Articles are like hamburgers
A good article is like a delicious hamburger. The top and bottom of the bun hold it together and it has tasty fillings in between. When you’ve finished devouring it, you feel satisfied and are looking forward to the next one, not immediately, but in the near future. If you want to write an article that creates that feeling, here are a few basic guidelines to help you structure it.
First up, before you start writing, establish your purpose. It’s obvious, right? The usual purpose of a website article is to generate sales. Sometimes that may happen because someone has deliberately sought out your website when they’re ready to buy. But how often do people read an article and immediately make a purchase? Your article is not a sales pitch. What you really want to do is to entertain or provide useful information to encourage your readers to keep coming back. You want them to think of you as the expert when they need your services. So make sure you give them meaty fillings, healthy salad and spicy sauce in their hamburger, not sugary fairy floss that melts as soon as they taste your words.
Appeal to your audience
Writing an article is about communication and you communicate in different ways to different people. The way you speak to your grandmother is different to the way you speak to your work mates, or someone you just met. Hence, before you write your article, think about who it’s for and picture the person you’re speaking to. That way you will adjust your language and the level of detail to suit.
Holding it all together
Now we get to the hamburger structure. You have a top bun, the fillings in the middle, and a bottom bun. At the top, you outline what the article is about. It’s best to write this first – it will help to keep you on track. Don’t try to cover too much. People browsing the web are often looking for specific practical information, not a full-blown cordon bleu cooking course. At the end, mirror what you said in your opening paragraph. Summarise what you’ve just written about. Don’t use identical words, but essentially say the same thing. For a hamburger, the bun holds it all together. In your article, the first paragraph helps the reader decide whether they’re going to like the rest, or whether it’s relevant to them. The closing paragraph consolidates what they’ve just read. So the beginning and end hold your article together, too.
Avoiding scrambled fillings
The middle part is where some writers get scrambled. They start throwing in whatever they can think of and the hamburger gets messy, soggy and too big to pick up. It’s OK to write like crazy and let all your ideas spill onto the page. In fact, that’s a great way to get going and come up with fantastic ideas. But after that you need to examine each component, become selective and work out a logical order.
Give each paragraph a short subheading that summarises the paragraph. Subheadings improve readability and allow people to quickly scan your content. They can be used to draw a person in and make them want to read more. They’re also a tool that can help you determine whether the paragraph is relevant to the topic or where the paragraph fits in your stack of fillings.
Don’t topple your burger
How do you select which points to use? If you’ve written the first paragraph, you’ve outlined what you want to talk about. Check which of your paragraphs don’t fit the topic. Discard them or put them aside as an ingredient for your next dish. Tall hamburgers may look enticing – until you try to eat them and end up with slop on your plate and sauce dripping off your elbow. Likewise, if you try to put too much into an article, it’s unlikely readers will make it to the end.
Once you’ve decided which points are relevant, put them in logical order. For example, if you’re explaining how to do a task, at the top put tools and materials needed, then describe the steps in the order that they need to be done. If you’re explaining a concept, start with basic knowledge or assumptions, then gradually build complexity to make the final construction. If you’re giving tips, start with easy, quick wins, progressing to longer-term higher value advice. If you’re explaining how a machine works, give an overall view, describe the components one at a time and talk through how they fit together. Think carefully about what information logically follows from the previous paragraph. Play around with the order until it stacks beautifully.
Showcase your expertise
If you want to leave your readers feeling satisfied and coming back for more, structure your articles like a hamburger, with an introduction that tells them what the article is about, useful information organised in a logical order, and a summary that reinforces the knowledge you’ve given them. It will showcase your expertise.