by Dr M C Gupta
Ten practical tips about how to write a good article
|HOW TO WRITE AN ARTICLE: Ten practical tips—Double award winner
This article is being written as a guide for those who wish to write an article for publication in a journal or periodical. It is written in a straightforward fashion, without unnecessary hype. In a way, this article exemplifies the various guidelines given below.
1. WHAT YOU MUST HAVE BEFORE YOU START WRITING:
I strongly believe that, first and foremost, a writer must have mastery over the basic writing tool, the language. I am a firm believer that howsoever excellent the content, an article would not appeal to most readers, and would not be deemed publishable by most editors and publishers, if it is written in faulty language. The writer must have good command over grammar and spelling. A wide vocabulary is an asset, but not an essential one. The article must be user friendly (reader friendly). To my mind, an article that irritates as one reads along can never be a comfortable read. And, nothing irritates more than bad grammar and spelling. As a matter of fact, bad language casts, in the reader’s mind, a doubt about the authenticity, credibility and worth of a writer. I suggest that if a writer lacks good grounding in language skills, he should spend time and effort to acquire such skills before venturing to write articles and send them for publication. I may say that proper language is the most important pre-requisite while writing an article. Needless to say, proper punctuation is an essential part of language writing skills. It is strongly recommended that every writer should have on his desk at least one good dictionary and, if possible, a grammar book. And, he must make good and frequent use of both.
2. BE BRIEF AND TO THE POINT:
Today’s is a busy world. No one has time to read lengthy monographs. The purpose of writing is to have wide readership. The latter would be inversely proportional to the length of the article. Publishers welcome short articles not only because they appeal to most readers, but, also, because they appeal to publishers themselves, who are often hard-pressed to accommodate articles for reasons of available space. Moreover, even the publishers and editors are, in a way, readers. They are more likely to find a short article more readable and, hence, to read it before reading it cursorily or rejecting it outright.
If it is a professional, review, research, scientific, formal or ‘dry’ article, always try to summarize it, either at the beginning, or at the end. If this may not be deemed proper, at least summarize it informally. The summary tells the reader, including the editor and the publisher, about what it is all about. A summary ensures that at least this part of the article would be read by most viewers. In other words, an article with a summary is unlikely to be left out totally unread by the readers.
4. OPENING OR INTRODUCTION:
The first few sentences of the article have a determining effect on the reader. The effect that the first paragraph has on the reader determines whether he is going to read it further or stop short there itself. The opening sentence, in fact, can be the most important. The introduction to the article should briefly, and interestingly, tell the reader as to what is the article about, what is new or different inside compared to other articles on the subject, why the reader should read it and how he or she would benefit from it.
5. DIVIDE THE BODY OF THE ARTICLE INTO DIVISIONS:
Do not write a lengthy monologue. That is one thing all readers hate. At least, divide the article into short paragraphs. If possible and appropriate to the nature of the article, provide headings and sub-headings (titles and sub-titles). Make sure that the headings and sub-headings have a natural and logical sequence. Likewise, make sure that a particular paragraph is appropriately linked to the previous and the next one. It should not stand out in isolation.
6. BE CORRECT AND AUTHENTIC:
Correct content, after correct language, is the next most important pre-requisite for an article writer. Make sure that what you write is correct as per available knowledge. Ignorance is no excuse, especially in the modern era of information technology and internet, when pressing a few keys on google can instantly reveal a treasure trove of information. However, be discrete and selective. Remember that everything published in print or on the internet, particularly the latter, is not gospel truth or unbiased presentation of views. If your article concerns or touches upon a controversial topic, state so and try to present both aspects of the controversy, mentioning which aspect you favour and explaining the reasons for the same. If possible, provide references to others’ publications and statements.
7. DO NOT PLAGIARISE:
It is quite tempting and easy to pick up material from others’ writings and include them in your own article. This is called plagiarism and has brought shame to many a writer. If certain passages are to be quoted from other publications for whatever reason, always quote the source. Everybody, including readers, editors and publishers appreciate honesty. The latter are particularly concerned about it so as to avoid the charge of copyright violation in legal proceedings.
8. CONCLUDE EFFECTIVELY:
There are articles that one reads and forgets. There are others which leave an impact. The difference lies not only in language and content, but, also, in the way we conclude. Just as an inviting opening encourages a reader to go ahead through the article, an effective closure likewise helps in ensuring that it leaves an impact upon his mind, that would persist for some time.
9. REVISE AND EDIT:
What looks like a great writing initially may look poorly written if the author reads it after some time. Human brain keeps on thinking subconsciously. Even after the article has been written, the writer’s mind subconsciously keeps on working on it. That is why it may appear not all that good when the writer has a re-look on it. Make it a habit to revise an article a few times before finalizing it and sending it for publication. If possible, show it to others who may be knowledgeable on the subject and get their comments and suggestions and make necessary changes in view of the feedback received.
Nobody can be a great writer the very first time he writes. It is all a matter of learning and improving each time we do a task again and again. Writing is no exception.
In this article, you have been presented ten practical tips about good article-writing based upon the personal experience of the author, who has been a professor of medicine and is currently a practicing lawyer, and has published many books and articles on topics related to both medicine and law, though his current interest is writing poetry. I am sure that if you follow the guidelines given above, you would be able to write and publish articles that would be appreciated by the readers.
* Awarded first place and an awardicon in "Show Off Your Best at the Sandbox" , “Show Off Your Best at the Sandbox” orgaised by StephB , Round 30, October 2008.
* Awarded second place and an awardicon in "Invalid Item" , Writing Articles Contest organised by Loraine ~ will be back soon , 27 December, 2006.
M C Gupta
18 November 2006