Monthly Archives: January 2012

Point # 6: Writing the ‘Rules of the Game’

It is one thing to know how to play a game, but it is quite another thing to tell someone how to play it.  It is not that easy.  Now try telling someone how to play a game you have never played before.  That is even more difficult.

Regardless if you have or haven’t played before, it is advisable to get a Rules book for the game you want to write about.  It will help you include everything you need to write about the game.  The explanations will be quite thorough with correct terms which will be helpful to you as a writer when trying to explain the game to a novice.

In addition to explaining how the game is played, there are certain necessary aspects that should be included when writing about how to play a game.


Not only should you write how many players are required in the game, but also the different names.  For example if you write on how to play chess, don’t just give the number of chessmen.  It will be helpful to the novice chess player if you describe their different names and shapes and their significance.  Or if you are writing about a team sport, make sure to include the different positions the team players hold.  Make sure to include enough detail about various players, their positions and roles.


What equipment is needed to play the game?  What is the suggested equipment as opposed to the required equipment?  For example, to play American football it might not be necessary to wear all the padding that professionals wear, although it will certainly protect your body from injury in an aggressive tackle.  But what is more important is the football, goal posts and a properly marked out playing field.


What are the possible penalties and how are they determined?  These are questions that should be answered in your article.  If you don’t now, look it up on a reputable site that gives you the rules to the game.

Aims of the Game

What is the purpose of the game?  This should be well detailed.


How is the scoring done?  How are points scored?  What are the scores called – goals, home runs, points, etc.?


Do not assume that the reader understands the terms used in the game.  You should explain your terms to help the reader understand.

In Conclusion

To write an article about a game that you are not familiar with requires a lot of research.  Do not use only one source.  As stated above, find a Rules Book for the game. Is there one available online?  By reading several sources you will get a lot of knowledge for your article.  Also watch some online videos – they can be very helpful.  By using different sources, you will be able to determine what is reliable and what is not.  Not everything you read on the Internet is correct, therefore a search of several good articles and books will help you write a well documented “how to” process.  Make sure you know your game sufficiently to write about it.

As a writer you do not want to ever give misinformation to your readers.  You don’t want to be the cause of their ignorance.  It would be better if you don’t write at all.  You want readers to keep coming back for more and that is only attainable if you write correct information and write it well.  I cannot stress to you the importance of researching the game properly.  Use the Internet, your local library, magazines, newspapers and old and new books that could help you in your search for sufficient correct information.  With your researched information, write using your own words.

You may wonder why I am so emphatic about proper research.  Some of the “how to” articles on games are just bad.  There is no other way to describe them.  For instance in an article on baseball the writer neglected to mention a very important detail on how to put a runner out on first base.  If that detail is not followed, the runner is “safe” not “out” as the writer stated.  It is these essential small details that matter.

Point # 5: Writing a Practical Detailed “How to” Article (Part 2 of 2)

Sequential Order – To write step or process articles make sure that each step or process is explained in a clear and logical order.  Organise your steps in a chronological order.  Think the full process out before you write.  Do not move back and forth between steps.  Write step number one, followed by step number two and so forth.  And it is equally important to include all of the steps – don’t leave any steps out.

Use sequential words. – Use words like first, second and third.  Use other sequential words like before, now, later, then, afterwards and etc.  This will help you write sequentially, but more importantly it will provide clearly defined logical steps for your reader.

Bullets and Highlights – To maintain that clarity you want in your article, use bullets and highlights as necessary to make the steps or process obvious to your audience.  By using these simple format features, your readers will be able to visibly distinguish one step from the other.  This also helps to highlight the different steps or processes in the reader’s mind.

Consistency – Also keep your thoughts consistent.  In a “How to Make French Toast” article the author stated at the beginning of the article how French toast is popular with children.  Yet in the conclusion he/she stated that it could be served with tea or coffee.  Who likes French toast – children or adults?  Was the intent of the author to serve French toast and tea or coffee to children?

