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16 Steps To Writing A Great Article [with examples]

Staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page can be daunting. You want to write a great article but don’t know where or how to begin. 

Even if you have a great idea, if you can’t get it out of your head and put pen to paper or onto a Word doc, then you can’t share it with anybody. 

Writing a great article is a little like solving a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle.

There’s lots of smaller pieces that, when put together, create an entertaining read. Your tone of voice, writing style, and ability to lean into stories and anecdotes are a few must-have components of a great article.

But don’t worry. You won’t have to stare at that blinking cursor for much longer.

Continue reading to discover how to write an article.

What you will learn

  • Writing articles from start to finish
  • Why to choose a subject you are knowledgeable in
  • Where to publish your finished article
  • How to structure your article and write introductions
  • The importance of a first draft

1. Choose a subject

You can’t bake a cake without ingredients, just like you can’t write a good article without a topic to write about. 

Ideally, your article will be on a topic in which you are a subject-level expert or, at the very least, very knowledgeable.

This ensures you provide quality informative content for the readers. Moreover, you should also explain why you are an expert on the topic in your article.

Anyone can write an article on the colonization of Mars—but if you’re an astronaut at NASA, people are more likely to listen.

To showcase your expertise, you should add your credentials to your byline. This helps showcase a quality article.

For example, I’m no astronaut.

Have I seen Interstellar a handful of times? Yes.

But that doesn’t make me qualified to talk about when we’ll settle on Mars. Instead, I write about SEO because that’s what I have experience in.

Add your credentials to your author byline to build trust. Stick to specific instances and situations where you have engaged with the topic!

2. Select your publishing platform 

Before article writing, research potential platforms before writing and choose one that aligns with your topic and audience. 

You wouldn’t post your article on the colonization of Mars on a racing forum. 

It’s a good idea to research the types of articles published on each platform to decide which platform best aligns with your article.

For example, publishing an article or social media posts on LinkedIn and an article on Medium has two different audiences.

You need to do your research!

Once you’ve decided on a platform, analyze the tone and language used in the platform's articles.

Take note of the writing style, readability and reading level, and the platform’s audience and sophistication level.

Your article writing format will differ depending on your audience and desired publication.

Copy an article from your chosen platform into the Hemmingway Editor. This crafty tool will show you the article’s readability.

If the article is written well, aim for a similar reading score. However, a poor readability score does not always mean the article is constructed poorly—it could mean it uses more complicated jargon and technical terms.

For example, if we paste this NASA article into the Hemingway editor, it shows grade 15. 

Let’s compare this to an article published on Medium about the French Formula One racing driver, Esteban Ocon.

The Medium article gets a readability score of 6. It adopts less technical jargon and is a much lighter read.

Study similar articles 

You might find it useful to read and study similar articles on the same topic before writing your own article. This will help you create a structure that is logical and easy to follow.

You can find similar articles by searching your topic on Google.

Stick to the top search results for the best articles—you don’t want to accidentally inherit bad writing practices from other articles.

3. Brainstorm ideas

Brainstorming techniques, such as mind mapping or free writing, are great ways to come up with ideas. It’s a part of the writing process!

You can use this technique to help generate title ideas, the angle of your article, and the structure, i.e., what you will talk about and in what order.

You can use tools such as MindNode or Mind Meister to brainstorm. If you’re feeling extra creative, putting pen to paper can help—I like to use A3 to visualize how the article will look.

A brainstorm is a little like emptying a jigsaw puzzle and rearranging the pieces so they fit together. 

When brainstorming:

  • Eliminate repetitive, uninteresting, or unnecessary points
  • Review your list and cross out ideas that add no value or are redundant
  • Expand on points that stand out as particularly interesting or important

You can also use your brainstorming session to develop detailed sub-points or sub-headers for your main talking points—more on this below.

4. Structure your points logically 

Your article should flow naturally—the points and sub-heads should read in a logical order. 

Create an outline that maps out the flow of your article from start to finish. You can do this in your brainstorming session or on a blank Google Doc.

You don’t have to stick to the order once it’s down on paper, but this exercise will help you visualize how your article will piece together. 

It also makes sure your article is not mismatched—looking somewhat like a Mr Potato Head from Toy Story with his parts on wrong. 

An excellent example of an article that structures its points logically is this guide on how to become a cybersecurity analyst by BrainStation

Here's the outline of the article.

