Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to Write How-to Articles (Part 5 of 5)

Here are a few more suggestions.

1. Don't write lengthy, convoluted sentences or long paragraphs. Readers want information—and they want it quickly, so you need to make it easy to grasp. I have a rule about paragraphs. I don't send out anything with more than eight lines to a paragraph (and I usually stay below that).

2. Don't confuse a personal essay with a how-to piece. If your article is about how to teach an adult-education class, don't bog down the material with statements on the importance of teaching. That is implied, because your readers are those who are interested in learning to teach better.

3. Win readers' trust by convincing them you understand their problems. Because you identify with their situation, they feel they can trust you to offer solutions. For example, chapter one of Aging Is an Attitude begins: "Getting older used to scare me—and I suspect I'm not alone."

After that initial statement, I've included readers' concerns. I show that I understand their anxieties because I used to feel that way.

How-to writing understands the perceived needs of readers.


  1. Excellent tips! Thank you. I do have a list of How To articles I want to write. This will be helpful.

  2. One thing I have learned over the years: people do NOT READ. They SCAN! So short paragraphs, bold headlines, and SPACE are absolutely necessary if you want to hold your reader!


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