If you write a step or process, make sure that the details that follow address the step.  In a How to Play a Guitar article the writer made the point of “Position and Placement of the Guitar”.  But the explanation that followed explained the position and placement of the hands and fingers and did not address where to place the guitar.  Should it have been next to the body, on the lap or on a stand?  Where to position the guitar was not explained.

I stress – be consistent!

Sentence Structure – Keep your sentences short and simple.  Use fairly s simple sentence structure and vocabulary.  This kind of writing style brings clarity to your article and this is what you want.  At the same time you need to keep your sentences varied and mature.  (Now that is talent!  How do you keep your sentences short, simple and varied at the same time?) You want a clearly explained, well documented, yet interesting article.

Describe or Define Supplies and Ingredients – Make sure to adequately describe the ingredients or supplies needed for the process.  For example if you write on how to play a guitar, you should explain the different kind of guitars available on the market.  To direct your reader to go to the market and purchase a right-sized guitar doesn’t sufficiently describe the guitar.  There are classical, Hawaiian, electric guitars, etc. available.  So which guitar should the reader buy and for what purpose?

Use of diagrams – If possible, you might want to consider diagrams.  The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” could not be truer than in a “how to” article.  This will help your reader see exactly what should be done and how.  Going back to the guitar, consider how helpful it will be to your readers if they see where to place their fingers on the fret board.

Where are the benefits? – Make sure to incorporate the benefits to the readers in your “how to” article.  You don’t necessarily need to implicitly repeat the benefit because it is stated in the title, but the implied or subtle implication should be evident.  For example if you are writing on how to make French toast you will want to include how to make the toast more attractive to the reader’s family.  Include extras like what is a good accompaniment:  applesauce, sauces or whipped cream.  What kind of fruits would go well with your main dish?  How about orange sections, apple slices or banana chunks?  How should it be displayed to make a simple breakfast dish more attractive and appealing?  Could you include an interesting or attractive table setting?  Then you could write a concluding sentence something like this:  Your family will love this delightful French toast dish accompanied by delicious sauces and whipped cream, and completed with mounds of fresh fruit morsels arrayed on a decorative sunny table setting.  This illustration just gives you ideas on how you can make your readers believe that by following your “how to” article they have acquired that extra bit of know-how about the topic that will make a positive contribution to their life; over and above any other article on the same topic.

Pitfalls – At the same time that you write in a way to show the benefits to your readers, you also want to tell them of any pitfalls that might occur.  For example, if the process should be done in a ventilated room, make sure you provide that information.  If some supplies are difficult to find, then point that out.  If some ingredients or steps are dangerous; stress safety precautions.  This honesty will win for you a broader audience that will stay with you and have readers return to your articles/website again and again.

Personal pronoun and language usage – As much as possible do not use 1st person personal pronouns.  Rather address your audience with you or your.  For example don’t say I did this and this, instead say, you can do this and this.  At the same time it is okay to make use of the 1st person pronoun if you are giving an illustration from your own experiences.

If in your title a certain group or age group is targeted, you should use words that address this group.  If no group is targeted, try to use language that addresses a wider audience.  Also remember you are aiming at a world-wide audience and colloquial vocabulary is not acceptable.  It will probably be rejected by the majority and limit your article to a smaller regional audience.

At the same time, you also have to be careful that your words express the universality or regionalism of your topic.  For example one writer had written on “How to Get a Security Number”.  The process he/she wrote about was for a USA security number.  Yet nowhere in the article was this stated.  The words the author used suggested the universality of the process explained for obtaining a social security number.  If the process is particular to a specific group of people this should be pointed out to the readers.

Important additions – Last but not least – The following components can be very helpful in writing a well documented and informative article:  definitions, statistics, examples and illustrations.  You will want to define seldom used term or technical language.  Statistics helps the reader understand the significance of something.  Examples and illustrations give a clearer picture of the desired end result.  These elements may well clarify any questions readers may have.

