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.

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