For someone that has never written a “how to” article, choosing the initial format or structure of the article can be intimidating. While a good format will make a “how to” article easily digestible for the average reader and easier to write for the author, a poor format may distract someone from reading the article in the first place.
There are many ways to format a “how to” article, but these guidelines should certainly provide some direction to those who are just getting started.
Choose a topic
Choosing a topic is necessary before going through any of the article formatting steps. There are a number of things that need to be done when writing a how to article, and often in a specific order.
Asking some questions will aid in the process of choosing a topic. What things do you know how to do? In other words, about which things are you a “how to” expert? What are the most common “how to” questions you hear from friends, clients or colleagues? You should be able to come up with a number of ideas from which you can filter out the ones that are most interesting and beneficial.
Tip: Create an article bank of ideas for “how to” articles. You may not write them all now, but this can be a valuable resource in the future when you’re looking for additional article ideas.
Think in steps
Now that you have your topic, it’s time to outline the steps required. If your article is How to Purchase Real Estate in Montenegro, you’ll want to write down all the important steps required in order to accomplish a real estate purchase in Montenegro. Your steps could include:
- Hire a broker
- Locate a property
- Make an offer
- Put down a deposit
- Perform due diligence
- Close the deal
Tip: Remember to focus in the steps on the specific topic. Make sure that every step is highly relevant. Ideas that stray from the topic should go in your article bank.
Fill in the details
Once you’ve outlined your steps, it is helpful to go back and provide more detail. In our Montenegro example, the first step was to hire a broker. What would a reader need to know in order to make that happen? What are the most common problems that U.S. investors face when finding the right broker?
Although you could likely write an entire “how to” article on how to hire a broker in Montenegro, for the purposes of an article on how to purchase real estate you’d want to give as much direction as possible in one paragraph. Sticking to one paragraph for each step will help ensure your content is easily readable and focused on your topic. Remember, you can always go back later and write the How to Hire a Real Estate Broker in Montenegro article later.
Tips: You can use tips to highlight helpful ideas and help break up the text of your article.
Write your introduction
Most writers like to start their writing project by crafting an introduction first. I find it more helpful to wait until I’ve outlined my steps and filled in the details. That way I am prepared to insert the reasons why a reader should be interested in my topic, followed by a transition into what this “how to” article will teach them.
At this point you can also write a conclusion if you think it would be helpful. Conclusions aren’t always necessary in “how to” articles, but they can be a valuable way to wrap up the ideas presented for the reader.
Tip: Avoid flowery language in your introduction. What data and facts support why your topic is compelling? Focus on that instead of marketing messages and there is a good chance readers will make it to the end of your article and your bio, where you’ll leave information for contacting you.
Write your bio
If you are writing a “how to” article for the purposes of highlighting your business, then this may be the most important part of the article creation. It is always advisable to keep the bio on your article page short, since your goal is to get people to read it. There are a few questions you will likely want to answer in your bio. What are your qualifications as an expert on the subject? How can people contact you? What services or products do you offer? Don’t forget that your bio is a great place to put a link back to your website and/or your full bio page (you won’t have room on the article page for your full biography).
Tip: Fill your bio with factual data that quantify your accomplishments and accreditations as much as possible. It is more helpful to say that your company has sold over $10MM in investment properties then it is to say you are the “leading provider of investment properties in Nashville." This makes your content more credible and increases the likelihood that someone may contact you as a result of what you’ve written.