An important part of your advanced English studies is learning how to write articles. Once you get passed the first hurdle it can become quite addictive. The benefits to advancing your fluency can not be underestimated. Start with 200 words, then 400, then 800 and then whatever is your goal.
Write a short article, essay, blog or description. Here are some guidelines to start.
- Understand your audience and exactly who you are targeting. Pet lovers, geeks, travellers, lifestyle, business areas etc.
- Select a topic that has high appeal. What do you want to get across to your readers? To feel happy, sad, angry, to make them think deeper about a particular topic. Research your subject thoroughly and start with something you are an expert in. Take an unusual angle on the story rather than copying a similar style to the thousands of articles already out there. Make it exciting, interesting and engaging. Comedy sells. Lifestyle sells. Anything that connects community sells.
- Create an appealing heading or title. You can change this later. Worlds largest cat bankrupts owner.
- Start to write a rough idea of the story. Brainstorm the bullet points and write down all the things you could say about this subject. Then cross out those that don’t work and put the story in an order based on those bullet points. Each point must flow and connect to the next. Have a beginning (introduce the story), the middle (the main body of the article) and an end (conclusion or summary, what do you want the reader to take away?)
- Use the journalist check list and ask: who, what, where, when, how, why.
- The first paragraph is the most important and must have a strong impact drawing in the reader. They should be totally engaged and can’t wait to move to the next paragraph.
- Select what time structure you will use, present, past or future, and then the tenses associated with that. Then select which person you wish to write in 1st or 3rd.
- Write out your first draft and now add subsections within each bullet point. It can be beneficial to take a break of a few days as more ideas come. Why do ideas seem to appear in the shower? Have a pen ready to note down moments of inspiration.
- Once the basic script outline is complete start to combine descriptive words from the two lists “emotions and feelings and description words for all situations”. Add phrasal verbs, idioms and engage in some paraphrasing if needed. Remember the level of your audience. Is your target market the general population or a more academic level. If the latter, than use more advanced vocabulary. Most native English people understand idioms as they grew up with them.
- All your writing must be fact checked with respective references of established sources.
- Change you original heading or title if needed now that you have a better idea of the story.
- Edit and proofread your article to check spelling and grammar. Editing is writing. All grammar mistakes must be perfectly corrected. No excuses to use commas incorrectly or misusing “there, their, and they’re” or “to and too”.
- Read your story out loud to check for repeat words and phrases. Read it backwards using a ruler, checking each word.
- Have the final draft reviewed by an expert to get feedback. Update if required. Every piece of writing is permanently in update mode. Ask, how can i make this more interesting?
- If submitting to a publisher, make sure you know the word count required for specific subjects and genres.
What tenses to write in?
You can write an article in the present, past or future and maintain this time frame. Within each of these time frames you have a choice of verb tenses. You may change verb tenses within that time frame as indicated below. This is needed in creative writing and to express a variety of different situations. Past and present are the most common forms.
Remember that choosing a time frame and tense will depend on whether it is an article, business agenda, a story, historical, a personal account or academic paper etc.
When writing in the present you can use the present simple combined with present continuous and the present perfect tense. Present simple is common for essays, how to articles, recipes, giving advice, press releases and counselling blogs.
When writing in the past you can use the past simple, combined with the past continuous and the past perfect tense. Common with; novels and short stories, online articles, blogs and news as it’s normally telling a situation that has happened. The results of a survey or investigation.
When writing in the future you can use the future simple, combined with future continuous, future perfect (will), future perfect continuous (will) and going to. Use for plans and proposals.
- Don’t mix tenses in the same sentence such as past and present.
He said the wind is strong yesterday. Incorrect. Said = past. Is = present.
He said the wind was strong yesterday. Correct. Said = past. Was = past.
She was jogging in the park and notices a big black cloud had formed. Incorrect.
She was jogging in the park and noticed a big black cloud had formed. Correct.
She is jogging in the park and noticed a big black cloud forming. Incorrect.
She is jogging in the park and notices a big black cloud forming. Correct.
- Don’t change tenses in a paragraph.
The annual town parade is an amazing event and everyone is so happy at this time. It was common to hug everyone and the people had drunk buckets of lemonade. Incorrect.
The annual town parade is an amazing event and everyone is so happy at this time. It is common to hug everyone and the people like to drink buckets of lemonade. Correct.
- Start writing your first article in the past time frame using the third person POV (point of view).
- Watch out for using “grammar checker” apps and programs for tense changes as they get it wrong.
First Person point of view
First person POV is a way to establish a powerful and emotional connection with the reader. That is telling the narrative from the writers personal experience. Using “I”, can create an intimate connect with your audience. However this is not the most reliable narrative as it’s based on an individuals opinions. The reader experiences the action as it is happening at that moment. I converse with the taxi driver and ask him to drive slower.
- Use past or present tense.
- Avoid, “i think” or “i believe”.
- Easier to write than third person but need to SHOW and not tell.
- You can use the five senses.
- Creates a strong sense of immediacy but can be misleading and biased.
- 1st person feels very close. You feel inside the head of the person.
- Deeper reader empathy but be careful of being manipulated.
- Voice, personality, tone can be limited as can describing things.
- Don’t over use of the word, ” I”.
- 1st person pronouns are; i, me, my, myself, mine, our, us, ourselves.
Third Person point of view
Third person point of view is used generally in newspapers, articles and magazines. The plans to scrap the golf course development have been met with joy. (third person). His hat keeps the sun from burning. (third person). It is the only ice cream worth buying. (third person). It is an eerie walk through the night forest. (third person).
- 3rd person is the default in many articles.
- 3rd person moves readers quickly through the paragraphs because sentences flow well one to another.
- It conveys authority to your readers.
- 3rd person pronouns are; he, she, her, hers, him, his, it, its.
What is passive and active voice?
You can enlighten your writing by understanding passive and active voice.
The dancer is jumping high around the stage. ACTIVE VOICE. Sounds fun and lively.
On the stage is a dancer that is jumping high. PASSIVE VOICE. Sounds dull and clumsy.
We use the active voice in speech and writing to place emphasis on the person, subject or object doing the action.
We use the passive voice when we want to place emphasis on the object, subject receiving the action. Many times the subject or object is not important.
The passive voice can seem uninviting and often contains more words that are not needed. Saying that, there are many occasions when the passive voice is much better to use, so please research more to understand this subject.
What to write about.
The subjects are endless. Write a personal review of an experience where you use the first person which is based on your opinion. Write a discussion article giving both sides of the story, be neutral and leave it up to the reader to decide which opinion they believe in. Talk to your tutor about how to brainstorm and come up with new ideas and projects.
- Personal experiences, challenges and successes.
- My uncle has a farm.
- Government oppression.
- Describing an amazing place.
- Living a meaningful life.
- Natural living.
- Social connections.
- I lost my dog for two days.
- I decided to direct a movie.
- A trip to the cafeteria at 6.30am.