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The article format is similar to the five-paragraph essay format you might've learned in school. In short, it starts with an introduction that states a thesis, follows it with three paragraphs that support that thesis, and then wraps it all up with a conclusion. You can often write good articles that follow this format strictly, but the article structure is much more flexible than that. First, the number of body paragraphs will vary depending on the length of the article itself. In factm if it's really short, there might not be any middle paragraphs at all.
Second, those paragraphs don't have to follow that thesis-support-conclusion recipe. Connections between article paragraphs also tend to be more conversational than in a formal essay. They should lead the reader gracefully from one steppingstone to the next. Third, you might break longer articles into sections, which are separated by subheads. Each section is sort of like an article in itself, and all of them tie together under the main articles theme. Finally, articles can diverge completely from the essay format.
One that's increasingly popular structures the article in a list in what's called a listical. You know it from articles like 10 Ways to Eat Better This Year or Five Tips Every Graphic Designer Should Know. The body paragraphs simply spell out the tips that the headline promises, one by one. The example article in this course is on the theme The Benefits of a Music Education. Now to me that sounds like a good candidate for the listical approach, with an introduction on the front and a conclusion on the end.
Each paragraph in between will simply list another benefit. As always, your best source for inspiration is the publication itself. Look at how its existing articles are structured and then write yours to match it. Now that leads us to a question: Should you write an outline before writing the article itself? That depends on several factors such as how long the article is going to be, your comfort with the subject, and your level of experience. But if you do decide to write an outline, I recommend that you integrate it with the article itself.
In other words, don't put it in one document and then write your article in another. Instead, use points in the outline as paragraph openers or section headers in the article itself. And whatever you do, be flexible with your plans. Some unexpected aspect of your story might pop out during research, while other parts become less important. But a little planning before you start writing goes a long way.
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