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  • Diana Schneidman

How to write effective articles for

Back as an undergrad in English education at Ohio State, I took a writing course that yielded the single most important advice on writing I have ever received.

Every week we had to write a new essay, and every week I complied without fail. Since I was highly grade conscious, I polished each one in my attempt to avoid typos and silly grammatical errors that would lose points.

As the weeks rolled by, I made a startling discovery: the essays that I thought were the best tended to get lower grades (generally A- or in the B’s), and the ones on which I spent less time and that felt more mediocre to me earned A’s.

So I scheduled an appointment with the professor (or more accurately, teaching assistant) to point out the error of his ways.

He scanned the essays I plopped on his desk and made an amazing (in my view) observation: the less interesting and creative the topic (at least in my opinion), the better the writing.

He pointed out that the essays that were most interesting to me were interesting because the ideas were fresh. I was still exploring what it all means and how it all fits together.

As a result, I was less effective in implementing proven structural elements: introduce concept in first sentence of paragraph, develop the idea in multiple sentences, wrap up the paragraph and transition to the next. Repeat throughout the assignment. Develop conclusion that reiterates key points.

(Of course, this took place in the early 1970s before Internet-style writing. Back in the days of yore when paragraphs often had five sentences. Paragraphs never consisted of only one sentence unless you were writing dialogue.)

Today I try to take this advice to heart but I confess: I love sharing new ideas. I think of them while I walk, perform chores or read my email, and then I want to post them quickly to my blog.

Some of these ideas are so emergent, at least in my mind, that I can’t complete a coherent article on the spot. So I jot down a few notes and let them simmer on the back burner of my mind.

While I probably “should” stick with time-tested topics I can organize easily, new ideas lure me into topics through which I tend to meander.

Like this article. Though I’ve trimmed and edited extensively before posting it.

Which meanders me into the intended topic for this article: How to write a good article for (EA).

This is a topic I ponder frequently. To date I have posted 39 articles, each of which was originally prepared for my ezine / blog.

Pretty good articles—at least they were approved (sometimes after revisions) by EA staff.

Clearly, a preferred format for these articles has emerged. Keyword-rich title. Keyword-rich lead. Bulleted or numbered list with brief, explanatory paragraphs to support the title. Summary. Strong resource (bio) box that relates to the article.

EA articles can be characterized as informative rather than scintillating. Still, I am disappointed to rarely see anything really important compressed into the standard 400-words-or-so format.

I have resisted this writing style because it doesn’t pique my interest. I rarely read anything in article banks that intrigue me as effectively as many of the blog posts out there.

As a result, I put my EA campaign on hold months ago, awaiting the completion of my first ebook (now almost done) and my rethinking of how to use EA.

So now I meander into my revelation (and it’s only taken me about 600 words to get here.): I will get into submitting articles again but they won’t be articles I originally write for other purposes.

I won’t call them “articles” because my expectations for my own articles differ from the specs for an EA article.

Instead, I’ll list them as EA “submissions” in my marketing plans, rewriting copy prepared for other purposes to play directly to the program’s strengths: luring people interested in my subject matter to my website and supporting my search-engine visibility.

Please note that this article here exemplifies how not to write for EA. For EA, I would eliminate or at least dramatically trim stories from the past, insert bullets and post solid advice in a more authoritative tone.

Originally posted 3-16-10

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