  • H1: How to Become a Cybersecurity Analyst
  • H2: 1. Learn Cybersecurity Fundamentals
  • H3: Cybersecurity Fundamentals
  • H2: 2. Practice Cybersecurity Technical Skills
  • H2: 3. Earn a Cybersecurity Certificate
  • H2: 4. Research the Cybersecurity Industry
  • H2: 5. Apply to Cybersecurity Jobs
  • H3: Cybersecurity Roles
  • H2: What is a Cybersecurity Analyst?
  • H2: Why Is Cybersecurity Important?
  • H2: Cybersecurity Benefits
  • H2: Is Cybersecurity a Growing Field?
  • H4: 28%
  • H2: What Is a Cybersecurity Analyst?
  • H3: Cybersecurity Roles and Responsibilities
  • H2: How Do I Become a Cybersecurity Analyst With No Experience?

As you can see, the outline makes great use of headings to explain how to become a Cybersecurity Analyst, breaking down each step in more detail.

Their content marketing strategy is to create in-depth guides that flow from one stage to the next.

To weave your ideas together, use transitional phrases—this will also improve the flow of your writing.

Example transnational phases include:

  • Furthermore
  • Moreover
  • Equally
  • By comparison
  • Yet
  • For example
  • In conclusion 

Furthermore, replace phrases such as “however” with “but” and “therefore” with “so.”

If there’s a $1 alternative to a $2 word, use it.

This increases the readability of your article without it sounding too formal—unless you want it to be formal, of course! 

5. Begin with a strong introduction

The average human attention span is 8.25 seconds.

We live in a distracted world of constant notifications, TikToks, and Instagram reels. If your article fails to grab their attention immediately, there’s a good chance they’re going to click off your article to continue doom scrolling.

To combat this, show the reader they’re in the right place by starting with a strong introduction and a relevant eye catching image. You’ll also need an excellent hook. 

How to write a good hook 

The hook is how you grab the reader’s attention. Your first couple of lines should reel your target audience in, capturing their attention to continue reading.

But how do you do it?

To write a great hook, consider using: 

  • a proven copywriting formula
  • a strong, impactful statement 
  • a compelling quote or question
  • an anecdote or metaphor to draw readers in

6. Address your reader

Use simple and direct language that is easy to understand. This makes your writing more relatable and engaging because you’re talking directly to your target audience.

Take it a step further by mentioning the reader’s pain points in your article.

For example, if your article is about how to write an article—just like the post you’re reading now—pain points may include:

  • Not knowing how to come up with an idea for the article
  • Not knowing where or how to publish the article 
  • Unsure how to adjust language and tone for your target audience
  • Not knowing what SEO is or how to optimize it for your article

Address these pain points to keep readers engaged—you’re answering their concerns and objections.

To find these pain points, you can use the aforementioned brainstorming technique. You can also use forum websites and online communities such as Reddit or Quora. 

For example, find a relevant subreddit and then use a custom Google search using phrases and modifiers such as, “how to” and “what.”

This trick will help you find relevant pain points.

Add relevant questions and pain points to a brainstorm and refer back to these writing a rough draft.

It’s a good idea to mention the primary pain point in the introduction of your article. This tells the reader they are in the right place. 

7. Use writing formulas 

Writing formulas are a writer’s best friend. When used correctly, they help improve your messaging—you can talk directly to the reader and their problems.

Use proven copywriting formulas to help craft your introduction and other parts of your article.

Examples of proven copywriting formulas include: 

  • PAS (problem, agitate, solution)
  • AIDA (attention, interest, desire, and action) 
  • SCQA (situation, complication, question, answer)

I find myself using the PAS formula the most in my work.

I use it when writing LinkedIn posts to hook the reader by relaying a specific problem to my audience.

Furthermore, I often find myself using it to write an article introduction, showing the reader they are in the right place.

Adopting writing formulas can also help you get articles out faster on days you're not feeling creative.

PAS

The problem agitate solution is one of the more popular copywriting formulas. It’s easy to use and is very effective. 

  • First, identify the problem your audience is having and make sure it is a problem that really affects them.
  • Next, agitate the problem by highlighting pain points and consequences to make the the issue feel urgent and pressing.
  • Finally, provide your solution and show how it successfully solves the problem.

Using PAS in your writing can get people to connect with you and buy from you. For the PAS formula to be the most effective, it’s important to do your research.

If you don’t know what your audience’s pain points are, then you’ll struggle to talk to them directly. So do your research! 

AIDA

Attention, interest, desire, action—AIDA for short.

  • First, start by grabbing the reader’s attention, whether a striking headline or controversial first sentence. 
  • Second, capture their interest by revealing more information—unique benefits and features, for example. 
  • Third, create a desire to continue reading; how will reading the article improve their life or solve their problem. 

And finally, encourage the reader to take action, in this example, you want them to continue reading your article. 

SCQA

Although not as popular as the above two formulas, the situation, complication, question, and answer copywriting formula is great for creating clear messaging. 

  • Begin by describing the reader’s current situation.
  • Second, introduce the complication that makes their situation worse.
  • Third, pose a question about their situation—what would happen if the situation was resolved?
  • And finally, provide your answer, whether a call to action or to continue reading your article.

