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913 results for "writing"
Good with Words: Writing and Editing
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Writing, Leadership and Management, Business Communication, Professional Development, Project Management, Strategy and Operations, Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Sales, Strategy
Beginner · Specialization · 3-6 Months
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Research and Design, Writing
Write Your First Novel
Skills you'll gain: Business Psychology, Communication, Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Management, Organizational Development, Research and Design, Storytelling, Writing
Beginner · Course · 3-6 Months
Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself
Skills you'll gain: Business Psychology, Communication, Entrepreneurship, Human Learning, Leadership and Management, Marketing, Sales, Storytelling, Strategy, Strategy and Operations, Writing
Academic English: Writing
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Writing, Research and Design
Writing in the Sciences
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Writing, Social Media
Beginner · Course · 1-3 Months
English for Journalism
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Journalism, Marketing, Social Media, Writing, Business Psychology, Culture, Data Visualization, Digital Marketing, General Statistics, Leadership and Management, Probability & Statistics
Mixed · Course · 1-3 Months
Learn English: Writing Effectively with Complex Sentences
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Writing, Computational Logic, Mathematical Theory & Analysis, Mathematics, Theoretical Computer Science, Business Communication
Intermediate · Specialization · 1-3 Months
Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Writing, Media Production, Business Communication, Leadership and Management, Professional Development, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Business Psychology, Collaboration, Human Resources, People Development, Creativity, Research and Design, Computer Graphics, Graphic Design, Planning, Project Management, Storytelling, Strategy and Operations, Supply Chain and Logistics, Visual Design
English Composition I
Skills you'll gain: Writing, Communication, Business Analysis, Critical Thinking, Research and Design, Strategy and Operations
Learn English: Advanced Grammar and Punctuation
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Writing, Project Management, Strategy and Operations
Advanced · Specialization · 3-6 Months
The Strategy of Content Marketing
Skills you'll gain: Communication, Marketing, Media Strategy & Planning, Business Psychology, Marketing Design, Marketing Management, Marketing Psychology, Media Production, Research and Design, Digital Marketing, Influencing, Writing, Advertising, Advertising Sales, MarTech, Storytelling, Brand Management, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Management, Sales, Strategy, Strategy and Operations
Intermediate · Course · 1-3 Months
Searches related to writing
In summary, here are 10 of our most popular writing courses.
- Good with Words: Writing and Editing : University of Michigan
- Creative Writing : Wesleyan University
- Write Your First Novel : Michigan State University
- Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself : Wesleyan University
- Academic English: Writing : University of California, Irvine
- Writing in the Sciences : Stanford University
- English for Journalism : University of Pennsylvania
- Learn English: Writing Effectively with Complex Sentences : University of California, Irvine
- Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation : University of Colorado Boulder
- English Composition I : Duke University
Skills you can learn in Business Essentials
Frequently asked questions about writing, what are the best free writing courses .
If you're looking for the best free writing courses on the web, then look no further! Coursera has you covered with a wide variety of writing classes from Novel Writing to Journalism to Scientific Writing to English Composition to Poetry Workshop . There is something for everyone looking to hone their writing skills.
What are the best writing courses for beginners?
If you're just getting started with writing and looking for a comprehensive suite of courses, Coursera offers great options. The Writing for Business course provides a good foundation for clear and effective business writing. For those interested in honing their editing skills, Writing, Editing, & Words and Writing, Editing, & Structure cover writing process, drafting and revision for maximum clarity. Writing Your World and Writing About Ourselves focus on creative writing development with personal and fictional stories.
What are the best advanced writing courses?
For those looking to take their writing skills to the next level, Coursera offers excellent advanced writing courses. The Just Reading and Writing English course is a great resource for anyone wanting to brush up on their reading and writing skills. Additionally, for those looking for more in-depth grammar instruction, the English: Writing and Grammar: Adverb Clauses , English: Writing and Grammar: Noun Clauses , and English: Writing and Grammar: Adjective Clauses classes provide comprehensive instruction. Finally, Copy of Glasscock: Writing: Grammar & Style delves into the art of editing and revising, allowing users to learn the more nuanced aspects of writing.
Why is it important to learn to write?
Alongside verbal communication and body language, writing is one of the most essential forms of interpersonal communication. In the workplace, strong writing skills allow you to send persuasive emails to your boss or clarify complicated instructions with coworkers. In your personal life, writing allows you to keep in touch with friends and family members via texts, social media posts, or traditional letters.
Not all writing is intended for interpersonal communication. Sometimes you simply need to write to organize your thoughts or record information for later use. Writing things down by hand can also improve your memory retention and understanding of a subject.
What are typical careers that use writing?
Writing is an essential skill if you want to pursue a career in a field such as copywriting, journalism, technical writing, or scriptwriting. Copywriters use their writing to persuade audiences to try a service, buy a product, or participate in an event. Journalists write about current events, and their work can help people make informed daily decisions. Technical writers break down complex processes into more concise and easy-to-understand text. Scriptwriters, novelists, and poets produce artistic works that entertain, inspire, and inform audiences. Artistic works can also challenge viewers to explore a new perspective.
Many other career paths are also writing-intensive. For example, public relations specialists need to constantly communicate with the press and public in media releases, and scientific researchers often have to record and share their findings in academic papers.
How can online courses on Coursera help me learn about writing?
Online courses on Coursera will help you learn or brush up on the basics of spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Mastering these elements of writing gives you a foundation to build on. Courses in storytelling take your education a step further, offering lessons on crafting coherent and creative narratives. Other courses focus on more specific areas of interest, such as technical writing, poetry, journalism, and personal essays. You can take the lessons at your own pace and work on the lessons from anywhere that has internet access.
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Here you can find activities to practise your writing skills. You can improve your writing by understanding model texts and how they're structured.
The self-study lessons in this section are written and organised by English level based on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). There are different types of model texts, with writing tips and interactive exercises that practise the writing skills you need to do well in your studies, to get ahead at work and to communicate in English in your free time.
Take our free online English test to find out which level to choose. Select your level, from A1 English level (elementary) to C1 English level (advanced), and improve your writing skills at your own speed, whenever it's convenient for you.
Choose your level to practise your writing
Learn to write in English with confidence
Our online English classes feature lots of useful writing materials and activities to help you develop your writing skills with confidence in a safe and inclusive learning environment.
Practise writing with your classmates in live group classes, get writing support from a personal tutor in one-to-one lessons or practise writing by yourself at your own pace with a self-study course.
How to Write an Article (the Complete Guide)
- Sarah Neidler, PhD
- February 9, 2021
Did you just launch your new website and want to fill it with content? Or would you like to work as an article writer and you’re asking yourself, how do I write an article that actually gets results?
In both cases, you want to know how to write an article.
This is a step-by-step guide that shows you how to come up with article ideas, get started with writing, and edit after writing. The guide is intended for online articles, but most points also apply to offline, print articles. Also, note that the difference between an article and a blog post is marginal, so most recommendations also apply to blog posts.
Because it’s crucial that your article ranks in Google, we also cover some basics about search engine optimization (SEO). For more detailed information, I recommend you reading our 25 Point Blog Post Checklist for SEO .
1. Come up with a topic and a focus keyword
Before you start writing, you have to decide what you want to write about. That should be obvious. But what makes a good idea for an article?
Writing an article takes a lot of time and effort. Your articles should help you to generate traffic to your website. One of the most important factors that decide how much traffic you get is Google ranking.
Ideally, you want your article to rank for a high volume keyword. If 10.000 people per month type a specific keyword into Google and your article is the first to come up, many people will click on it and thereby land on your website.
When it comes to ranking, you should not only consider the search volume but also how difficult it is to rank for this keyword. A huge search volume is useless when your article appears on page number 256 of the search results.
It’s best to use a keyword research tool to find out the keyword difficulty (KD). We recommend Ahrefs because it provides you with accurate keyword data and many other functions that help you rank in Google.
There are two main ways to come up with article ideas:
- You have some ideas in mind; then you use a keyword research tool to find out if there are good keywords for these topics.
- You do a keyword search, come up with a list of suitable keywords and then decide which ones to cover in an article.
The focus keyword reflects the topic of your article. It can consist of one or two words or multiple words. As an example, the focus keyword of this article is “how to write an article.”
If you struggle to find good ideas, I recommend you read my article about how to find blog topics .
2. Find the search intent behind the keyword
When typing keywords into Google, you have a problem that you want to solve. You might want to learn more about a particular topic, you have a specific question, or you are looking for products to buy. The content of your article has to match the user’s search intent behind the keyword.
“How to” keywords make it easy: They phrase a question, and your article should answer this question. When someone searches for “best Italian restaurant in town,” the person doesn’t want to know what an Italian restaurant is, but how to find the best one.
Google knows this and will display local Italian restaurants with the best reviews. Also, rating websites like Tripadvisor make it to the top search results because they deliver the information the user is looking for: A short review about the best Italian restaurants, explaining why they are the best ones.
Because Google has, in most cases, a good idea about the search intent behind keywords, googling the keyword you want to rank for is always a good idea.
3. Find out how long your article needs to be
How long your article should be, depends on the topic and the competition. Some topics can be covered comprehensively in a short article. There is always the possibility to write more, but more is not always better. Again, keep the search intent in mind.
If the keywords indicate that the user looks for a simple, short answer, it’s better to keep it short. A long, detailed article would instead repel those readers. Take as an example: “How many strings does a guitar have.” This is a very basic question, and the person typing this into Google expects a short, simple answer. He or she doesn’t want to read a 1000-word article to find out.
But many topics are worth covering in detail. Someone who searches for “How to find the best electric bass guitar” would be thankful for a long, comprehensive article that answers all his questions. For these kinds of topics, you need to find out how long your article should at least be to have a realistic chance to rank for it. Googling your focus keyword is the easiest way to find out. Just check how long the top-ranking articles are and write one that is at least that long.
When you notice that your article is getting much longer than planned, decide if the added points are that important. If they truly add value, keep them. Check if they are highly related to the topic. If not, you can always cover them in a separate article.
4. Read competing articles
Take a close look at the articles that rank for your focus keyword. See if you can find good ideas in there and take some notes. This is not about copying your competition. It’s about getting inspired to make your article better.
5. Research the topic
Do deep research about the topic you want to write about. And simply googling your focus keyword and reading the top-ranking articles does not count as research. Ideally, you should already be knowledgeable about the topic.
The less you know, the more research you have to do. But even if you already know the subject in and out, check if there is new information available. For instance, when you write about CBD oil for anxiety, you may already know that CBD oil can help with anxiety and why. But there may still be a new study that you don’t know about. Covering the latest research that your competition hasn’t written about gives you a leading edge.
6. Brainstorm information to include
Once you know what you want to write about and gathered all the important information, you should do some brainstorming about what you want to cover in the article. There may be many points, likely, you won’t keep all of them. But writing them all down helps you to make sure that you don’t forget any vital information.
7. Come up with unique ideas
When you’re done with brainstorming, make sure that you have ideas with unique content that you cannot find anywhere else. If your article summarizes the top 5 ranking articles, you’re not providing value to your readers.
There are many ways to make a text unique, and it depends on the kind of article. If you’re an expert on the topic, you can give an expert opinion with unique insights. When it’s an informational article, try to find information you cannot find anywhere else.
And even if there’s no additional information, you can still provide value. For instance, by explaining a complex problem better than anyone else does. Or by illustrating a point with a story. There are many ways, be creative!
