The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Good Articles (for Power, Profit and Pleasure)
This is a super-meta article about the process of writing good articles.
I can’t emphasise how useful writing is, as a skill. You can organise your thoughts with it. You can attract like-minded people when you share it. You can create blogs and websites and earn a living as content creator and/or copywriter. Combine writing skill with digital marketing and psychology and you’ll be unstoppable.
In the spirit of ‘it’s not bragging if its facts’, I do think I’m qualified to write this guide. I earned a Masters in Corporate Communications, a Degree in Media, Communications and Culture and a Diploma in Mass Communications. And not to mention all the work experience in the communications field, while salaried and now self-employed.
Another reason to learn: Writing about personal finance in ringgitohringgit.com made me better at personal finance. I want you to sharpen this skill, and see how writing will directly and indirectly benefit your financial life, too.
Here’s how to write good articles:
Use Headings to divide your paragraphs (This one is Heading size 2 ie H2)
When you use Headings, you’ll create what they call ‘white space’, which is the ‘breathing space’ in an article. It’s like built-in breaks for the reader, so they can keep going.
It’s also important to use Headings because many readers don’t read, they skim. If they are curious about the point in the Heading, then they’ll read the accompanying paragraphs (like this one). If not, they’ll skip to the next section.
Text and paragraph length
As a general rule, keep each paragraph short and sweet, between 1 to 5 sentences long. Avoid really long paragraphs – they look like a wall of text (especially on mobile, which people tend to use more) and will result in readers ‘glazing’ over the section without reading. You want to improve readability, not worsen.
Other things that improve readability includes using subheading, bulletpoints and images to illustrate your message.
- (I am especially a big fan of bulletpoints) 🙂
What writing style to use
Everyone has their own style. Mine is conversational, and even though I said to keep sentences short and sweet, I do overuse commas and em dashes a lot and end up making really long sentences 🙂 No right or wrong here – you do you!
What is important is the variety in your sentences. Write short sentences, write long sentences. USE CAPITAL LETTERS. Use italic and bold and underline, where appropriate.
The format of an article
You can follow this format:
- Introduction – 1-5 paragraphs, comprising of 1-5 sentences each
- Header 1 (First point)
- 1-5 paragraphs, comprising of 1-5 sentences each
- Header 2 (Second point)
- 1-5 paragraphs, comprising of 1-5 sentences each
- (repeat Headers/paragraphs depending on how many points you have)
- Conclusion – 1-3 paragraphs, comprising of 1-5 sentences each
Again, this is just a general guideline suitable for beginners to start with. You can tweak as you go along 🙂
Text font and size
Text font: pick a common font, like Times New Roman or Arial. In fact, I’d argue that the more generic it is, the better. It reduces the reader’s mental strain. The font shouldn’t distract the reader from your message.
Text size: make sure that the text is large enough to read and your reader is not squinting.
Sometimes, you might be tempted to customise your text with colours, emojis 🤓 and even do custom css (ie tweak the coding) to do things like reducing the letter-spacing for ✨aesthetic✨ reasons.
You can, but perhaps not all at the same time, and definitely reconsider if it sacrifices readability.
Everyone can write, but not everyone can edit. This is the difference between an okay and a good writer. All good writers are good editors, OR they outsource their editing work.
Editing is a whole other skillset in itself, but here are 3 things beginners should know while self-editing:
- Shorten your sentences. Remove the fluff and filler words.
- Use simple words over complex jargons
- Use platforms like Grammarly and Hemingway app (they help improve spelling and grammar too)
Personally, I have an additional step in my editing process (before moving on to editing for digital marketing, but that’s another topic for another day). I practice inclusive writing.
From “ladies and gentlemen” to “Attention all passengers” and “Good morning everyone”. Such an easy way to be inclusive. Taking notes for my own writing 📝 https://t.co/x3fK84SbIw
— Suraya ringgitohringgit.com (@surayaror) October 1, 2020
Another thing that I should mention is you can speed up good writing with practice (of course) and lots of reading. This is undeniable. HOWEVER you’ll still benefit from mental organisation and clarity even with non-perfect writing; the journey is a reward in itself.
Plus, ‘perfect’ writing doesn’t even exist, it’s all subjective anyway.
Lastly – Suraya, what should I write about?
Now that you know the basics of writing well, what do you write about?
I want to say ‘anything’ but I realise that’s not particularly helpful, so let me suggest a topic that you’re probably interested in, personal finance: 6 Personal Finance Blog Ideas, Absolutely Free for You to Take.
If writing articles freak you out, then write Facebook posts, Instagram captions and tweets.
Ok fine by this point let me just admit the reason why I’m writing this: I have an insatiable thirst for personal finance content, especially from people outside of the financial industry. Yes now there are more personal finance content than before but I WANT EVEN MORE.
Have you written personal finance-related content before? If yes, share it below, want to check out. If not, what’s stopping you? Let me know!
Hey thanks for sharing helpful tips. Im just starting actively writing just this year so I considered myself as beginner.
I have a weekly newsletter where I write something related to finance and business (In BM)
Below is the link for some of my writing incase you want to check out. (Pardon my bad writing skills😂)
Hey good page! And in Malay too! Great effort! Enjoyed your commentary on extreme saving, made me think 🙂
This is definitely on my bookmark! Thank you for these amazing tips. 😊
I started a blog recently and quite anxious about my writing. Here it is if you want to check it out.
I’m far from being a good writer but ill get there insyallah 😂
Hi Hadif, thanks for the kind comment 🙂 I’m glad you liked it!
Nice start on your website! Looking forward to updates on your print on demand business!
Thanks for the practical tips! Had never thought of it but i guess they all really make sense.
Just started writing a blog recently, not on personal finance, but on my experience with my speech delay child. Defo will use your tips here. Thanks again!
Thanks for commenting here AZ, and what a wonderful topic to talk about. All the best and please give Umar a hug from me!
A note on editing, the old adage “kill your babies/darlings” is as important as it sounds distasteful. I’ve written many zingers and ‘fun’ comparisons that on a second or third reading and editing have to be excluded because they just wouldn’t fit.
If it arrests the flow of the piece you’re writing, cut and paste the offending line into a scrap file to revisit at a later time. “Bag and freeze your babies” does not sound any better, but it does help your final piece!
Thanks for the tips, Vinsant 🙂
Someone shared a tip that is relevant here: open a doc for all your deleted ‘scraps’. You never know if they better fit somewhere else, even completely unrelated writing work