally to you, then go back and clean up the grammar afterwards.  (Of course, you might want to ask a more grammatically conscious friend to proofread the article for you).

The second point is that sometimes grammar that is technically correct is simply not "natural."  This is rare, and you should deviate from technically correct grammar only after all attempts to be both correct and "natural" have failed.

A classic example of when incorrect grammar might be better is the quote often (falsely) ascribed to Winston Churchill regarding ending sentences with a preposition.  As the apocryphal story goes, an assistant had edited something that Churchill had written, modifying it to avoid ending sentences in prepositions, and Churchill responded, "This is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put."  (Some versions of the story spare you the trip to the dictionary, rendering Churchill's alleged comment as, "the sort of tedious nonsense ...")

So, while it might be grammatically incorrect to end a sentence with the preposition, "with," it is generally acceptable in all but the most formal publications.  And it just sounds more natural.  (Horrors!  He began a sentence with a conjunction!  Nobody noticed, except for 6th-grade English teachers.)


In conclusion, I recommend that you apply any recommendation with caution, even this one.  Let your thoughts flow as you write your article, get all your thoughts and ideas together in the overall structure of your article,  then go back and dress it up - without destroying it - after it is complete.

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About Article Author

Charles J. Bonner
Charles J. Bonner

Charles J. Bonner is the founder and principal project manager of www.FreeLanceSubmit.com.  For more tips, techniques, and services for promoting your Web site, especially using Article Marketing, visit http://www.FreeLanceSubmit.com/.

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