8. Write an outline
Before you start writing, write an outline to give the article some structure. It is not set in stone, and you can change it while writing. But it makes the writing process much more manageable.
No matter what kind of article you write, it should always have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
Further, each article should answer three questions in the following order:
- What (is it about)?
- Why (is it important)?
- How (to implement it)?
Answering these three questions gives your article a logical flow.
First, you have to let your readers know what the article is about. When you write about something that not everybody is familiar with, you’ll also have to explain what it is and give background information. For instance, when you write an article about magnesium, you should first mention that it is an essential mineral and review its role in the body.
The next step is then to explain why it’s important and why people should care. You would mention how common a magnesium deficiency is and what symptoms it causes.
In the last step, you would address the how and tell your readers how they can prevent a magnesium deficiency.
In how much detail you answer each of these questions is very individual and depends on the kind of article you write. When you write a “How to …” article, like the one you are currently reading, answering the “How” is the main part. Readers looking for “How to do something” already know what it is and why it’s important. So you can briefly answer the first two questions in the introduction and then spend the rest of the article answering the “How.”
But you can also have articles focusing on the “Why.” After briefly answering the “What,” you explain in detail why it is important. The “How” can then be a simple call to action, leading the reader to an article addressing the “How” or to a product that is solving the problem.
If you wrote about the detrimental health consequences of eating too much sugar, this would answer the question, “Why too much sugar is bad for you.” After your readers are convinced that too much sugar is very unhealthy, you can end the article with a call to action to your article about how to eat less sugar.
The What, Why and How questions can serve as a template that you can apply to any article.
9. Follow the rule of one
Following the rule of one is probably the most important advice when writing an article, and most writers don’t follow it. Yet, articles that fulfill this rule are the most successful ones. So when you apply it, you write better articles than most others.
The rule sounds simple but is not easy to follow. It means that you should dedicate the content to one single topic and don’t deviate from it. For instance, in the article you are currently reading, I stick to advice about how to write an article. I don’t tell you how to write an ebook .
You might think that many people who write articles also write ebooks, and this information might be of interest to them. This might be true. But it’s also true that people who don’t know how to get started with an article are probably not ready to write an ebook yet. That’s why I don’t include any advice about ebook writing and instead would link to an article about how to write an ebook.
You have to put yourself into the shoes of your readers. Keep the search intent of your focus keyword in mind. Someone who types these words into Google is looking for specific information. By deviating from it, you risk boring your readers and losing them.
That’s the last thing you want. And the good thing when writing online articles is that linking to other articles is very easy. So if you are not 100% sure if the information is of interest to all article readers, leave it out and simply link to the content with further information.
10. Avoid the curse of knowledge
It’s good to write about something you’re knowledgeable about. In the end, you have something to tell and to teach.
But when you write about a topic that you are very familiar with, you quickly fall into the trap of the curse of knowledge.
This can have two negative consequences, and you should avoid both like the plague.
- You tell your readers everything you know about the topic, or even worth, everything that is even loosely related to it
This is related to the rule of one. Many writers throw too much information at their readers, mostly because they want to demonstrate how much they know about a certain topic. They think that this signals credibility. What it really does is deviating from the subject and boring your readers.
- You don’t write in a way that your audience easily understands
The second danger is that you are using words your audience isn’t familiar with and assume your readers know something they don’t. Simply because you know so much about a certain topic, you cannot imagine how it is not knowing it. As an author, this problem can be very hard to spot. This is why editing is so important (see point 20)
But you’re losing people that way. Your readers might think that you’re smart, but they will nevertheless stop reading your content because they either find it not interesting or because they don’t understand it.
11. Include references from reliable sources
You should try to provide sources for the information you include. This makes you look credible and also gives your readers the chance to find out more. How many references you have to provide largely depends on the kind of article and the topic.
When you write about a personal experience, you won’t have to provide many sources, and even not mentioning any might be fine. When you write about how CBD oil can help with anxiety, you certainly want to link to some scientific studies proving your point.
12. Link to further information
No matter how long your article is, there is always more information about this topic. An easy way to provide value to your reader is to link to useful information. This can be to another article on your website or an external source.
Linking internally to other articles is also a valuable tool to stick to the point. When you catch yourself covering something that is not directly related to the topic, write a separate article about it and link to it.
Here’s an example of a link from one article to another.
13. Make it “snackable”
People who read online are often looking for quick information. They don’t sit down for three hours to read about a specific topic as they might do with a book. When they click on a Google search result, they skim through the article to see if it provides the information they are looking for. And even if they decide that the article is worth reading, they don’t want to read large text blocks.
For these reasons, you should
- Write short paragraphs
- Use many subheadings (as a rule of thumb, you should have at least one subheading every 300 words)
- Use bullet points where it makes sense
- Bold important information
- Use supporting infographics and pictures
- Summarize the most important points after a paragraph covering a lot of information
14. Make it an easy read
This point is related to the advice to make the content “snackable.” Furthermore, you should use uncomplicated language. Try to keep your sentences short and simple. Write in an active voice.
And avoid technical terms unless you’re 100% sure that your audience is familiar with them.
How “easy” the content is, depends, of course, on your audience’s background knowledge. To be precise, it should be an easy read for your audience, not necessarily for everyone.
15. Use the language of your audience
When you write an article for medical doctors, your tone and language differ from when you write for laypeople. Always keep your audience in mind and try to adopt their language. This way, your content relates to them, and it is easier to connect to them and build trust.
16. Write a compelling introduction
The introduction should explain why the article is relevant and how it solves the reader’s problems. You should keep it short and come straight to the point. The intro helps readers decide whether the article answers their question and it’s worth reading or whether they should look further.
For this reason, your introduction should raise the reader’s interest, but it should also reflect the content of the article. If you make false promises in your intro, you’ll disappoint your readers, and you risk that they won’t read your content in the future.
Mentioning a statistic, a quote, or an interesting, relevant fact is also an excellent way to start an article.
I personally prefer to write the introduction after writing the body of the article. I may write some notes before writing the article and then write it out later. Once the article is written, you have a clearer picture of the article’s content and how to lead into it.
17. End with a strong conclusion
It is a good idea to write the conclusion last. But when writing the article, you should already know what the conclusion is so that you can build up to it. As for the introduction, you can write down the points you want to mention and write them out later.
There are many different ways to write the conclusion. In many cases, it’s a good idea to summarize the article and emphasize the main takeaway. A call to action is also an excellent way to end an article.
I n the end, your article has a purpose, and you want your readers to do something after reading it.
You can guide them to further content, your products or ask them to sign-up for your newsletter, enquire about a product, service, or read an article. These are just a few examples; there are many more!
Here’s an example of a clear call to action for ketogenic meal plans.
18. Remove non-important and redundant information
Some people say that they try to shorten their text by one third once they are done writing. How much you have to shorten your text depends on your writing style. If you tend to write very wordy, include non-relevant information, and even repeat information, you’ll have to shorten a lot. When you already write concisely, removing a little bit here and there will be enough. But in general, shortening your text during the editing process will make your article a better read.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot write long articles. But they should be packed with information. That means that to fill a long article, you need a lot of information. Take this article as an example. It’s 3,500 words +, but it provides 21 useful tips, and every single one is valuable. So, your article should have substance. The worst thing is reading an article that says nothing. It’s a waste of time for your readers (and also a waste of time writing it).
19. Edit, edit, edit
Once you’re done writing, the editing starts. Editing can take as long as the writing itself or even longer. You often find the advice not to edit while writing because writing and editing are two separate processes. I don’t think this applies to everyone and largely depends on your writing style.
When you try to get everything perfect in the first draft, writing takes much longer, but you save time editing. When you write everything down as fast as possible, you’re done writing in no time, but editing will probably take longer than writing.
20. Ask someone for feedback
Having someone to edit your article and to provide feedback will always improve your article. This person will likely notice a few language flaws, even if you are a native speaker and your grammar and writing is very good.
The person can also tell you if the article’s structure makes sense and if the transitions are easy to follow. Most importantly, the editor can tell you whether everything is easy to understand. For this reason, it can be an advantage to have a non-expert. This is especially important when writing for lay people.
21. Make a final grammar check
Once the article went through some rounds of editing, you should do a final grammar check. Grammarly is a popular choice that detects most grammar flaws, suggests synonyms, and also checks punctuation. This is especially important when you’re not a native English speaker. But even if you’re native, a grammar checking program can make the text better.
The bottom line
Writing an article may seem simple, but it involves many steps. It’s not only about the writing; it’s also about finding ideas, doing research, and editing the article. Altogether, they can take more time and effort than the writing itself.
Outsourcing articles can save you a lot of time and lets you focus on other parts of your business. Writing Studio has expert writers who can take care of all these steps. They know how to write articles that rank in Google and drive high-value traffic to your website.
Don’t forget to share this article!
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How to Write a Good Article: 7 Tips
Want to learn how to write a good article? Craft attention-grabbing titles? Pull readers in and keep their focus?
Knowing how to say something is as important as knowing what to say. The following seven tips will help you create articles that engage readers from beginning to end.
<div class="tip">Need help with content creation? Hire writers through our content marketing platform and receive high-quality content for your site.</div>
1. Create a catchy title.
A title is the first thing your reader will see, and it's the first chance you have to convince them to continue reading your article. You don't need to resort to clickbait-style titles to get readers interested. There are many different strategies for formulating good titles . Here are a few suggestions to help you formulate one that is perfectly eye-catching:
- Promise a solution. What problem are you going to solve for the reader? Draw them in with a promise of answers. For example, start out with phrases like "how to" and "tips for."
- Be succinct. Blog posts with 6- to 13-word titles get the most traffic , so make sure your titles aren't too wordy.
- Ask a question. Write your title in the form of a question to which you know the answer will be "yes."
2. Start strong—write a strong hook.
You only have, at most, a few sentences to draw a reader in. Let your reader know that this is going to be an article worth taking the time to finish. The first sentence is the most important of the entire article and should be carefully crafted. You want to hook your reader in and not let go from that point forward. Here are a few tips:
- Pose a question. What's the driving question behind your article? Start there and make your reader want to stay for the answer.
- Present a surprising fact. Right out of the gate, the reader knows they will learn something new in this article.
- Start with a controversial statement. Get the reader invested immediately.
3. Write succinctly.
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Long, dense paragraphs can be intimidating. You don't want your reader to open the link, see a block of text and think. “I don't have time for this.” Shorter sentences pull the reader along and encourage a quick reading pace. Here are some suggestions for how to trim your sentences:
- Avoid excessive words. You're a writer. You like to write. But don't get too caught up in creating flowery prose. Make sure that your writing isn't getting in the way of the information you are conveying.
- Check your adverbs. If you find adverbs paired with weaker words, use a stronger word to convey the same meaning instead. Is something “very important” or “critical”? Cutting out adverbs not only saves you a few words, but it also makes your writing stronger.
- Watch redundancy. Adverbs are often at fault here too. Something is just “harmless,” not “completely harmless”. Something is “blank,” not “totally blank”.
<div class="tip">What about the length of an article itself? It's a common question, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Follow these guidelines about how long a blog post should be.</div>
4. Edit your work. And then edit again.
In other words, don't be afraid to edit. It's common to feel that every word you write is crucial, and it can be painful to cut things out. However, editing is just as important—if not more important—than the actual writing.