To make your article clear, detailed and chronological takes time and hard work.  It takes careful research, writing and revisions to get that just perfect “how to” article.  But the end result will be worth it all.

Point # 5: Writing a Practical Detailed “How to” Article (Part 1 of 2)

If you are going to write, then write well.  Good writing takes time and is not an off-the-cuff endeavour.  It might be easy to write about a particular process or procedure, but how do you pique reader interest as well?  How well you write a “How to” article will determine your success as a writer.  You may even find yourself in demand as an expert in a given field.

So how do you write a dynamite eye-catching and informative article?

As in many types of writings an introduction body and conclusion are the main components of your article.


The introduction is simply one or two statements stating what the article is about.  It lets the reader know what he/she can expect from the article.


This is the main part of your article.  Because the Internet is overrun with “How to” articles the information you provide has to be accurate, well documented and expressed in the best possible way.  There must be sufficient detail and benefits given to have the reader consider you a reliable expert on the topic.  It must also be written in a way that clearly explains the process, rules, etc. and sets the steps to follow in a clear and logical manner.  When the reader is finished reading the article, he/she should have no questions left unanswered regarding the searched for topic.  Each step in a process has to be detailed.  Be specific.  When you are finished writing, ask yourself questions.  If your article does not answer your questions, then you need to revise your article.

I once read an article about home networking your computer.  The writer wrote that a person should take all of the devices and put them in one corner of the room.  Somehow I think there is more to it than this. The writer needed more specific detail and should have done sufficient research to become knowledgeable enough to write the article.  It will take more than just putting the equipment in one corner of the room to setup a home network.  The article was extremely vague and did not at all lay out an orderly process for putting together a home network.  You don’t want to write this kind of article!

Think about questions a person might ask about the process, procedure and etc.  Has your article answered all of these questions?  Also ask the question:  how will the knowledge in my article make their life better?  Has the article conveyed the greater benefits for their life if they follow the procedures in your article?  If you have addressed this essential “how to” article requirement; this will make them come back to your website again and again when they want information on other subjects.


This summarises or draws everything to a conclusion.  Only a few sentences are required for your concluding paragraph.  This paragraph may restate the main idea found in the introduction paragraph, using different words, but also pulling in a reference to the supporting information in the body.  Or it may make a conclusion based on the main body of the article.  It will reword the main idea in the introduction.

Edit, Revise, Grammar, Vocabulary, etc

Once you have finished writing; read your article.  Look for grammar mistakes.  Don’t leave all the editing to the editor on your team.  If possible, read your article to a friend or family member.  Do they have questions that your article has not answered?  If they ask questions, you have missed some important information, details or steps in your “How to” article.  Revisit your article and add the vital information that you missed putting in the first time around.

Correct grammar and vocabulary is absolutely essential to writing a “how to” article well.  If your grammar is poor, hone up on it either independently, or take a course from an English language centre to improve it.  Equally important is the use of suitable vocabulary.  Make good use of a dictionary and thesaurus.  You don’t want people to find your article an article for ridicule and laughter.  You want your readers to consider you an expert and to take your articles seriously.  Therefore show your expertise through good grammar and appropriate mature vocabulary.

To show you how the wrong word can ruin an otherwise interesting article:  I read an article on “How to Plan Your Wedding”.  The writer suggested several unique wedding spots.  One such spot was in an ‘exotic orchid’.  An orchid is an exquisite, rare and hard to grow flowering plant.  Perhaps the writer wanted to plan the wedding in a ‘petal-scented orchard’.  An orchard is a plot where fruit trees grow.  The size of the orchard would be more fitting for a wedding gathering than an orchid.  Proper word usage is vital to writing a top-notch article.  If you don’t know the meaning, don’t use it or else make good use of your dictionary.  Using the correct grammar and vocabulary requires time and effort, but the end result is worth the sweat.

