Are you familiar with writing a delicious recipe that can be cooked on a budget? Or, have you written an article that provides 10 tips on how to wash a cat? Maybe you have attempted to give valuable advice on how to remove red wine stains from a carpet.
If you have attempted any of these types of articles, then you are well-set to write a ‘how to’ piece of work with some additional guidance. ‘How to’ writing is aimed at providing your audience with information on a specific topic, and can typically be sent off to an paper editor with a quick e-mail.
When writing a ‘how to’ article, it is a good idea to first develop a structure of the article through jotting down some headings and sub-headings. These can then be arranged in a logical sequence by asking yourself, ‘what will follow next?’, or ‘what will fit better here?’ It is a good way to develop your first ‘how to’ draft.
Use your headings to then arrange an introduction that includes a catchy phrase. Follow this up with the body of your content, comprised of headings and sub-headings that will interest your audience. End this with a conclusion that summarizes your work. This is a simple and proven process that works every time.
PHASE 1: CHOOSE AN INTERESTING TOPIC
Selecting a subject that you are passionate about will make your job much easier. Think about this subject for a while, and then narrow a broad focus down into manageable sections. If interior décor interests you, narrow your focus to upmarket bathrooms or confine your interest to family rooms – to begin with. Taking this approach will make it specific so it will be much easier for your target audience to enjoy.
Your first attempt is always a rough draft. After creating your headings and sub-headings, do some research to fill in the gaps. Putting your thoughts on paper in this phase is most important, so enjoy your escape. Complete your first draft, and focus on something else. Placing distance between yourself and your work will give you a clearer perspective before tackling any changes.
PHASE 2: RESPOND TO YOUR SPECIFIC AUDIENCE’S NEEDS
Go through your work again, but this time do it from the reader’s perspective. It is critical to use wording that is appropriate for your audience. Choose a few keywords that describe your market such as stay-at-home moms. Place yourself in their shoes by asking yourself whether the article answers any questions they may have. What information would you look for in their shoes? Read phase 3 to find out more.
PHASE 3: RESEARCH
Conducting research shows that you mean business and that your article is supported by facts. Include some important features in your ‘how to’ work such as:
- Figures / statistics
- Anecdotal evidence either from yourself or others
- Famous quotes
- Brief definitions
- References to credible books or articles on your topic
- Media quotes from the internet, films, radio, or television
- Industry tips related to products or helpful resources (use a sidebar if there are many of these
- Possible hyperlinks to popular websites, or popular local sites when regional
Store all the information that you have collected in one place. Making notes of where you sourced your references is critical in case proof is required by an editor or publisher. As a writer, you will develop a good sense of what research is appropriate in ‘how to’ articles that will interest your audience.
PHASE 4: TIGHTEN YOUR DRAFT
Note who your audience is, and include some references collected in phase three. Even if this new information requires you to change your earlier draft to make it audience-appropriate, then tighten up your second attempt or begin with a new draft. Also, keep your ‘how to’ article light by using a conversational approach that speaks directly to your readers.
Repeat the earlier process of asking yourself whether the new work speaks to you. If you feel it is too general, too broad, unspecific or abrupt, then refine your writing. Even if this means doing some more research, it will be worth the effort. You may want to look at how other writers approach similar articles and take a leaf from their pages.
PHASE 5: MAKE IT SPECIFIC
Go through your work again to make sure that you have included all these steps. Writing ‘how to’ articles should be covered comprehensively. Your audience needs to be sure that your recipe can be made on a budget, that your 10 tips to on ‘how to’ bathe a cat are correct, and your ‘how to’ stain remover tips do actually work.
Make sure you stick to your point and don’t ramble. Use headings and sub-headings to list your key points. Integration of complex information means breaking it down into bite-size bits that is critical for writing online, together with being a fashionable trend.
PHASE 6: READING, REVISING, AND REPEATING
Find a peer (or two) who will listen to you read your article aloud. Ask them to be honest with her feedback to be sure they understand your article clearly. Use any helpful suggestions they may have, and include these if you feel they will improve your work. Go through each phase so that you know all the basics have been covered.
A few quick tips will help you to spot any mistakes:
- Have you given your readers all necessary information that they need to complete your ‘how to’ instructions effectively?
- Have all the critical steps been covered?
- Have you set your article out in a logical order?
- Are your words used in a logical sequence, such as first, second, and third?
- Have you highlighted potential pitfalls?
A first draft should ideally be read out loud, followed by a revision, and repeating the process if necessary. Source a proofreader to hash out the finer details. Finally, once satisfied, submit your ‘how to’ article for publication, together with an appropriately worded cover letter.
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