The Anatomy of an Article
by Patricia Fry
Many eager writers develop their first few articles based mainly on what they want to say. They have a story to tell, a point to make or a gripe to air, and they do so with little regard for the reader.
It's wonderful to be dedicated to your topic, but it's also important to connect with your audience. If your article or story isn't presented in an organized manner, readers will not receive your message.
The logical order of an article involves a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- THE BEGINNING. There are a number of ways to start your article. Begin with an introduction, make an announcement or open with a shocking statement. The primary purpose is to pique the reader's interest. Say, for example, "Sweating makes you healthier." Readers will certainly want to know how this is possible. Or start with an anecdote, " Sarah Lynn Rivers used to average a cold every six months. Two years ago, she started power walking and she hasn't had so much as a sniffle since." I would certainly be eager to read on.
- THE MIDDLE. I tend to break the middle part of my articles into thirds-the first third ties in with the beginning and serves to explain the purpose of the article. In this case, your intent might be to explore and explain the benefits of regular physical exercise. The second third should take your readers to the main points of the piece. Using statistics, anecdotes and quotes, outline the benefits of exercise. The last third might involve suggestions for how the reader can design his/her own exercise program.
- THE ENDING. A technique that generally works, is to bring your article full circle. Say, for example, "If you're missing work because of frequent colds, get out in the fresh air and start walking your way to health."
Make smooth transitions. A transition is a bridge from one thought or idea to another. For example, "Not only does regular exercise ward off the common cold, it has been proven to keep more serious ailments at bay." After substantiating this statement with statistics, anecdotes and expert quotes, you might write, "The exercise habit is also beneficial to your sense of well-being. How? It can ensure a more restful night's sleep, increase your energy level and even put you in a better mood."
Stay in the same tense and person. An article usually represents the present and is often written in the second person. In this case, you will use statements such as, "Exercise is good for you." Anecdotes and examples may take you temporarily into another tense and person, and this is okay. Don't, however, shift from you to they to we in an article without reason.
Add variety. Create a more interesting article by using a mixture of narrative, anecdotes, quotes and statistics. A few years ago, someone sent me an article to critique. The writer chose a first person essay style for a piece on raising chinchillas. A few examples, anecdotes and expert quotes changed this from a dry narrative to a more lively article.
There's no great mystery to writing a good article. It just takes planning, logic, organization and creativity.
- Patricia Fry has been writing for publication for 29 years. She has 12 books to her credit, including her latest, "The Successful Writer's Handbook" a free excerpt and ordering information are available at http://www.booklocker.com/books/771.html and http://www.spawn.org/store/pfry/index.html.