To summarise, the important things to look for when writing a bang-up “How to” article are:

  • Know your material – know enough about your subject that you come across as an expert in the field.  And you should be an expert.  Don’t write about things where you don’t have sufficient information.  Misinformation or inadequate information is no information at all and it is best left unwritten.
  • Title – the title must call out to the reader “Read me.  Read me.”
  • Introduction – should be interesting enough that the reader will want to continue reading until the end of the article.
  • Body – Steps, Details, proper sequence and clear logical order are musts.
  • Conclusion – restates the main idea and even reaffirms to the reader the benefits that are derived from following the steps in the article.  The conclusion will leave the reader in a satisfied mood.
  • Write well – use mature, correct grammar, appropriate vocabulary, write concisely but informatively.  Write your “how to” process in an orderly fashion, being both coherent and cohesive.

Try these steps to write a dynamic article and you will soon be in demand.  Agencies will want your articles because they bring readership to their website.  Readers will want to read your articles because you have a proven track record of writing honest, clear detailed articles.  They can trust you.  You may find that your expertise is even wanted outside the writer’s sphere.  Take the time to write well.

Point #4: Choosing a Title that Catches the Reader’s Attention

With a “How To” article you want a title that makes the reader want to read your article.  You want a title that is different than the rest.  You want a title that tells the reader he/she will be happier, healthier, wealthier and better if he/she follows your “How To” article.  I once read an article on “How to Make French Toast”.  There are lots of French toast recipes out there.  The world really doesn’t need another French toast article.  How could the writer have made the title more appealing to capture an audience?

One formula for making a catching “How To” title is to have a title that includes your HOW TO (topic) plus (Benefit).  A more eye-catching title could have been “How to Make French Toast that Wows your Family”.  Every mother wants to make a meal that makes her family love it so much that they beg for more.

You want to show the benefits that will be derived from following your “How to” article.

Another style is to not include “to” after the “How”.  For example I once read an article titled ‘How to Change Your Life”.  Now, what if the writer had written; “How Changing Your Life Can Make You Happier”?  Tell me, which one would you read?

Another way is to not even mention the “How to”.  Rather than making a title called “How to Develop Good Study Habits” write “Developing Good Study Habits”.

Whatever way you write your title, it is absolutely necessary to put keywords into your title.  Think about the words that people might use to search for an article about your topic.  Then use those words in your title.  Think about the words that the search engines will pick up.  Then use those words in your title.  You want your article to come to the top when an Internet surfer searches the Internet for information about the topic on which you have written your article.

As a word of caution:  Stay away from too many adverbs and adjectives.  Leave those for the body.  Don’t make your tile too long.  It should be concise yet attention grabbing.

Point # 3: How to Research your “How to” Topic

Include your own knowledge and experiences as part of your research, but also research your topic well.  Look at several articles and/or books to get a good amount of material on your subject.  Make sure to keep all your sources.  You may need this later if you are ever questioned for plagiarism, or if you want to do another article on a topic you have previously researched.  The source may be just what you are looking for.  Keeping your sources saves you time and frustration.  Remember it is better to have too much information than too little.  With plenty of information, you have an extensive base to fall on to write your article.  To retain your reader’s interest in your article you need to know your ‘stuff’.  See “Know Your Stuff”.


Before you start writing be aware that plagiarism is an absolutely no-no.  I have come across many articles where the writer has copied and pasted far more than what is acceptable for originality.  It is easy to spot a plagiarised article.  There are four main ways:

  • When copying and pasting from the Internet, there are often little superscript letter o’s at the end or beginning of the copy/paste.
  • Another tattle-tale sign is the little return arrow sign at the end of sentences.
  • Different writing styles.  The copy and paste portion will be of one style and/or calibre and the original portion of a different style and/or calibre
  • The plagiarised portion is seldom from one article.  The writer has copied and pasted from several articles in an attempt to make it one and the article ends up being disjointed and choppy.