When you've finished your first draft, go back over it with a critical eye, deleting anything unnecessary or repetitive. If a sentence doesn't function to strengthen your argument, give it the ax! After this initial and brutal editing phase, read over your piece again to ensure that every sentence feeds naturally into the next.
5. Pay attention to visuals.
It would be nice to think that only the quality of your writing matters, but the truth is looks matter too. Learning a few tricks allows you to use this to your advantage.
Variation in sentence length, paragraph length, text size, and text type breaks up the visual landscape in an appealing way. This variation also serves to guide the reader to the most important parts of your article.
Images can also serve to break up the text, and they are another way to draw in the reader. A catchy title draws clicks, but an enticing image piques readers' interest enough to continue reading. Remember, it's important to consider which images will work best for your article and how to access them.
- Keep paragraphs short and visually appealing.
- Use bullet points to break up blocks of text. Since 43% of readers skim blog articles , it's important to highlight your main points.
- Bolding is another way to break up your text, directing the skimmer's eyes to those ideas that you want to stand out.
- Use images to break up the text and draw in readers.
6. Use the appropriate format.
Not all articles are created the same. It's important to be aware of different types and to consider which format is the best fit for what you're writing. Will your topic work best as a numbered listicle ? Keep in mind that titles with numbers generate the most clicks.
Formatting your article as a how-to is also a good way to generate clicks . Consider your topic and what will work best in terms of the presentation of ideas.
7. Use keywords strategically.
Keywords are an important part of search engine optimization (SEO). However, keep in mind that Google penalizes sites for keyword stuffing . We are still aiming for quality content and the appropriate use of keywords. Include the primary keyword in the title of your blog post. Secondary keywords should be featured in the subheadings and the body of the text.
There are two additional tips that will drastically affect how you write an article: practice and read. The more you practice writing, the better you will get. Actively practice implementing these tips in your writing. Then when you read other articles, engage with them as a writer. Were you drawn in by the opening? Is the layout visually appealing? Thinking critically while you read is another way to improve as a writer.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Grace Neveu.
Copywriting vs content writing: 4 biggest differences, what is fluff in writing and how to fix it, 20 best content writing tips for beginner and pro writers, find out the cost-saving benefits of outsourcing content creation..
- How outsourcing saves time and thousands of dollars
- How to write a job description that attracts top talent
- What types of content are most effective for your business (and why)
Speak with us to learn more.
Technical Writing for Beginners – An A-Z Guide to Tech Blogging Basics
If you love writing and technology, technical writing could be a suitable career for you. It's also something else you can do if you love tech but don’t really fancy coding all day long.
Technical writing might also be for you if you love learning by teaching others, contributing to open source projects and teaching others how to do so, too, or basically enjoy explaining complex concepts in simple ways through your writing.
Let's dive into the fundamentals and learn about what you should know and consider when getting started with technical writing.
Table of Contents
In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- What Technical writing is
Benefits of Technical Writing
- Necessary skills to have as a Technical Writer
The Technical Writing Process
- Platforms for publishing your articles
Technical Writing Courses
- Technical Writing forums and communities
- Some amazing technical writers to follow
- Final Words and references
What is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is the art of providing detail-oriented instruction to help users understand a specific skill or product.
And a technical writer is someone who writes these instructions, otherwise known as technical documentation or tutorials. This could include user manuals, online support articles, or internal docs for coders/API developers.
A technical writer communicates in a way that presents technical information so that the reader can use that information for an intended purpose.
Technical writers are lifelong learners. Since the job involves communicating complex concepts in simple and straightforward terms, you must be well-versed in the field you're writing about. Or be willing to learn about it.
This is great, because with each new technical document you research and write, you will become an expert on that subject.
Technical writing also gives you a better sense of user empathy. It helps you pay more attention to what the readers or users of a product feel rather than what you think.
You can also make money as a technical writer by contributing to organizations. Here are some organizations that pay you to write for them , like Smashing Magazine , AuthO , Twilio , and Stack Overflow .
In addition to all this, you can contribute to Open Source communities and participate in paid open source programs like Google Season of Docs and Outreachy .
You can also take up technical writing as a full time profession – lots of companies need someone with those skills.
Necessary Skills to Have as a Technical Writer
Understand the use of proper english.
Before you consider writing, it is necessary to have a good grasp of English, its tenses, spellings and basic grammar. Your readers don't want to read an article riddled with incorrect grammar and poor word choices.
Know how to explain things clearly and simply
Knowing how to implement a feature doesn't necessarily mean you can clearly communicate the process to others.
In order to be a good teacher, you have to be empathetic, with the ability to teach or describe terms in ways suitable for your intended audience.
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself. Albert Einstein
Possess some writing skills
I believe that writers are made, not born. And you can only learn how to write by actually writing.
You might never know you have it in you to write until you put pen to paper. And there's only one way to know if you have some writing skills, and that's by writing.
So I encourage you to start writing today. You can choose to start with any of the platforms I listed in this section to stretch your writing muscles.
And of course, it is also a huge benefit to have some experience in a technical field.
Analyze and Understand who your Readers are
The biggest factor to consider when you're writing a technical article is your intended/expected audience. It should always be at the forefront of your mind.
A good technical writer writes based on the reader’s context. As an example , let's say you're writing an article targeted at beginners. It is important not to assume that they already know certain concepts.
You can start out your article by outlining any necessary prerequisites. This will make sure that your readers have (or can acquire) the knowledge they need before diving right into your article.
You can also include links to useful resources so your readers can get the information they need with just a click.
In order to know for whom you are writing, you have to gather as much information as possible about who will use the document.
It is important to know if your audience has expertise in the field, if the topic is totally new to them, or if they fall somewhere in between.
Your readers will also have their own expectations and needs. You must determine what the reader is looking for when they begin to read the document and what they'll get out of it.
To understand your reader, ask yourself the following questions before you start writing:
- Who are my readers?
- What do they need?
- Where will they be reading?
- When will they be reading?
- Why will they be reading?
- How will they be reading?
These questions also help you think about your reader's experience while reading your writing, which we'll talk about more now.
Think About User Experience
User experience is just as important in a technical document as it is anywhere on the web.
Now that you know your audience and their needs, keep in mind how the document itself services their needs. It’s so easy to ignore how the reader will actually use the document.
As you write, continuously step back and view the document as if you're the reader. Ask yourself: Is it accessible? How will your readers be using it? When will they be using it? Is it easy to navigate?
The goal is to write a document that is both useful to and useable by your readers.
Plan Your Document
Bearing in mind who your users are, you can then conceptualize and plan out your document.
This process includes a number of steps, which we'll go over now.
Conduct thorough research about the topic
While planning out your document, you have to research the topic you're writing about. There are tons of resources only a Google search away for you to consume and get deeper insights from.
Don't be tempted to lift off other people's works or articles and pass it off as your own, as this is plagiarism. Rather, use these resources as references and ideas for your work.
Google as much as possible, get facts and figures from research journals, books or news, and gather as much information as you can about your topic. Then you can start making an outline.
Make an outline
Outlining the content of your document before expanding on it helps you write in a more focused way. It also lets you organize your thoughts and achieving your goals for your writing.
An outline can also help you identify what you want your readers to get out of the document. And finally, it establishes a timeline for completing your writing.
Get relevant graphics/images
Having an outline is very helpful in identifying the various virtual aids (infographics, gifs, videos, tweets) you'll need to embed in different sections of your document.
And it'll make your writing process much easier if you keep these relevant graphics handy.
Write in the Correct Style
Finally, you can start to write! If you've completed all these steps, writing should become a lot easier. But you still need to make sure your writing style is suitable for a technical document.
The writing needs to be accessible, direct, and professional. Flowery or emotional text is not welcome in a technical document. To help you maintain this style, here are some key characteristics you should cultivate.
Use Active Voice
It's a good idea to use active voices in your articles, as it is easier to read and understand than the passive voice.
Active voice means that the subject of the sentence is the one actively performing the action of the verb. Passive voice means that a subject is the recipient of a verb's action .
Here's an example of passive voice : The documentation should be read six times a year by every web developer.
And here's an example of active voice : Every web developer should read this documentation 6 times a year.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Word choice is important. Make sure you use the best word for the context. Avoid overusing pronouns such as ‘it’ and ‘this’ as the reader may have difficulty identifying which nouns they refer to.
Also avoid slang and vulgar language – remember you're writing for a wider audience whose disposition and cultural inclinations could differ from yours.
Avoid Excessive Jargon
If you’re an expert in your field, it can be easy to use jargon you're familiar with without realizing that it may be confusing to other readers.
You should also avoid using acronyms you haven't previously explained.
Here's an Example :
Less clear: PWAs are truly considered the future of multi-platform development. Their availability on both Android and iOS makes them the app of the future.
Improved: Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are truly the future of multi-platform development. Their availability on both Android and iOS makes PWAs the app of the future.
Use Plain Language
Use fewer words and write in a way so that any reader can understand the text. Avoid big lengthy words. Always try to explain concepts and terms in the clearest way possible.
A wall of text is difficult to read. Even the clearest instructions can be lost in a document that has poor visual representation.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This rings true even in technical writing.
But not just any image is worthy of a technical document. Technical information can be difficult to convey in text alone. A well-placed image or diagram can clarify your explanation.
People also love visuals, so it helps to insert them at the right spots. Consider the images below:
First, here's a blog snippet without visuals:
Here's a snippet of same blog, but with visuals:
Adding images to your articles makes the content more relatable and easier to understand. In addition to images, you can also use gifs, emoji, embeds (social media, code) and code snippets where necessary.
Thoughtful formatting, templates, and images or diagrams will also make your text more helpful to your readers. You can check out the references below for a technical writing template from @Bolajiayodeji.
Do a Careful Review
Good writing of any type must be free from spelling and grammatical errors. These errors might seem obvious, but it's not always easy to spot them (especially in lengthy documents).
Always double-check your spelling (you know, dot your Is and cross your Ts) before hitting 'publish'.
There are a number of free tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway app that you can use to check for grammar and spelling errors. You can also share a draft of your article with someone to proofread before publishing.
Where to Publish Your Articles
Now that you've decided to take up technical writing, here are some good platforms where you can start putting up technical content for free. They can also help you build an appealing portfolio for future employers to check out.
Dev.to is a community of thousands of techies where both writers and readers get to meaningfully engage and share ideas and resources.
Hashnode is my go-to blogging platform with awesome perks such as custom domain mapping and an interactive community. Setting up a blog on this platform is also easy and fast.
freeCodeCamp has a very large community and audience reach and is a great place to publish your articles. However, you'll need to apply to write for their publication with some previous writing samples.
Your application could either be accepted or rejected, but don't be discouraged. You can always reapply later as you get better, and who knows? You could get accepted.
If you do write for them, they'll review and edit your articles before publishing, to make sure you publish the most polished article possible. They'll also share your articles on their social media platforms to help more people read them.
Hackernoon has over 7,000 writers and could be a great platform for you to start publishing your articles to the over 200,000 daily readers in the community.
Hacker Noon supports writers by proofreading their articles before publishing them on the platform, helping them avoid common mistakes.
Just like in every other field, there are various processes, rules, best practices, and so on in Technical Writing.
Taking a course on technical writing will help guide you through every thing you need to learn and can also give you a major confidence boost to kick start your writing journey.
