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In this course, author Tom Geller explores the process of writing articles and publications for businesses large and small. The course begins with a look at the preparation you'll need to do, best ways to find assignments, and smart strategies for determining your article approach. Next, the course dives into techniques you can use to brainstorm angles, research, interview experts, finish a piece, and build your portfolio.
- Adopting technical tools
- Gathering reference materials
- Defining an article
- Finding assignments
- Determining your approach
- Conducting interviews
- Managing revisions
- Following up
Skill Level Appropriate for all
The modern article was born with newspaper printing about 400 years ago. Since then, some article types had become less popular or disappeared altogether as industries and tastes changed; others are just emerging. Here are some categories that are fairly common and that I think are going to stick around for a while. I've identified seven common article types: features, news, reviews, commentary, promotional, research, and how-to.
For each type you'll find an example assignment in the exercise file that goes with this video. If you'd like, you could actually get practice by writing these articles, or just use them as inspiration for your own pitches. First is the feature. This is the kind of article that gets promoted on magazine covers. It's sort of the main course in a magazine. A feature article covers a single topic in depth, tends to be long, and can wander a bit to provide unexpected perspectives on the issue at hand. But above all, features are thought provoking.
They're intended to expose readers to ideas and juxtapositions that they didn't consider before. A feature article could be the history of tablet computers or it could be a guide to travel opportunities in Bhutan. Next up is the bread and butter of newspapers, news articles. As the name implies, news articles are about something new, and they're usually spurred by a specific event. They're short, direct, and written in a way that gets the information across in a fast and easy-to-digest way. News articles are also called reports, and they're usually written in a neutral tone. They can be about anything: a power outage, a business meeting, or a baseball game.
A third kind of article is the review, in the consumer space you see these for movies, restaurants, and the like. But reviews are also popular in technical publications, for example for computer hardware. They're about things that are already in the market or that soon will be. They range from a 100 to 2,000 words, with the reviewer giving opinions based on experience with the product. Some reviews are comparative, where writer looks at several objects of the same class and then ranks them against each other.
So reviews are matters of opinion. The commentary is another type of opinionated article, but instead of being about a product, it's written in response to a news event or a social situation. Like news articles, commentaries tend to be punchy and short, and of course they're written to persuade you to agree with a point of view. Commentaries are usually set aside from news items to clearly delineate facts from opinions. In a newspaper, you find commentary on the opinions and editorials page or what's often called the op-ed page.
A plea to vote for or against a certain law would be an example of a commentary article. The most opinionated type of article is written to promote a product, event, or idea. Such articles vary in how much they admit to their own bias. Some will openly gush about the item in question, while others will use neutral-sounding language in order to hide their bias. The most important thing about promotional articles is that they have to be easy to read, because you want the promotional message to go straight from your page to the reader's minds.
An example of a promotional article might be one written for a free magazine that's given out at a trade show. On the other end of the spectrum are research articles. These typically appear in academic and technical journals and as such, they expose a very specific audience to a single topic, in depth, and describing original discoveries. They tend to be quite long, and they follow a very well-defined format. Research articles are almost always written by subject matter experts, or SMEs as they're sometimes called.
An example would be a piece about how to apply mathematical equation to reduce electricity consumption. Lastly, we come to how-to articles which are very popular in magazines. Their purpose is to teach the reader how to do a specific task. They're usually written as a series of steps, and they're addressed directly to the reader. Examples would be things like seven ways to speed up your website or how to turn your bathroom into a sauna. Now, although you probably won't write articles of all these varieties, it's a good idea to become familiar with them. Having a sense of standard formats will help you adapt your writing to what clients and readers expect, and can help you find new opportunities for your writing.