Plagiarism doesn’t pay on any count.  The writer ends up with a poorly written article that is not even his/her own.  Plagiarism is the theft of intellectual property and is unethical if not illegal.  In some countries university students caught plagiarising their papers are expelled from their university and not allowed to attend another university nation-wide.  So it is a very serious offense.

As much as possible do not rely only on the Internet for information.  The Internet is not always the most reliable source of information.  You have to know which sites contain correct information and those that carry untruths or inadequate information.  Use your local library, bookstore or college/university textbooks, newspapers and magazines to get a broad spectrum of resource material.

Now that you have completed your research go back to your brainstorming paper.  If you have found other processes or steps for your “how to” topic, you will need to include these steps into your list of points to write on.  If you find that you have too many steps or processes you may want to break down your topic into more than one article.  For example if you have a topic on how to decorate a bedroom, you may find that after the research you have too many points.  If you write down all the points your article will be too large, too boring and too elaborate to handle in a concise 400 to 600 word “how to” article.  You might want to consider making several articles but have them each with a different decorating theme.  For example you may write one article on how to have a country style bedroom décor, and then another one on modern décor.  Or you might want to break it down dealing with walls & window dressing in one and the furniture and artifacts in another one.

On your brainstorming paper you may also have to sort the points around until you have all the steps in the correct order.  It is very important to have the steps or processes in the correct order.  There must be a logical order to your how to article.  (I will write future articles dealing specifically with how to write about processes and games, etc.  So watch for these articles in the coming week.)

Once you have done this, you are ready to write.

Point # 2: Brainstorming Your Topic Results in a Well Documented Article

Put down on paper as many ideas as you can about your topic.  Use an outline form, a brainstorming cluster or whatever method works best for you.  Do not just sit down and write.  Your end product will be mediocre at best.

While brainstorming ideas, consider your audience.  What people do you want to target with your article?  Is your article geared to a certain age group?  Is this article more for men or women?  Is it for the athletic types, for professionals, students, or etc.?  Ask yourself questions:  What would this group of people want to know about this topic?  What kind of questions is your audience asking?  Ask questions using the five W’s and 1 H (Why, When, What, Who, Where and How).  For example if you are writing about how to make soap, you might want to answer the question, where to find some hard to find ingredient.  You can make these questions points or ideas for your article.

People today are busy, very busy.  So when they search the Internet for information they are not necessarily looking for something new to do.  They just want to do things better; they want to be happier, healthier, wealthier and wiser.  So when you brainstorm your topic, your ideas should address this requirement.

Once you have put down some main ideas or points about your topic, it is time to start your research.  Even if you are familiar with the topic, research is an essential component of your finished product.  Always keep in view that interest-holding, eye-catching masterpiece.

Point # 1 – Choosing an Interest-holding Topic

The most important factor is your topic.  That is the starting point.  Without a good topic, you have nothing to write about.  When choosing a topic, you should choose a topic that you know something about, or you should be willing to put sufficient research into it so that you have plenty of material and information for your article.

If you have the option of choosing your topic, then the best choice of topic is about something with which you are familiar.  What are your areas of expertise?  What do you know that others may not know?  You may think that your expertise will not have a broad audience, but that may not necessarily be so.  The world has become a blend, an infusion of cultures and knowledge, east and west, so your knowledge may not necessarily be limited to your locality or country.  For example, after reading a number of articles with inadequate content, I suggested that the writers write on topics where they had some previous knowledge.  One writer wrote on How to Write a Ghazel.  It was one of the best written articles I had the opportunity to edit.  It was chock-full of information and written in an orderly fashion.

Will the article have a far reaching appeal?  I can’t answer that 100% but the West has become infatuated with South Asian classical music thanks to musicians like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Ravi Shankar.  You can even take university courses that include South Asian classical music.  So do not limit yourself to topics with which you are unfamiliar.