Here are some technical writing courses you can check out:
- Google Technical Writing Course (Free)
- Udemy Technical Writing Course (Paid)
- Hashnode Technical Writing Bootcamp (Free)
Technical Writing Forums and Communities
Alone we can do so little, together, we can do so much ~ Helen Keller
Being part of a community or forum along with people who share same passion as you is beneficial. You can get feedback, corrections, tips and even learn some style tips from other writers in the community.
Here are some communities and forums for you to join:
- Technical Writing World
- Technical Writer Forum
- Write the Docs Forum
Some Amazing Technical Writers to follow
In my technical writing journey, I've come and followed some great technical writers whose writing journey, consistency, and style inspire me.
These are the writers whom I look up to and consider virtual mentors on technical writing. Sometimes, they drop technical writing tips that I find helpful and have learned a lot from.
Here are some of those writers (hyperlinked with their twitter handles):
- Quincy Larson
- Edidiong Asikpo
- Catalin Pit
- Victoria Lo
- Bolaji Ayodeji
- Amruta Ranade
- Chris Bongers
- Colby Fayock
You do not need a degree in technical writing to start putting out technical content. You can start writing on your personal blog and public GitHub repositories while building your portfolio and gaining practical experience.
Really – Just Start Writing.
Practice by creating new documents for existing programs or projects. There are a number of open source projects on GitHub that you can check out and add to their documentation.
Is there an app that you love to use, but its documentation is poorly written? Write your own and share it online for feedback. You can also quickly set up your blog on hashnode and start writing.
You learn to write by writing, and by reading and thinking about how writers have created their characters and invented their stories. If you are not a reader, don't even think about being a writer. - Jean M. Auel
Technical writers are always learning . By diving into new subject areas and receiving external feedback, a good writer never stops honing their craft.
Of course, good writers are also voracious readers. By reviewing highly-read or highly-used documents, your own writing will definitely improve.
Can't wait to see your technical articles!
Introduction to Technical Writing
How to structure a technical article
Understanding your audience, the why and how
Technical Writing template
I hope this was helpful. If so, follow me on Twitter and let me know!
Amarachi is a front end web developer, technical writer and educator who is interested in building developer communities.
If you read this far, tweet to the author to show them you care. Tweet a thanks
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The Writing Cooperative
Feb 1, 2020
How to Write Articles That Sell: A Beginner’s Guide to Freelance Writing
Everything you need to write content editors want to buy, the secret of good article writing.
Anyone with a basic grasp of grammar and syntax can write an article. But, as I soon learned when I started out , if you want to make a living, you must learn how to write articles that sell. As a new freelance writer, you’ll generate most of your income by writing articles published in print or online.
Magazines, newspapers, commercial blogs, and informational websites are always hungry for fresh, original content. Even when writing white papers, business-to-business communications, email campaigns, advertising, marketing copy, reports, guidelines or handbooks, the article structure is always your starting point.
The secret to good article writing is to understand how to plan and structure a piece before you write it. A well-structured article allows you to use your writing skills to best advantage and communicate your ideas correctly, concisely, clearly, coherently, and completely. The key to good structure is good planning.
Each article you write should include:
- an appropriate title
- an opening paragraph
- the main discussion
- a closing paragraph
Let’s look at each element in more detail.
Crafting a good article title
New writers often overlook how important titles are. But you must craft a title that’s informative and enticing. It’s the first thing an editor reads. Make sure it’s not the last. A good title communicates at a glance what your article is about, the target readership, and the questions the article promises to answer.
Take the title of this article as an example.
“How to Write Articles” tells you it’s an instructional piece about article writing. “That Sell” informs you it’s aimed at writers who want to make money. “A Beginner’s Guide” lets you know the target audience are new or aspiring writers rather than seasoned hacks, and “to Freelance Writing” defines the niche. The question the title promises to answer is, “How can I write an article an editor is likely to buy?”
How to write a title for an online article
I wrote this article for publication online. That means most readers will discover it via a search engine. So the title structure includes popular search terms known as “keywords”. The keywords in this article title are:
- how to write
- how to write articles
- write articles that sell
Choosing keywords people type into search engines is essential if you want readers to find your article online. If you’re writing for the web, your title should include at least one keyword. But you must incorporate the keyword or keyword phrase in a way which seems natural. While it’s important to make your title easy for search engines to discover, you must remember your readers aren’t search algorithms but people.
Unless requested by the editor, you should avoid “click bait” titles. Editors associate them with spam, sensationalism, and dishonesty. Typical click bait titles are things like, “She Didn’t Know Anyone Was Watching… Until This Happened” and “10 Things Children Do When Their Parents Aren’t Looking. Number 7 Will Shock You”. You still see click bait titles, but they are falling out of fashion. Aim for something better.
In summary, a good title for an online article should include:
- a search-friendly keyword or keyword phrase
- the subject the article covers
- the target readership
- a question it promises to answer
How to write a title for print publication
Treat the title for a print article in a different way. There’s no need to use keywords as the reader either subscribes to the publication or picks it up at a newsstand. It’s unnecessary to mention the readership because the branding, cover design, and editorial style already target someone who buys a newspaper or magazine. But you still need your title to show something of the article’s content and raise questions in the reader’s mind.
While online titles must be unambiguous and search-friendly, you can be more creative with titles for print publication. Above all, magazine headlines must be eye-catching. Puns, ambiguity, allusion, and humor can all work.
Imagine your article is for a gardening magazine and your subject winter-flowering border plants. “5 Easy to Grow Plants that Flower in Winter” would be a good online title. But for a print magazine you could try, “Add Warmth this Winter with Naked Ladies”. As keen gardeners know, “Naked Lady” is the common name for Amaryllis belladonna , a popular plant which flowers late Fall. Without the constraint of keywords you can have more fun. While many editors still like a title to illustrate the article’s content, in print it’s often more important for a headline to pique curiosity than to inform.
Take time crafting titles. Always study your market, or the publisher’s guidelines, and conform to the editor’s preferred style. One last word about titles: prepare for editors to rewrite or replace them. It happens. The final decision on headlines is the editor’s prerogative. But whether your title finds its way into print or not, learning to craft a good title is the first step in understanding how to write articles that sell.
How to write a strong opening paragraph
If your title has done its job, the editor will read on. The first paragraph is the most important part of your article, and the first sentence is the most important part of the opening paragraph. The first paragraph has a lot of work to do. It should:
- hook the reader’s attention
- apply to the title’s promise
- arouse curiosity
- lead in to the rest of the article
If the opening is illogical, dull, or irrelevant you’ll lose the editor’s interest. It won’t matter how good the rest of the article is because the editor won’t read it. Keep your sentences short. Be clear, coherent, and concise. The editor shouldn’t have to work out what you want to say. You should say it. The most common reason for a form rejection is a weak opening. If you want to learn how to write articles that sell, make sure you invest time and talent in crafting your opening paragraph.
How to write the main body of an article
When you write the main body of your article, use the same style as you did for your opening paragraph. In a short piece the body may contain as few as three paragraphs. In a long-from article you might write dozens. But in every case the logical flow of ideas from one paragraph to the next must be seamless.
Each paragraph should have a central idea. Explain the idea and support it with facts. Vary the lengths of paragraphs to manage the pace of your article. The main body should be coherent, with each idea building on the one before it, starting with the attention-grabbing opener and progressing to a satisfying conclusion.
Tailor the length of an article to the demands of the market for which it’s written. If your article falls short of the required word count, don’t pad it with superfluous waffle. Go back to your research and find more facts to add to the piece.
If you find you have more information than you can fit to the article’s length, don’t cram it in at the expense of clarity and coherence. Select the essential facts to support your argument and cut the rest. You can always use the information in another article.
It’s hard for new writers to sell opinion pieces. I recommend you stick to factual articles at the outset. If you want to learn how to write articles that sell, remember the market for information is bigger than the market for opinions. It’s also easier to plan a well-structured factual article than an opinion piece.
In summary, the main body should include:
- a series of paragraphs in logical sequence
- a central idea in each paragraph
- supporting facts and information
How to write a good closing paragraph or conclusion
A good closing paragraph is often short. While researching and writing your article, focus on what you are trying to say and say it fully and clearly. Don’t introduce new information in the closing paragraph. If you’ve done your job well, there should be little left to say when you reach your conclusion.
Three of the most common styles of closing paragraph are:
- a concise summary of the article
- asking the reader a question
- answering the article question
If you write a summary conclusion, keep it short and sweet. Three sentences should be plenty. You should answer the question your article raised in its opening paragraph by the time you reach the end. But it’s effective to close with a new question which follows from what has gone before. This technique works well online to encourage lively discussion in the comments. If the main body of your article has laid out a logical argument but not yet answered the question raised, the closing paragraph is the place to answer it.
What to do after you’ve written your article
When your article is complete, you’ll be eager to submit it. Don’t. It’s probable that despite all your hard work the article is not yet in a saleable condition. Learning how to write articles that sell involves learning to revise.
Put your article to one side and work on something else. Leave it for several days before rereading it. Then read it three times.
Check the facts
The first time check all your facts are correct. It’s risky to rely on memory. If your article includes quotations from another work, proper nouns and dates, verify your facts using multiple sources. If an editor buys an article and finds it’s misleading or inaccurate, you’ll never sell another article to that publication. And remember, editors talk to each other. It’s in everybody’s interests you make sure you get your facts straight.
Rewrite your article
Read your article a second time. Use red ink or the delete key and cut out every unnecessary word or phrase. Rephrase sentences to make them shorter and clearer. Remove clichés. Be as unforgiving and critical as you dare.
Proofread your article
In the third pass, proofread your article, which means checking spelling and grammar for errors. I recommend printing a copy of your article or changing the font in your word processor before proofreading. It’s easy to miss errors in a text you wrote yourself. Changing its appearance helps you see it with fresh eyes. Sub-editors will correct remaining issues, but it’s not their first responsibility. To make a successful career as a freelance writer, take pride in your work and make it the best you can.
Now put your article aside once more. The following day give it one more pass to make sure it’s in keeping with the publisher’s guidelines, reads well, is logical, clear, and complete. You might like to copy the following checklist.
Article pre-submission check list
Does your article include:.
- An appropriate title?
- A strong opening paragraph?
- A logical and complete main body?
- A concise closing paragraph?
- A central idea in each paragraph?
- Supporting facts and information?
- Facts checked for accuracy?
- Correct spelling and grammar?
Finally, submit your work for publication
Read the submission guidelines for your publication and follow them. If there’s anything you don’t understand, contact the editor and ask for clarification.
Most publications today expect electronic submissions. Follow the editor’s requirements for layout, font, and font size. Editors may ask you to attach documents or paste articles into the body of an email. Check attachments are in an acceptable format such as .doc, .docx, .rtf, or PDF. Some publications use online submissions portals. In that case, go to the portal, sign up, and follow the instructions.
If you must make a postal submission, print your work on good quality white paper in black ink with inch-wide margins. Make sure your name and contact details appear on your cover letter and the first page of your article, along with the title, your name, and a word count. Print a new copy for each submission you make. Nothing is more off-putting to an editor than to receive a dog-eared copy which has done the rounds.
Keep your cover letter brief, polite, and to the point. Address the editor by name. The editor will decide whether to buy your article on its own merits and has no interest in your biography unless it’s pertinent to the article’s content. If your article is about swarthy pirates and you are a swarthy pirate, you should say so. Otherwise, omit personal details. Likewise, when submitting an article, there’s no advantage in mentioning previous publication credits.
