Articles can vary in length, and topic, but all should follow a logical structure. Though they may take many forms, the purpose is usually to inform or to entertain (often both), and this means following a similar pattern. Whether you’re writing an essay arguing two sides of a debate, narrating the history of a topic or reporting an event, the following tips can help students of English plan and write an effective article:
Who is your audience?
Before you start anything, ask who the article is for. What do they want to know, and why? These three details will help you plan what you write. For example, if I want to write a report on a football game I would answer:
- Who? Football fans.
- What? What happened in the game / how did the teams perform.
- Why? Because they did not see the game, or would like an informed analysis of the event.
This helps me later, mostly because I know what is not important in the article. As I know I am writing for football fans, I do not need to explain all the details of the game, and should use the language of football fans (such as to discuss fouls, passes, goals etc.).
What are you going to write about?
Think of all your ideas, write them down if necessary, and then decide which ones are the most important. You can create a mind map, or brainstorm, of ideas, where you simply list everything you can think of. For example, if I was writing an article about making a cup of tea I could brainstorm a list: different types of tea, different mugs, different tools for making tea, boiling water, time for brewing tea, methods of brewing tea, stirring tea, adding sugar, adding milk, drinking tea.
Depending on the length of the article, you probably want three to five main points to discuss, so try to pick the most important points from your brainstorm to form logical paragraphs with. I can group some of the topics above, for instance, to form a simpler list: preparing tea (choosing ingredients and tools), brewing tea (what method and how long for), and completing the tea (adding milk, sugar, stirring).
When you have a simplified structure like this, the article is much easier to put together, as you know where it is going, why you are writing each section, and what details each paragraph should contain.
With your basic ideas in place, you have the structure you need to write the article. But how do you write the article itself? There are two main ways to approach it:
- A) Write the article in a straight-forward order, from start to finish.
- B) Write your main content first, then write the conclusion and introduction.
It is often easier to write the introduction and conclusion after the main content, because they act as summaries, and your ideas will be more fully formed after you have written your central argument or information.
Whatever order you choose to write in, this is a sensible way to structure the article:
Introduction: Start by grabbing the reader’s attention. Write something that is interesting and engaging to begin with. Try to summarise what the article will be about, so the reader knows what they are reading.
To continue the tea example, the paragraph might begin Do you find making tea difficult? And then introduce the many ways that it can be done You need to consider types of tea, how long to brew it and what to add…
Middle / Main Content: If you are covering an argument or debate, you can divide points of view into paragraphs. Give the first point of view in one paragraph, the second in another, and then use a third paragraph to compare the two and draw conclusions / add opinion. If you are presenting information, instructions or a narrative, give different events or ideas their own paragraphs, in a logical order that builds on the previous details. For example, if you were writing about the brief history of a war, you might have these five paragraphs: 1 – origins of the war, 2 – how it started, 3 – what happened of note, 4 – how it ended, 5 – the aftermath.
Conclusion: The conclusion should present the main points of the article in a clear and succinct way. You should not add new information in the conclusion, just summarise what you have discussed, with your closing thoughts or opinions.
There is a popular expression in writing, in English: writing is rewriting. This is because what makes writing most effective, and clear, is editing. When you have finished your article, re-read it and correct any errors, and check that all the information follows a logical order. You can cut out any extra words or unnecessary detail –writing that is edited well normally ends up shorter than the original text.
Editing is not just about looking for mistakes. As you edit your article, ask yourself if the language is clear and engaging, and if the structure works well. If you planned the article well, this should be easier – if not, you may need to do a lot of editing.
This is a basic introduction to writing an article, and there is a lot more that can be said about the detail of how you form your sentences and paragraphs. But if you start with this structure and build from there, your article should be informative, engaging and effective, whatever your purpose.
Let me know if there’s any additional details you’d like to know on the subject by leaving a comment below!