You need a topic that interests you sufficiently so you can spend approximately 1 to 2 weeks writing a top-notch article.  You may not have the option to choose your own topics because of an employment contract or other binding agreements.  Perhaps they are assigned to you.  You need to muster up enough interest to sustain you for a long enough period to write a thoroughly detailed and interesting article.  Whatever your topic; make sure that your topic is neither too broad nor too narrow.  If your topic is too broad then your article will be either too large with lots of steps, examples and details, or too superficial because you cannot do your topic justice within the generally prescribed 400 to 600 words for a “How To” article.  To know if you have the right amount of ideas for any given topic; this is where brainstorming comes in.

How to Write a “How To” Article that Captures Reader Interest

If you want to write a how to article that will initially capture a reader’s interest and then keep them rooted to your article, then there are certain elements that you need to incorporate into your repertoire of skills and tools to come up with a dynamite eye-catching article.

Because the different points are somewhat varied, yet definitely related, I have broken this “How to” procedure into several articles.  So follow through, visit this website often as I will not be able to post it all on one day.

I Ain’t Gonna Wanna Use These Words

I apologize for the play with incorrect words, or should I say non-words?

The other day I was searching the Internet for some common phrases and expressions to teach my ESL students when I came across a site that taught the use of gonna and wanna as appropriate commonly spoken sentences to teach ESL students.  It is one thing to tell your students that they may hear these ‘words’ and to inform them that the usage of these words is not appropriate in Standard English grammar.  But, if we, as English language educators, are teaching students so they can become proficient in the English language, then it is always wrong to teach ‘bad grammar’.

This was not the first time I had come across the teaching of these words as acceptable English words.  While providing English language training to a class of business employees, the question was raised by one of the employees about the usage of gonna and wanna.  Apparently one of his high school teachers had taught that it was okay to use these words in the English language.

So if you can’t use these words, then what words should you use?  What words should be taught to English language students?

Rather than ‘ain’t’, use instead I am not or I’m not, he/she/it is not or he’s/she’s/it’s not, we are not, you are not, they are not, and etc.


I am not going to the movies tonight.

I’m not going to the movies tonight.

He is not playing this weekend.

He’s not playing this weekend.

We are not traveling to London this year.

We’re not traveling to London this year.

Rather than ‘gonna’, use instead I am going to + verb or I’m going to + verb and etc.


I am going to do my homework right away.

I’m going to see my aunt tomorrow.

He is going to study at the library.

He’s going to fix the faucet.

They are going to see a movie tonight.

They’re going to eat dinner at 8 PM.

Rather than ‘wanna’, use instead I want to + verb, they want to + verb, etc


I want to get good marks this year.

We want to see a movie tonight.

They want to finish the dishes first.

There will be those that say that it is acceptable to use these words in casual speech; among friends and family.  But the question to ask is this:  Why should you start a bad habit?  A bad habit is hard to get rid of, and it often crops up when you don’t want it.  For example, let’s say you have become used to using these bad grammar words.  Then you want to go for an interview where excellent communication skills and professionalism is a job requirement.  If these are not part of who you are, you can ‘kiss the job good-bye’.  The interview panel asks you a question, and lo and behold; ain’t, the words wanna or gonna come out of your mouth.  You can be assured that the interview panel picked up on your grammar error and it could jeopardize you getting that ideal job.  If you stick to grammatically correct English in both written and oral communications, then you will never go wrong.  You will never make this kind of blunder.  You will always speak well, write well and always come across as someone who is sophisticated, educated and professional.  Any time, all the time is the right time to use correct grammar.

The grammatically correct way to state the title is, I am not going to want to use these words.  Whatever you heard about the acceptance of using these non-words, ain’t, gonna and wanna, label it as incorrect information or instruction; put it far away from you and go forward using the correct words am not, want to and going to instead.