A good cover letter is as simple as this:
Dear [Editor’s name]
Please consider the [enclosed/attached] [word count] word article, [Title] for publication in [Name of publication].
Thank you for your kind consideration. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
What to do when you’ve submitted your article
The final aspect of learning how to write articles that sell is to understand the need for productivity. The more articles you write and submit, the greater your chances of making a sale.
So when you’ve sent an article off, don’t sit around waiting for a reply. Make a note of the submission details in your records, forget about it , and set to work on the next piece.
You may be wondering how to find markets keen to buy your work. To keep up a steady flow of saleable articles, you need to know how to do effective market research. If you’d like to learn everything you need to do just that, read this next:
The Complete Guide to Market Research for Freelance Writers
Step-by-step research techniques to 10x your article sales.
If you enjoyed this story and would like full access to more great reading, why not subscribe?
Your membership fee directly supports Austin Hackney and other writers you read. You’ll also get full, unlimited access to every story on Medium including feature articles locked behind the paywall. Sounds good? Join us!
Interesting fact: I wrote the first draft of this article in about 20 minutes using my ‘1k Every Day’ technique. It helps writers generate an endless stream of ideas and outlines for articles and stories. No catch, no sign-up, no fee, no up-sell. Just a simple explanation of a powerful technique. It’s all explained here .
‘1k Every Day’ slogan © Austin Hackney (2022)
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How to learn to code: Our beginner's guide to coding & programming
Learning how to code will allow you to do everything from build complex apps to make your smart lights flash when you receive an email. Here's our guide on how to get started.
What language should I learn?
What platform should i write code on, what apps should i write code in, where can i learn online, how can i get support, will chatgpt make learning to code redundant, how can i stay motivated, how long will it take to learn to code.
To survive in the modern world you need certain life skills: Skills like knowing how to turn off motion smoothing on your parents’ TV, or how to perform the latest TikTok dance. But perhaps more than anything else, it is knowing how to code that will prove the most life changing.
If you can master the most modern tools of the coding trade, then you can unlock new job opportunities, a higher income, and spend less time on menial admin tasks that code can do for you. But how do you get started with coding? What are the first steps? Read on to find out.
But first, be sure to check out the Live Science guide on coding vs programming (opens in new tab) if you're not sure what coding actually is yet. When you're all set up and ready to code, Live Science also has a best laptops for coding (opens in new tab) guide.
Ultimately, choosing which language to learn depends on what you want to do. For example, if you want to build iPhone apps, then a great place to start might be with Swift. This high-level programming language lets you generate basic apps with standard features like menus, and buttons, in just a few lines of code.
If you want to jump in at the deep end and build complex software, C# is the place to go (or Rust, if you want to learn a cutting-edge language). But if you just want to go with something simple, the best place to start is with Python, which is both easy to pick up and pretty powerful. Python is incredibly useful for countless small computing tasks that might otherwise take you hours in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
If you want an absolutely fool-proof way to start, pick up a Raspberry Pi. It’s a tiny computer about the size of your palm, but fully functional, and can be used either with a monitor and keyboard/mouse plugged in, or it can run “headless” on your home network, acting as a local web server.
This means that you can run your code on a completely separate computer and, if anything goes wrong, it’s easy to wipe clean and start again — no need to screw with your real, work-critical operating system while experimenting with code.
Another alternative, particularly if you want to develop web apps or write Python scripts, could be to lease a computer in the cloud using Amazon EC2. It’s fiddly to set up, but will grant you access to a remote Linux box on which you can do, well, whatever you like, for a small fee every month.
If you're introducing a child to the world of coding, there are plenty of coding toys available that will teach kids the basics of conditional logic and other major concepts, all without making it seem like hard work.
Every language has a slightly different development environment. Some languages have fully-featured development suites. For example, Apple has Xcode, which is a fully-featured Mac app for writing iPhone, iPad and Mac apps.
But there are also more general purpose apps available. The most popular integrated development environment at the moment is Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code, or VS Code, according to Stack Overflow’s survey. Visual Studio Code works with a number of different languages to highlight the syntax as you write, making it much easier to make sure your variables, strings and classes are all in order.
Finally, if you’re really hardcore and want to feel like you’re in The Matrix, you could always write directly in your operating system’s terminal, using an app like Nano or Emacs. But this probably isn’t the best place to start for absolute beginners.
There are plenty of places you can learn to code online, often for free. Sites like Udemy (opens in new tab) and Code Academy (opens in new tab) will teach you the basics in no-time, splitting the learning up into different courses and lessons, so that you can learn at your own pace in a safe environment.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, sometimes the best way to learn is by doing — and messing around with someone else’s code. The way I learned wasn’t through any formal training, but by taking code written by other people and modifying it to suit my own purposes.
We've put together a guide to the sites that we think offer the best online coding courses out there to help you choose.
The secret that every coder will tell you is that the trick to writing code isn’t storing everything you need to know in your head all at once, it’s knowing where to look to see how everyone else did it before you.
The most powerful tool in the programmer’s arsenal is Google, because when an error message pops up, the chances are that you’re not the first person to see it, and someone will have figured it out and posted the solution on StackOverflow.
StackOverflow is a forum website that works a bit like Reddit. Queries are posted, and the many thousands of helpful coders who hang out there can offer assistance. Just make sure that you thoroughly search to see if your problem has already been solved on an earlier thread before posting!
GitHub is another platform where you can find help when coding. Writing code isn’t like writing a novel, it’s more like a collage, where you can bring in code that someone else has written to solve a particular problem.
For example, if you’re writing a Twitter app using PHP, there’s no need to start from scratch when interacting with the Twitter application programming interface (API), because TwitterOAuth (opens in new tab) already exists, and takes care of most of the hard work for you. Or, want to control your LED lights? Then you can simply use WLED (opens in new tab) to communicate with the guts of the electronics, and instead focus your code on designing intricate patterns.
And finally, one other potential major source of future help could be in the form of ChatGPT, the AI-bot that has captured headlines since it launched on Nov. 30, 2022. ChatGPT doesn’t just speak great English, it can code too, so you can easily ask it to write code for you, explain why a piece of code works the way it does or debut something you’ve written.
It might feel like an unusual time to want to learn to code, given we’re witnessing the generative AI revolution in real time. Tools like ChatGPT (opens in new tab) and GitHub CoPilot (opens in new tab) — another AI tool — are astonishingly capable and can write code for us, to do exactly what we need, with little more than a brief text prompt. So, is AI going to make learning to code pointless?
No, but it's going to change how we code. Though it's still early days, in the future, AI tools like ChatGPT are going to become for coders what calculators are to accountants and mathematicians: Useful tools for solving particular problems, but just as a calculator can’t tell you whether certain purchases could reasonably qualify as expenses, an AI assistant can’t make sure your software is doing exactly what you need it to do.
It’s still important to know how to code — just as a mathematician needs to know how long division works, even if they don’t need to do it themselves every time.
Making your code work isn’t always easy. In good times, writing code is like solving dozens of little logic puzzles, and can give you the same rush of endorphins as when you complete a tricky crossword or Sudoku. But in the bad times, any children nearby are going to learn a few new swear words, as you curse your computer for not compiling the code you have written, or not doing the thing that you want it to do.
Getting past this comes easier to some, as we covered when we looked at why some people are more motivated than others , but we've put some general tips below to help you keep your drive up.
How can you stop yourself from rage quitting? One way is to make sure that you’re not just trying to learn for learning’s sake, but to find a real world problem that you want to use code to solve. Thinking to yourself “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could take this data from one source, and put it into another?” will lead you down the rabbit hole of learning about how to interact with databases and APIs, or wondering if you can make your smart lights flash when you receive an email will teach you about interacting with hardware, and so on.
And if you solve enough little "problems" like this, the knowledge will slowly add up.
If you learn by doing, and put time into it, you’ll build up your basic skills in a matter of weeks and months. But you’ll never “finish” learning how to code. Platforms and programming languages are constantly evolving.
Sometimes, transformative new technologies will shake up everything we thought we knew — like the birth of AI — so it’s important to keep your skills sharp and continue learning. But the good news is, that’s the fun part!
And who knows, maybe you'll eventually get good enough to hack time like Hackerman. That's why we're all here, after all, right?
James O’Malley is a freelance technology writer and data wrangler. He was previously editor of Gizmodo UK, and over the years has written for everywhere from Wired, Engineering & Technology, TechRadar, Which? Computing, and PC Pro. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations and takes every opportunity to flex his coding muscles.
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How Children Learn to Write
Writing is a complex skill that is mastered over time. Here is what parents need to know.
When you’re looking at writing milestones, remember to consider that every child’s motor development happens at a different pace. (Getty Images)
Long before children enter a formal education setting, they are developing the skills that lay the foundation for learning to write.
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From fine motor skills to the complexities of vocabulary and sentence structure, it takes years for children to fully hone their writing technique. And while all children develop at their own speed, education experts say that writing milestones can be expected based on a child’s age.
The process of learning to write starts early, says Breeyn Mack, vice president of educational content at Teaching Strategies, an education technology company in Maryland. Think of an infant seated at a high chair, using their fingers to make forms in their yogurt.
“That’s really the start of emergent writing,” she says. “It continues as older infants and toddlers start to make marks on paper, and then it progresses.”
Toddlers can engage in experiences that support future reading and writing, says Allison Wilson, senior director of curriculum and innovation at Stratford School in California.
“Fine motor control and drawing are young children’s first steps toward writing,” she says. “Then they progress to scribbles before reaching conventional writing and spelling.”
The Process of Writing
While developing the fine motor control required for writing is vital, it can be painful if children are forced to write before their muscles are ready, says Donna Whittaker, vice president of curriculum and education at Big Blue Marble Academy, an organization with more than 40 schools, predominantly in the southeast.
“Young children can build (these) muscles by manipulating small objects, drawing, scribbling, painting, smearing, playing with Play-Doh, scooping, pouring and squeezing,” Whittaker says.
By kindergarten, children work not only on letter formation but writing simple words, structuring sentences and copying simple, two-to-three-sentence paragraphs, says Elizabeth DeWitt, a curriculum expert at Learning Without Tears, which provides educational materials for parents and teachers. Each year thereafter, the rigor increases, she says.
“It’s the academic practice that’s really important because we want this skill (writing) to transfer to every subject of the day,” DeWitt says.
Writing Milestones By Age
Development varies from child to child, says Karen Aronian, an educator and parenting expert in New York. So when you’re looking at writing milestones, remember to consider that every child’s motor development happens at a different pace.
“If you notice delays, consult with your pediatrician to have your child evaluated,” she says. “Early intervention is vital, and an occupational therapist can assist.”
- 12-18 months. Children may begin making purposeful marks and scribbles while grasping a crayon, marker or pencil in a closed fist.
- 18 months-2 years. Children can grip writing implements with their finger and thumb, but they are using arm movements to draw or scribble.
- 2-3 years. Children will typically be able to hold a crayon with their fingers, though their grip is still evolving. “Children should now be able to mimic how to draw vertical and horizontal lines and a circle,” Aronian says.
- 3-4 years. Preschoolers can draw vertical and horizontal lines, circles and intersecting lines on their own and begin to copy letters, numbers and symbols. They’ll also be able to trace, remaining on the lines most of the time.
- 4-5 years. Older preschoolers will display a preference to write with one hand, draw a simple stick figure, copy intersecting lines and simple shapes, connect dots, draw a line inside a maze, trace their hand and copy their names using fingers and hands to write instead of arm movement.