8. Lean into stories and anecdotes 

People love to hear from other people. It’s human nature.

We love stories.

Lean into personal stories and anecdotes to make your article more interesting and relatable. It also makes for engaging articles.

Paint a picture for the reader—when and where did the event take place, what was the weather like, how did you feel?

Use descriptive language and help the reader step into your shoes, experiencing the story for the first time as if they were there.

A great example of this is an article titled, “Surfing the American Dream.”

The article's introduction dives into the specifics, from how the author held their board to the temperature and the abysmal surfing conditions. 

And while you might not be able to use personal stories and anecdotes for all articles, use them where possible.

Again, people love hearing from other people. So make the most of it and share your personal experiences—this is where writing on a topic you’re familiar with comes in useful.

9. Pick an angle

There’s an old quote from the American General, Douglas MacArthur, that says, “Rules are meant to be broken.”

And while he wasn’t talking about writing, breaking the odd rule or two can help improve your writing.

Typically, most writers read existing content on the same topic and adopt the same or a very similar writing angle.

By changing the angle, you can offer a fresh perspective and a unique take that differs from the common viewpoint.

Take a look at this article by The Atlantic. The title and hook take a new spin on the tennis player, adding a personal perspective that goes against the common viewpoint.

If you want to grab the reader’s attention—and you do—find ways to add a new spin to your article.

Use personal stories and anecdotes, as previously discussed, and go against the common viewpoint.

10. Write a first draft 

Writing a rough draft is arguably the most difficult part of writing an article. Use this first draft to write a non-polished article—flesh out the structure with detailed sections and expand on each main point with supporting explanations.

Develop each idea fully before moving on to the next to ensure clarity and depth.

John Swartzwelder, known for his comedy writing on the Simpsons, summarizes this perfectly in an interview in The New Yorker.

Although Swartzwelder is talking about scriptwriting, a lot of the same rules apply.

You can use an AI writing tool like Surfer to generate a first draft for you.

Enter your main topic and select a preferred tone of voice, and Surfer AI will create an outline for you that you can edit.

You will have a first draft ready in about 20 minutes that you can then continue to improve on.

Focus on getting your ideas down without worrying too much about perfection. It’s called a first draft for a reason—make the most of it!

11. Adjust language and tone 

There is no one perfect writing language or tone. Your choice of language and tone of your article depends on your audience.

Going back to our NASA example—the language and tone are very different to say, an article on how to ride a bike.

The audience is completely different—one is likely a space enthusiast, while the other is looking for simple instructions to most likely teach a kid to ride a bike.

If you adopt a more informal approach, i.e., you’re not writing about space or an academic piece, a good piece of advice is to write as if you were having a conversation with the reader.

Quality content doesn't have to be formal.

Use casual and informal language and avoid overly complex words when easier to read alternatives are available. 

To nail the language and tone of your article, visualize your reader.

  • How old are they?
  • What do they look like?
  • What hobbies and interests do they have?
  • What pain points do they experience?

Give them an identity to take it a step further.

Throughout your article, sprinkle in idiomatic expressions—that’s sayings such as “bite the bullet” or “feeling under the weather.”

They don’t take on the literal meaning of the phrase, but help make your article more lively. You can also use colloquial language and phrases—such as “hit the road” or “that was a piece of cake.”

If your article is more factual than personal, you can adopt a more neutral tone by showcasing facts and figures and avoiding personal opinions and arguments.

Instead, provide all the information for the reader to form their own opinions and judgements.

The below example is an article of current events on Tesla from Emerging Tech Brew—it’s factual and neutral throughout.

12. Take a break before editing 

Do as Swartzwelder says and take a break between your first draft and editing.

This is one of the most overlooked approaches when it comes to writing. All too often, people want to write and edit in one sitting. 

Although leaving your first draft for a day—or at the very least a few hours—helps you gain a fresh perspective.

When ready, return to the article. You’ll find it much easier to spot mistakes and identify any unclear or weak sections that require improvement. 

Personally, I like to read my first and final draft on my iPad in a different room from where I write. The change in screen and setting help me find mistakes easily.

I take notes and highlight text I want to change before doing a final deep dive edit.

Edits I often make include making my main argument clearer and consistent throughout, using fewer words to get my point across, and adding bullet points to break down a particular topic or key points.

Keeping paragraphs short is also key to keeping the reader engaged.

13. Revisit your first version 

Your first draft and your finished article are very different. Your first draft is an opportunity to get down your ideas.

Nothing more!

Once that’s complete, revisit your draft and start rewriting. Editing is what differentiates a professional writer from a casual one.

It’s much easier to rewrite your first draft than it is to write and edit at the same time.

Once you accept this, your writing will likely improve, and you’ll be better and faster at it. 

