“Easy reading is damn hard writing” – you’ve probably seen this quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne once or twice before (or was it Ernest Hemingway?).
The most basic fact about being a writer is that crafting a decent piece always requires much work, dedication and, at the same time, peace of mind.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a freelance writer, a blogger, a magazine writer, or anyone else with “writing” in their job description. The general rules still apply.
That being said, the individual types of writing differ a lot, and you need to keep the individual guidelines in mind if you want your work to be enjoyable and easy to digest.
So this guide is about online writing – writing articles/posts meant to be published on the web.
Even though there are probably dozens of rules regarding this topic, I’m only going to present 5 steps that combine into one of the possible frameworks for a proper online article. With a bit of luck, it will lead you from a blank screen – all the way to a finished web-optimized article (this isn’t about SEO, by the way).
Of course, feel free to tweak these steps to reflect your own style of writing and to make it compliant with the topic you’re writing about. Also, this is just one of the possible approaches, so it might not always be applicable.
Step #1: Shock
A shocking introduction is always a nice way to start an article. You can even call it a hack (because of its tricky nature).
Basically, the main job of the introduction is to get people interested and to invite them to read the rest of the article. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to introduce them to the topic. No, you only need to convince them to read.
Starting with shock is about writing something that the reader doesn’t expect.
For example, if I’m writing an article on the benefits of SEO then every reader will expect the introduction to talk about SEO in general, what it is and why it’s important, right? But this is boring, and won’t interest anyone.
A good rule of thumb is to think about what your high school English teacher would advise you to do … and then do the exact opposite. Try being outrageous.
Outrageous gets noticed. However, if it’s not exactly your style, you’ll have to find some other way. The general goal is getting noticed and arousing some interest.
Step #2: Lead
Since you’ve got their attention it’s a good moment to actually describe what your article is about.
And don’t go with a traditional school-like explanation. This won’t be interesting for anybody.
A more web-optimized approach is to reveal your main idea just like that at the beginning – not waiting until the end of the article.
For instance, if your article is titled “The #1 Thing That Will Kill Your Business” then make sure to say what this one thing is right away (within the first 200 words). You really don’t want to force your readers to have to wait till the last paragraph to find out.
By showing your hand early you’re making it extremely clear what the article is about, and you’re also allowing the reader to decide whether they’re interested in it or not.
Again, leading is not explaining what your article is about. It’s giving the main advice right away without any unnecessary delay.
Step #3: Explain
This is simply the part where you take your lead and elaborate on it.
This isn’t about writing things that are redundant or unimportant. This is about getting more in-depth on the topic and making sure that someone who reads the entire article gets the complete picture of what you wanted to share.
Step #4: Summarize
Some articles need a summary while others don’t. It’s up to you to decide which type you’re dealing with at the time of writing.
A general rule of thumb is that the longer the article is, the more a summary might come handy.
The last thing you want is to leave the reader confused and not being able to grasp all the information you’ve shared, purely because of the volume.
You can summarize your article with a simple one-sentence advice, by providing an actionable bullet point list, or in any other way you find suitable.
Try to make your summary the ultimate cut-out-‘n-keep resource, so to speak.
Step #5: Invite
One of the great things we can do online is convince our readers to take further action when they’re done reading the article.
And there’s always something you can invite them to do, no matter what the topic or your niche is. Some examples: ask them to buy (why not), to comment, to share on social media, to answer a question, to sign up to something, or maybe even give them a homework (if you’re authoritative enough to pull this off).
Asking a question is probably the most common way of inviting online readers to take action and engage in the conversation, so you can safely choose this path.
When to apply this?
As I said in the beginning of this post, this approach is something you should tweak so it reflects your style of writing and the niche you’re focusing on.
By any means, don’t treat it like a blueprint for every article meant to be published online. You’ll quickly realize that it’s not perfect for a review, or a list post (like the one you’re reading now).
However, if you’re writing a traditional single advice driven article then this framework will work just fine. It will make your work easier to digest and relate to.
Unfortunately, sometimes writing this way won’t be easy, but I guess it’s just the Hawthorne’s quote turning out to be true.
Do you have any interesting article frameworks of your own you’d like to share? Or any questions regarding the approach I’ve presented here?