- 5-6 years. Kindergarteners can hold a standard pencil with a dominant hand, draw a detailed stick figure with a face, print their own name, copy most lower and uppercase letters (and numbers 1 through 5), and trace curved lines, triangles and diamonds.
- 6-7 years. By age 6, children can print the entire alphabet and numbers from 1 through 10 by memory. Between ages 6 and 7, they can write the alphabet without skipping letters or alternating between uppercase and lowercase, Aronian says.
- 7-8 years. Children are trying their best to write clearly in a straight line while maintaining a space between index finger and thumb in their grip. They can write many words, know to write from left to right across a page, and attempt to form letters of a uniform size, though they may still cluster words together.
- 8-9 years. Children can write complete sentences with proper capitalization and punctuation.
The Link Between Reading and Writing
Reading and writing usually develop together, says Robin Erwin, an associate professor of education at Niagara University in New York. He said they are sometimes described as reciprocal processes.
“Reading supports writing development, and writing supports reading development,” he says.
The more your child does both, the stronger their overall literacy skills will be, says Wilson, and children thrive on modeled behaviors at an early age. Listening to stories, poems and other texts helps children experience the writing process.
“By orally retelling stories, drawing or acting out read-alouds, young children understand narrative or story structure,” Wilson says. “They then can apply that to their own stories.”
How Parents Can Help
To write stories, young children must learn to generate ideas, elaborate upon them and then sequence and connect them coherently. Education experts say parents can play a strong role in helping that process.
“Children develop these skills through scaffolded play, storytelling, writing practice, and in conversations, particularly with adults and older children,” Wilson says.
When reading to their children, parents can encourage them to retell the stories in their own words or reimagine the ending, Wilson says. Parents can also model writing at home by making grocery lists or taking children on a nature walk and labeling the items they collect together, Mack says. Having children use sidewalk chalk to write a note to a friend is another idea.
“We should never have children write just because it’s time to write,” Mack says. “We’re writing to share an idea, we’re writing to document our findings or we’re writing to convey meaning.”
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How to write an article
The complete guide to writing an article.
THE CRAFT OF ARTICLE WRITING
Writing is a complex skill. A very complex skill.
Not only do we put students under pressure to master the inconsistent spelling patterns and complex grammar of the English language, but we require them to know how to write for a variety of purposes in both fiction and nonfiction genres.
On top of this, writing is just one aspect of one subject among many.
The best way to help our students to overcome the challenge of writing in any genre is to help them to break things down into their component parts and give them a basic formula to follow.
In this article, we will break article writing down into its components and present a formulaic approach that will provide a basic structure for our students to follow.
Once this structure is mastered, students can, of course, begin to play with things.
But, until then, there is plenty of room within the discipline of the basic structure for students to express themselves in the article form.
A COMPLETE UNIT ON TEACHING NEWS REPORTING IN 2022
With over FORTY GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS in this ENGAGING UNIT, you can complete a WEEKLY journalistic / Newspaper reporting task ALL YEAR LONG in 2022 as classwork or homework.
These templates take students through a PROVEN four-step article writing process on some AMAZING images. Students will learn how to.
WHAT IS AN ARTICLE?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines an article as, “a piece of writing on a particular subject in a newspaper or magazine, or on the internet.”
An article’s shape and structure will vary depending on whether it’s intended for publication in a newspaper, magazine, or online.
Each of these media has its own requirements. For example, a magazine feature article may go into great depth on a topic, allowing for long evocative paragraphs of exposition, while an online blog article may be full of lots of short paragraphs that get to the point without too much fanfare.
Each of these forms makes different demands on the writer and it’s for this reason that most newspapers, magazines, and big websites provide writers with specific submission guidelines.
So, with such diverse demands placed on article writers, how do we go about teaching the diverse skill required to our students?
Luckily, we can break most types of articles down into some common key features.
Below we’ll take a look at the most important of these, along with an activity to get your students practicing each aspect right away.
Finally, we’ll take a look at a few general tips on article writing.
KEY WRITTEN FEATURES OF AN ARTICLE
The purpose of the headline is to capture the reader’s attention and let them know what the article is about. All of this in usually no more than 4 or 5 words!
There is an art to good headline writing and all sorts of literary devices (e.g alliteration and metaphor) can be used to create an eye-catching and intriguing headline.
The best way for students to learn how headlines work is to view some historical samples.
Newspaper headlines especially are known for being short and pithy. Here are just a few examples to whet the appetite:
- Hitler Is Dead
- Lincoln Shot
- Men Walk On The Moon
- Berlin Wall Crumbles
You could encourage students to find some pithy examples of their own. It’s amazing how much information can be condensed into so few words – this is the essence of good headline writing.
Headlines Practice Activity:
Give students opportunities to practice headline writing in isolation from article writing itself. For example, take sample stories from newspapers and magazines and challenge students to write new headlines for them. Set a word limit appropriate to the skills and age of the students. For example, younger, more inexperienced students might write 9-word headlines, while older, more skilled students might thrive with the challenge of a 4-word limit.
Subheadings give the reader more information on what the article is about. For this reason, they’re often a little longer than headlines and use a smaller font, though still larger (or in bold) than the font used in the body of the text.
Subheadings provide a little more of the necessary detail to inform readers what’s going on. If a headline is a jab, the subheading is the cross.
In magazines and online articles especially, there are often subheadings throughout the article. In this context, they let the reader know what each paragraph/section is about.
Subheadings also help the reader’s eye to scan the article and quickly get a sense of the story, for the writer they help immensely to organize the structure of the story.
One way to help organize paragraphs in an article is to use parallel structure.
Parallel structure is when we use similar words, phrases, and grammar structures. We might see this being used in a series of subheadings in a ‘How to’ article where the subheadings all start with an imperative such as choose , attach , cut , etc.
Have you noticed how all the sections in this ‘Key Features’ part of this article start simply with the word ‘The’? This is another example of a parallel structure.
Yet another example of parallel structure is when all the subheadings appear in the form of a question.
Whichever type of parallel structure students use, they need to be sure that they all in some way relate to the original title of the article.
To give students a chance to practice writing subheadings using parallel structure, instruct them to write subheadings for a piece of text that doesn’t already have them.
THE BODY PARAGRAPHS
Writing good, solid paragraphs is an art in itself. Luckily, you’ll find comprehensive guidance on this aspect of writing articles elsewhere on this site.
But, for now, let’s take a look at some general considerations for students when writing articles.
The length of the paragraphs will depend on the medium. For example, for online articles paragraphs are generally brief and to the point. Usually no more than a sentence or two and rarely more than five.
This style is often replicated in newspapers and magazines of a more tabloid nature.
Short paragraphs allow for more white space on the page or screen. This is much less daunting for the reader and makes it easier for them to focus their attention on what’s being said – a crucial advantage in these attention-hungry times.
Lots of white space makes articles much more readable on devices with smaller screens such as phones and tablets. Chunking information into brief paragraphs enables online readers to scan articles more quickly too, which is how much of the information on the internet is consumed – I do hope you’re not scanning this!
Conversely, articles that are written more formally, for example, academic articles, can benefit from longer paragraphs which allow for more space to provide supporting evidence for the topic sentence.
Deciding on the length of paragraphs in an article can be done by first thinking about the intended audience, the purpose of the article, as well as the nature of the information to be communicated.
A fun activity to practice paragraphing is to organize your students into groups and provide them with a copy of an article with the original paragraph breaks removed. In their groups, students read the article and decide on where they think the paragraphs should go.
To do this successfully, they’ll need to consider the type of publication they think the article is intended for, the purpose of the article, the language level, and the nature of the information.
When the groups have finished adding in their paragraph breaks they can share and compare their decisions with the other groups before you finally reveal where the breaks were in the original article.
Article Photos and Captions
Photos and captions aren’t always necessary in articles, but when they are, our students must understand how to make the most of them.
Just like the previous key features on our list, there are specific things students need to know to make the most of this specific aspect of article writing.
The internet has given us the gift of access to innumerable copyright-free images to accompany our articles, but what criteria should students use when choosing an image?
To choose the perfect accompanying image/s for their article, students need to identify images that match the tone of their article.
Quirky or risque images won’t match the more serious tone of an academic article well, but they might work perfectly for that feature of tattoo artists.
Photos are meant to bring value to an article – they speak a thousand words after all. It’s important then that the image is of a high enough resolution that the detail of those ‘thousand words’ is clearly visible to the reader.
Just as the tone of the photo should match the tone of the article, the tone of the caption should match the tone of the photo.
Captions should be informative and engaging. Often, the first thing a reader will look at in an article is the photos and then the caption. Frequently, they’ll use the information therein to decide whether or not they’ll continue to read.
When writing captions, students must avoid redundancy. They need to add information to that which is already available to the reader by looking at the image.
There’s no point merely describing in words what the reader can clearly see with their own two eyes. Students should describe things that are not immediately obvious, such as date, location, or the name of the event.
One last point, captions should be written in the present tense. By definition, the photo will show something that has happened already. Despite this, students should write as if the action in the image is happening right now.
Remind students that their captions should be brief; they must be careful not to waste words with such a tight format.
For this fun activity, you’ll need some old magazines and newspapers. Cut some of the photos out minus their captions. All the accompanying captions should be cut out and jumbled up. It’s the students’ job to match each image with the correct accompanying caption.
Students can present their decisions and explanations when they’ve finished.
A good extension exercise would be to challenge the students to write a superior caption for each of the images they’ve worked on.
TOP 5 TIPS FOR ARTICLE WRITING
Now your students have the key features of article writing sewn up tightly, let’s take a look at a few quick and easy tips to help them polish up their general article writing skills.
1. Read Widely – Reading widely, all manner of articles, is the best way students can internalize some of the habits of good article writing. Luckily, with the internet, it’s easy to find articles on any topic of interest at the click of a mouse.
2. Choose Interesting Topics – It’s hard to engage the reader when the writer is not themselves engaged. Be sure students choose article topics that pique their own interest (as far as possible!).
3. Research and Outline – Regardless of the type of article the student is writing, some research will be required. The research will help an article take shape in the form of an outline. Without these two crucial stages, articles run the danger of wandering aimlessly and, worse still, of containing inaccurate information and details.
4. Keep Things Simple – All articles are about communicating information in one form or another. The most effective way of doing this is to keep things easily understood by the reader. This is especially true when the topic is complex.
5. Edit and Proofread – This can be said of any type of writing, but it still bears repeating. Students need to ensure they comprehensively proofread and edit their work when they’ve ‘finished’. The importance of this part of the writing process can’t be overstated.
And to Conclude…
With time and plenty of practice, students will soon internalize the formula as outlined above.
This will enable students to efficiently research, outline, and structure their ideas before writing.
This ability, along with the general tips mentioned, will soon enable your students to produce well-written articles on a wide range of topics to meet the needs of a diverse range of audiences.
HUGE WRITING CHECKLIST & RUBRIC BUNDLE
TUTORIAL VIDEO ON HOW TO WRITE AN ARTICLE
The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
A FULL-YEAR of NONFICTION WRITING RESOURCES for busy teachers.
A whole teaching unit on writing news reports ..
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Learning to Learn
- Erika Andersen
Mental tools to help you master new skills
The ever-increasing pace of change in today’s organizations requires that executives understand and then quickly respond to constant shifts in how their businesses operate and how work must get done. That means you must resist your innate biases against doing new things in new ways, scan the horizon for growth opportunities, and push yourself to acquire drastically different capabilities—while still doing your existing job. To succeed, you must be willing to experiment and become a novice over and over again, which for most of us is an extremely discomforting proposition.
