By Susanna Kalnes, Senior Associate
There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a blank Word document with your fingertips on the keyboard with no clue where to begin. Writer’s block, as it’s commonly called, is no fun — especially when you are on deadline. The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take if you want to become more efficient at writing articles.
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Develop a Writing Process
There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to be a writer, but journalists agree that developing a process or method for writing articles is a great way to increase efficiency. Many follow a similar process, which can ultimately save minutes or hours that could otherwise be spent doing other things.
1. Work in Google Docs
Using a cloud-based word processing application like Google Docs can be a simple-to-use and efficient method for writing and storing your article, as long as you have an internet connection. First of all, Google Docs automatically saves your content, as you write it, so that you don’t have to constantly go in and hit “save.” This massively reduces the chances of losing your work. Plus, it allows you to add comments (for any reviewers or editors to see), interact with them in real-time, and export your work into a regular Word document, if needed. It also has all of the standard functions and tools found in other word processing platforms. Once you are ready to share you work with others, you simply copy and paste the link to your Google Doc. Voila!
2. Find Your Resources
Before you sit down to type your first words, do a scan of the internet to find recent and relevant content that may be pulled from to enhance your article. This is oftentimes new studies, timely research, or up-to-date announcements from people or entities. Also, if you are looking to quote experts in a particular field, do your backgrounding and reach out to see if they’d be willing to answer interview questions for your article. The research you conduct, plus the answers your receive from experts, often helps fine-tune the overall structure of your article.
3. Create an Outline
One you have a basic understanding of the references and resources you will be using for you article, the next step is to create that Google Doc and map out an outline. This outline can include several potential headlines, a few subheadlines/subtopics, word count goals for each section and notes about where you plan to incorporate your resources and quotes. This outline will help create a flow for your content once you actually sit down to type each section.
4. Keep Your Intro Brief and Conversational
Finally, it’s time to start writing in sentences and paragraphs. Begin with an introduction paragraph that is both captivating and to-the-point. As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your intro paragraph to 300 characters or less. This will allow readers to view the entire first paragraph if reading on a mobile device. Also, aim for language that is engaging and entices the reader to continue reading until the end. Then, follow the outline you created previously and let your fingers type.
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