So, when revisiting your draft, what should you look for? What should you improve? 

Transform mediocre sentences 

Edit and rewrite mediocre sentences into engaging and descriptive prose. 

Improve readability 

Rewriting your draft is an excellent opportunity to improve the overall readability of your article.

Replace $2 words with $1 alternatives.

Furthermore, use varied sentence structure and vivid language to make your article easy to read and engaging. 

If your article is more academic, use high-level vocabulary or relevant vernacular where needed.

Show; don’t tell 

When article writing, add descriptive details to engage the reader—show, don't tell. Use sensory details and emotive language to help the reader experience your story first-hand.

Use images to support your writing, especially if you're creating a how to article or walkthrough guide.

An example of telling:

“It was hot outside.” 

An example of showing:

“When he stepped outside, beads of sweat trickled down his face. The heat hit his face like the final knockdown blow of a ten-round fight.”  

Moreover, if you are writing a more academic or formal piece, you can show by adding visuals, charts, screenshots, and relevant examples. 

Use the rule of three 

The great Julius Caesar may have said, "I came, I saw, I conquered," but he also employed the persuasive language technique known as the rule of three.

Grouping three items together is more memorable and persuasive than one or two ideas.

Use the rule of three to engage the reader. 

Always support your claims 

Always perform research and include supporting evidence from reliable sources where necessary. This adds credibility to your article.

This way, if a reader wants to dig deeper, they can check the studies.

Furthermore, you might choose to conduct interviews and add expert quotes from trusted sources, too.

Professional writers and journalists do this often to add further trust and credibility when article writing.

It's a little extra effort but it’s very worthwhile.

Use vivid imagery 

Vivid imagery that uses short paragraphs is an excellent way to capture your audience’s attention, helping them stay engaged throughout the entire article.

For an illustrative example of vivid imagery, check out the text below from an article on Pompeii for Hyperallergic.

The writing creates a clear picture of the events, and helps the target audience understand how the events unfolded. 

14. Come up with a compelling title 

Similar to writing a first draft, I always write a draft title.

You likely wouldn’t marry the first person you dated, either.

Generate a few draft titles ideas and choose your favorite one.

To write a compelling title:

  • Use intriguing language or play on ones to make the title stand out
  • Consider using rhetorical questions, references, or alliteration
  • Make the title memorable and engaging, prompting curiosity 

It’s very important that your title accurately reflects your article.

Yes, exaggerating your title may get more people’s attention at first, but if you don’t follow through, you’ll quickly lose their trust.

Avoid misleading titles that do not represent the article’s main points. 

Here’s an example of a compelling title that follows the above advice.

The article offers unique insights, and while it looks like hyperbole at first glance, it’s not. 

15. Optimize for SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a way to help your article reach a wider audience.

Everyday, we search queries on search engines using keywords. Keywords are what people will use to find your article.

So you need to use the right phrases to help people find your article in the search engine results page.

Surfer can help you here, showing you suggested keywords and phrases for your article.

Knowing which keywords to include can save you time in research that you can put to other content marketing efforts.

Once you have a primary keyword(s), you want to include them in 4 main places in your article:

  • Your URL
  • Your meta title 
  • Your H1 
  • In paragraph tags (naturally throughout your article)

For example, this article from Investopedia on how to trade stocks uses their main keyword in all of the above recommended places.

This helps the article show up in search engines for relevant keywords.

16. Ask for feedback

Receiving feedback on your article is a great way to not only improve that article, but also your overall writing.

If you’re lucky enough to work with an editor, they will often highlight and comment on your document with suggested changes.

You may even have a style guide to refer to. But if you don’t have an editor, you can ask a friend, family member, or colleague to read your article.

They can help catch errors, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and ensure your article’s content makes sense.

You can also submit your article to a writing group or someone proficient in the topic for valuable feedback.

When sending your article off for review, it can be helpful to send the submission guidelines—if you have any—to receive better and more accurate revisions. 

Key takeaways 

  • Write an article on a topic you are knowledgeable about
  • Publish on a relevant platform for the best engagement 
  • Study similar articles before you start writing to grasp tone of voice and writing style
  • Use brainstorming to plan your article structure 
  • Structure your points logically and use transitional phrases to weave ideas together
  • Capture attention with a solid introduction 
  • Use proven copywriting formulas for effective article writing
  • Address your reader by highlighting pain points and using second-person
  • Use stories and anecdotes to make your writing more relatable 
  • Write a messy first draft and rewrite as needed
  • Ensure your article covers your chosen topic adequately
  • Use simple language and less complex words when possible to improve readability
  • Take a break before editing to spot mistakes
  • Come up with a compelling title 
  • Optimize for search engines to increase the reach of your article
  • Ask for feedback before publishing 
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