Over decades of work with managers, the author has found that people who do succeed at this kind of learning have four well-developed attributes: aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability. They have a deep desire to understand and master new skills; they see themselves very clearly; they’re constantly thinking of and asking good questions; and they tolerate their own mistakes as they move up the curve. Andersen has identified some fairly simple mental strategies that anyone can use to boost these attributes.
Organizations today are in constant flux. Industries are consolidating, new business models are emerging, new technologies are being developed, and consumer behaviors are evolving. For executives, the ever-increasing pace of change can be especially demanding. It forces them to understand and quickly respond to big shifts in the way companies operate and how work must get done. In the words of Arie de Geus, a business theorist, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
I’m not talking about relaxed armchair or even structured classroom learning. I’m talking about resisting the bias against doing new things, scanning the horizon for growth opportunities, and pushing yourself to acquire radically different capabilities—while still performing your job. That requires a willingness to experiment and become a novice again and again: an extremely discomforting notion for most of us.
Over decades of coaching and consulting to thousands of executives in a variety of industries, however, my colleagues and I have come across people who succeed at this kind of learning. We’ve identified four attributes they have in spades: aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability. They truly want to understand and master new skills; they see themselves very clearly; they constantly think of and ask good questions; and they tolerate their own mistakes as they move up the learning curve.
Of course, these things come more naturally to some people than to others. But, drawing on research in psychology and management as well as our work with clients, we have identified some fairly simple mental tools anyone can develop to boost all four attributes—even those that are often considered fixed (aspiration, curiosity, and vulnerability).
It’s easy to see aspiration as either there or not: You want to learn a new skill or you don’t; you have ambition and motivation or you lack them. But great learners can raise their aspiration level—and that’s key, because everyone is guilty of sometimes resisting development that is critical to success.
Think about the last time your company adopted a new approach—overhauled a reporting system, replaced a CRM platform, revamped the supply chain. Were you eager to go along? I doubt it. Your initial response was probably to justify not learning. (It will take too long. The old way works just fine for me. I bet it’s just a flash in the pan.) When confronted with new learning, this is often our first roadblock: We focus on the negative and unconsciously reinforce our lack of aspiration.
When we do want to learn something, we focus on the positive—what we’ll gain from learning it—and envision a happy future in which we’re reaping those rewards. That propels us into action. Researchers have found that shifting your focus from challenges to benefits is a good way to increase your aspiration to do initially unappealing things. For example, when Nicole Detling, a psychologist at the University of Utah, encouraged aerialists and speed skaters to picture themselves benefiting from a particular skill, they were much more motivated to practice it.
A few years ago I coached a CMO who was hesitant to learn about big data. Even though most of his peers were becoming converts, he’d convinced himself that he didn’t have the time to get into it and that it wouldn’t be that important to his industry. I finally realized that this was an aspiration problem and encouraged him to think of ways that getting up to speed on data-driven marketing could help him personally. He acknowledged that it would be useful to know more about how various segments of his customer base were responding to his team’s online advertising and in-store marketing campaigns. I then invited him to imagine the situation he’d be in a year later if he was getting that data. He started to show some excitement, saying, “We would be testing different approaches simultaneously, both in-store and online; we’d have good, solid information about which ones were working and for whom; and we could save a lot of time and money by jettisoning the less effective approaches faster.” I could almost feel his aspiration rising. Within a few months he’d hired a data analytics expert, made a point of learning from her on a daily basis, and begun to rethink key campaigns in light of his new perspective and skills.
Over the past decade or so, most leaders have grown familiar with the concept of self-awareness. They understand that they need to solicit feedback and recognize how others see them. But when it comes to the need for learning, our assessments of ourselves—what we know and don’t know, skills we have and don’t have—can still be woefully inaccurate. In one study conducted by David Dunning, a Cornell University psychologist, 94% of college professors reported that they were doing “above average work.” Clearly, almost half were wrong—many extremely so—and their self-deception surely diminished any appetite for development. Only 6% of respondents saw themselves as having a lot to learn about being an effective teacher.
Focusing on benefits, not challenges, is a good way to increase your aspiration.
In my work I’ve found that the people who evaluate themselves most accurately start the process inside their own heads: They accept that their perspective is often biased or flawed and then strive for greater objectivity, which leaves them much more open to hearing and acting on others’ opinions. The trick is to pay attention to how you talk to yourself about yourself and then question the validity of that “self-talk.”
Let’s say your boss has told you that your team isn’t strong enough and that you need to get better at assessing and developing talent. Your initial reaction might be something like What? She’s wrong. My team is strong. Most of us respond defensively to that sort of criticism. But as soon as you recognize what you’re thinking, ask yourself, Is that accurate? What facts do I have to support it? In the process of reflection you may discover that you’re wrong and your boss is right, or that the truth lies somewhere in between—you cover for some of your reports by doing things yourself, and one of them is inconsistent in meeting deadlines; however, two others are stars. Your inner voice is most useful when it reports the facts of a situation in this balanced way. It should serve as a “fair witness” so that you’re open to seeing the areas in which you could improve and how to do so.
One CEO I know was convinced that he was a great manager and leader. He did have tremendous industry knowledge and great instincts about growing his business, and his board acknowledged those strengths. But he listened only to people who affirmed his view of himself and dismissed input about shortcomings; his team didn’t feel engaged or inspired. When he finally started to question his assumptions (Is everyone on my team focused and productive? If not, is there something I could be doing differently?), he became much more aware of his developmental needs and open to feedback. He realized that it wasn’t enough to have strategic insights; he had to share them with his reports and invite discussion, and then set clear priorities—backed by quarterly team and individual goals, regular progress checks, and troubleshooting sessions.
Kids are relentless in their urge to learn and master. As John Medina writes in Brain Rules, “This need for explanation is so powerfully stitched into their experience that some scientists describe it as a drive, just as hunger and thirst and sex are drives.” Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it. Great learners retain this childhood drive, or regain it through another application of self-talk. Instead of focusing on and reinforcing initial disinterest in a new subject, they learn to ask themselves “curious questions” about it and follow those questions up with actions. Carol Sansone, a psychology researcher, has found, for example, that people can increase their willingness to tackle necessary tasks by thinking about how they could do the work differently to make it more interesting. In other words, they change their self-talk from This is boring to I wonder if I could…?
You can employ the same strategy in your working life by noticing the language you use in thinking about things that already interest you— How…? Why…? I wonder…? —and drawing on it when you need to become curious. Then take just one step to answer a question you’ve asked yourself: Read an article, query an expert, find a teacher, join a group—whatever feels easiest.
I recently worked with a corporate lawyer whose firm had offered her a bigger job that required knowledge of employment law—an area she regarded as “the single most boring aspect of the legal profession.” Rather than trying to persuade her otherwise, I asked her what she was curious about and why. “Swing dancing,” she said. “I’m fascinated by the history of it. I wonder how it developed, and whether it was a response to the Depression—it’s such a happy art form. I watch great dancers and think about why they do certain things.”
Changing Your Inner Narrative
I explained that her “curious language” could be applied to employment law. “I wonder how anyone could find it interesting?” she said jokingly. I told her that was actually an OK place to start. She began thinking out loud about possible answers (“Maybe some lawyers see it as a way to protect both their employees and their companies…”) and then proposed a few other curious questions (“How might knowing more about this make me a better lawyer?”).
Soon she was intrigued enough to connect with a colleague who was experienced in employment law. She asked him what he found interesting about it and how he had acquired his knowledge, and his answers prompted other questions. Over the following months she learned what she needed to know for that aspect of her new role.
The next time you’re asked to learn something at the office, or sense that you should because colleagues are doing so, encourage yourself to ask and answer a few curious questions about it— Why are others so excited about this? How might this make my job easier? —and then seek out the answers. You’ll need to find just one thing about a “boring” topic that sparks your curiosity.
Once we become good or even excellent at some things, we rarely want to go back to being not good at other things. Yes, we’re now taught to embrace experimentation and “fast failure” at work. But we’re also taught to play to our strengths. So the idea of being bad at something for weeks or months; feeling awkward and slow; having to ask “dumb,” “I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about” questions; and needing step-by-step guidance again and again is extremely scary. Great learners allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to accept that beginner state. In fact, they become reasonably comfortable in it—by managing their self-talk.
Generally, when we’re trying something new and doing badly at it, we think terrible thoughts: I hate this. I’m such an idiot. I’ll never get this right. This is so frustrating! That static in our brains leaves little bandwidth for learning. The ideal mindset for a beginner is both vulnerable and balanced: I’m going to be bad at this to start with, because I’ve never done it before. AND I know I can learn to do it over time. In fact, the researchers Robert Wood and Albert Bandura found in the late 1980s that when people are encouraged to expect mistakes and learn from them early in the process of acquiring new skills, the result is “heightened interest, persistence, and better performance.”
I know a senior sales manager from the United States who was recently tapped to run the Asia-Pacific region for his company. He was having a hard time acclimating to living overseas and working with colleagues from other cultures, and he responded by leaning on his sales expertise rather than acknowledging his beginner status in the new environment. I helped him recognize his resistance to being a cultural novice, and he was able to shift his self-talk from This is so uncomfortable—I’ll just focus on what I already know to I have a lot to learn about Asian cultures. I’m a quick study, so I’ll be able to pick it up. He told me it was an immediate relief: Simply acknowledging his novice status made him feel less foolish and more relaxed. He started asking the necessary questions, and soon he was seen as open, interested, and beginning to understand his new environment.
The ability to acquire new skills and knowledge quickly and continually is crucial to success in a world of rapid change. If you don’t currently have the aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability to be an effective learner, these simple tools can help you get there.
- Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus International , a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness. In addition to her latest book, Change From the Inside Out: Making You, Your Team, and Your Organization Change-Capable , she is the author and host of The Proteus Leader Show podcast and the author of four previous books: Growing Great Employees , Being Strategic , Leading So People Will Follow , and Be Bad First .
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How to Write Articles
Last Updated: February 4, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Janet Peischel . Janet Peischel is a Writer and Digital Media Expert and the Owner of Top of Mind Marketing. With more than 15 years of consulting experience, she develops content strategies and builds online brands for her clients. Prior to consulting, Janet spent over 15 years in the marketing industry, in positions such as the Vice President of Marketing Communications for the Bank of America. Janet holds a BA and MA from the University of Washington. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 26 testimonials and 80% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 3,221,400 times.
There are a multitude of different types of articles, including news stories, features, profiles, instructional articles, and so on. While each has specific qualities that are unique to its type, all articles share some common characteristics. From forming and researching your idea to writing and editing your work, writing articles can give you a chance to share compelling and important information with readers.
Forming Your Idea
- News: This type of article presents facts about something that happened recently or that will happen in the near future. It usually covers the 5 Ws and H: who, what, where, when, why and how.
- Feature: This type of article presents information in a more creative, descriptive way than a straight news article. It can be an article about a person, a phenomenon, a place, or other subject.
- Editorial: This article presents a writer’s opinions on a topic or debate. It is intended to persuade the reader to think a certain way about a topic.  X Research source
- How-to: This article gives clear instructions and information about how to accomplish some task.
- Profile: This article presents information about a person, using information that the writer typically gathers through interviews and background research.
- What interests you about this topic?
- What is a point that people usually overlook?
- What do you want people to know about this topic?
- For example, if you want to write about organic farming, you might say to yourself, “I think it’s important to know what organic labeling means on food packages. It can be confusing to know what it all means.”
- Your goal is to convey enough passion that your readers think the issue in your article is worth caring about.
- Enter some keywords into an online search engine. This can lead you to sources that write about your topic. These sources can also give you an idea of different approaches to the topic.
- Read as much as you can on the topic. Visit your local library. Consult books, magazine articles, published interviews, and online features as well as news sources, blogs, and databases for information. A good place to start looking for data not apparent on the Internet is the Gale Directory of Databases, which exists in both book format (available in libraries) or online .
- For example, for the organic food topic, you might focus on one grocery shopper who doesn’t understand organic food labeling. Use that opening anecdote to lead into your main argument, known as a "nut graph," which summarizes your unique idea or perspective.
- For example, if you are writing about how one person learns how to read organic labels, your overall argument might be that the public needs to be aware that many companies misuse organic labeling. This leads to dishonest practices in product advertising. Another topic might be: it’s important to know who owns your local media outlets. If corporate media organizations own your local newspaper, you may get very little media coverage of your area and not know much about your community.
- Write your argument in one sentence. Post it near your computer or writing area. This will help you stay focused as you start working on your article.
Researching Your Idea
- Primary sources can include a transcript from a legislative hearing, lawsuit filing, county property indexes with folio numbers, discharge certificates from the military, and photos. Other primary sources could include government written records in the National Archives or special collections sections of your local or university library, insurance policies, corporate financial reports, or personal background reports.
- Secondary sources comprise published databases, books, abstracts, articles in English and other languages, bibliographies, dissertations, and reference books.
- You can find information on the internet or in a library. You can also conduct interviews, watch documentaries, or consult other sources.
- You can make a longer list of evidence and examples. As you gather more evidence, you will be able to prioritize which ones are the strongest examples.
- Don’t assume that one source is completely accurate. You'll need several unrelated sources to get the full picture.
- Choose a citation style sooner rather than later, so you can compile citation information in the correct format. MLA, APA, and Chicago are some of the most common citation styles.
- Don’t copy any text directly from another source. Paraphrase this text instead, and include a citation .
Outlining Your Idea
- For example, if you are writing an article for a specialized academic audience, your tone, and approach will be vastly different from if you’re writing an article for a popular magazine.
- It’s helpful to start with the five-paragraph essay outline.  X Research source This outline devotes one paragraph to an introduction, three paragraphs for supporting evidence, and one paragraph for a conclusion. As you start plugging in information into your outline, you may find that this structure doesn’t suit your article so well.
- You might also find that this structure doesn’t suit certain types of articles. For example, if you’re doing a profile of a person, your article may follow a different format.
- Make sure to fully attribute your quote and use quotation marks around anything that you didn’t write yourself. For example, you might write: A spokesperson for the dairy brand Milktoast says, “Our milk is labeled organic because our cows are only fed organic grass.”
- Don’t overdo the quotes. Be selective about the quotes you do use. If you use too many quotes, your reader might think you’re using them as filler instead of coming up with your material.
Writing Your Article
- Telling an anecdote.
- Using a quote from an interview subject.
- Starting with a statistic.
- Starting with straight facts of the story.
- Be flexible, however. Sometimes when you write, the flow makes sense in a way that is different from your outline. Be ready to change the direction of your piece if it seems to read better that way.
- For example, you might write about the grocery shopper having trouble with organic food labels: “Charlie concentrated on jars of peanut butter on the shelf. The words ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ seemed to jump out at him. Every jar said something different. He felt they were shouting at him: ‘Choose me!’ ‘Buy me!’ The words started swimming in front of his eyes. He left the aisle without buying anything.”
- For example, use words or phrases such as “however…,” “another important point is…,” or “it must be remembered that…”
- For example, a newspaper article will need to offer information in a narrative, chronological format. It should be written with accessible and straightforward language. An academic article will be written with more formal language. A how-to article might be written in more informal language.
- When writing your article, use a strong "anchoring" sentence at the beginning of each paragraph to move your reader forward. Moreover, vary the length of your sentences, both short and long. If you find all your sentences are about the same word length, chances are your reader will be 'lulled" into a standard rhythm and fall asleep. Sentences which are consistently choppy and short may give your reader the impression you are writing advertising copy instead of a well-thought-out article.
- If you started with an anecdote or statistic in your introduction, think about reconnecting to this point in your conclusion.
- Conclusions are often strongest when they use a last, brief, concrete example that leads the reader to new insights. Conclusions should be 'forward-thinking' -- point the reader in a direction that keeps his or her "thirst" for knowledge going strong.
- For example, you could include photographs, charts, or infographics to illustrate some of your points.
- You could also highlight or develop a major point more with a sidebar-type box. This is an extra bit of writing that delves more deeply into one aspect of the subject. For example, if you’re writing about your city’s film festival, you might include a sidebar write-up that highlights one of the films. These types of write-ups are usually short (50-75 words, depending on the publication outlet).
- Remember, these materials are supplemental. This means that your article should stand on its own. Your writing needs to be understandable, clear and focused without the help of charts, photographs or other graphics.
Finalizing Your Work
- Look closely at the central argument or point you’re trying to make. Does everything in your article serve this central argument? Do you have a unrelated paragraph? If so, this paragraph should be eliminated or reframed so that it supports the main argument.
- Eliminate any contradictory information in the article or address the contradictions, showing how the contradictory information is relevant to readers.
- Rewrite sections or the entire thing as necessary. Revisions like this are common for all types of articles, so don’t feel like you’ve failed or are incompetent.
- It’s helpful to print out a hard copy of your article. Go through it with a pen or pencil to catch mistakes. Then go back and correct these mistakes on the computer.
- It is common to be able to identify your mistakes in grammar or writing while reading aloud as well; this could cut down on the feedback that you may receive from someone else.
- This person may also catch errors and inconsistencies that you have overlooked.
- If you want to convey slightly more information, write a sub-headline. This is a secondary sentence that builds on the headline.
Article Outline Template
- Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to write the article. If you don't, you'll be rushing at the last minute to create something that isn't representative of what you can truly do. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- To find out more about using primary research tools and databases, consult the Investigative Reporters and Editors website or get a copy of The Investigative Reporter's Handbook: A Guide to Documents, Databases and Techniques, Fifth Edition. Authors: Brant Houston and Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's 2009). ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Determine whether you actually have an interest in writing. Try writing 2 paragraphs with as much creativity as possible. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- When writing for a newspaper or magazine, do not do so free. Ask what the freelance fee is beforehand. Your pay will usually be calculated on a per-word basis or per-article basis. Your work is valuable. Writing for free makes making a living more difficult for those who depend on freelance fees to pay the bills. If you're just starting out, volunteering to do some articles for smaller community papers, student publications and trade magazines is a great way to build your portfolio. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/journalism/types.html
- ↑ Janet Peischel. Digital Media Expert. Expert Interview. 30 March 2021.
- ↑ https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/writing/creating-a-5-paragraph-essay-outline.html
- ↑ https://www.masterclass.com/articles/why-is-context-important-in-writing#quiz-0
- ↑ http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/166662
About This Article
To write an article, use both primary and secondary sources to gather information about your topic. Primary sources include photos, government records, and personal interviews, while secondary sources include books, abstracts, scholarly journals, other articles, and reference books. When you’re writing, use facts, quotes, and statistics from your sources to support your point, and explain your topic as if the reader has never heard of it before. To learn the different types of articles, including news, features, and editorials, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write a List Correctly: Colons, Commas, and Semicolons
If you want to write a list but aren’t sure about the correct punctuation, look no further. In this article, you’ll learn how to appropriately use colons, commas, and semicolons when making lists.
- Colons are sometimes used to introduce a list.
- Commas separate items in a simple list.
- Semicolons are used to separate items in a complex list.
How to Write a List Correctly
For writers, list-making is a handy tool to illustrate your ideas or to make your text more readable by breaking it up.
There are two types of lists: horizontal and vertical. Each type uses colons, commas, and/or semicolons.
A Punctuation Review
Before we dig in, let’s review what colons, commas, and semicolons are.
Colons look like this:
Commas look like this:
Semicolons look like this:
Horizontal lists help you give examples or specify your argument by having ideas laid out next to each other.
Colons, commas, and semicolons come in handy when it comes to laying out your list and making it look neat. But what are the standard guidelines?
Using Colons in a List
First of all, the colon. It can be used to introduce lists but isn’t necessary. Your list can be a simple continuation of your sentence.
The available colors are blue, gray , and white.
You should use a colon, though, if you use an apposition (e.g., “the following”).
The available colors are the following: blue, gray, and white.
You should also use a colon to introduce a list if semicolons separate the items in the list:
The available colors are: blue and gray; black and white; and red and pink.
Later I’ll explain whether to choose commas or semicolons to separate the items in your list.
Using Commas in a List
Use commas to separate items in a simple list - that is, if each item comprises a single word.
The following sentence illustrates this:
For lunch, you can have a toastie, salad, or fries.
Using Semicolons in a List
You can use semicolons to separate items in complex lists - that is, if each item comprises several words or contains the conjunction ‘and.’
If you use semicolons to separate the items, you must also introduce the list with a colon.
I’ll show you what I mean.
For lunch, you can have: a cheese and ham toastie; a caesar salad; or french fries with ketchup .
Because each separate item contains several words, and sometimes the word ‘and’ it could be confusing to the reader if they were only separated with commas.
It’s by no means necessary to do this and perfectly acceptable to use commas still, but it’s just a way to make your list easier on the eye.
Vertical lists are a great way to make items stand out or to break up your text by making it more visually appealing. They are usually made with bullet points, numbers, or letters.
A common problem with vertical lists is deciding which punctuation to use at the end of each item.
Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines:
- Put a comma at the end if the items are unpunctuated single words or phrases.
- Use a semicolon at the end if the items are punctuated but aren’t complete sentences.
- If the items are complete sentences, use a full stop at the end as you usually would when writing a regular sentence.
The last item in your bulleted list needs a full stop. You can look at the bulleted list above as an example of a vertical list that uses full sentences.
Here’s an example of a vertical list with unpunctuated single words or phrases:
The top three things we look for in a Masters Student candidate are
And here’s an example of a vertical list with punctuated clauses or phrases:
The plan for this evening is to go:
- to the restaurant for dinner;
- dancing with friends;
- have the happiest birthday .
To introduce a list, use a colon if the items are complete sentences that stand alone. If it’s just a clause or phrase, use no punctuation, and imagine the bulleted list as being a continuation of the sentence.
Top Tip! If you’re writing some kind of brochure or creative document, you can take more freedom with the punctuation since your goal is to make it look as appealing and readable as possible.
Concluding Thoughts on How to Write a List Correctly
I hope this article has helped you feel more confident about using punctuation when writing lists. Let’s summarize what we’ve learned:
- Use commas to separate items in a simple list.
- Use semicolons to separate items in a complex list.
- Use colons to introduce a list after an apposition or semicolons to separate the list items.
If you found this article helpful, check out our blog archive on navigating complex grammar rules.
- 'Dos and Don'ts': How to Write Them With Proper Grammar
- How to Write a Movie Title in an Essay or Article
- How to Write Comedy: Tips and Examples to Make People Laugh
- ‘Spicket’ or ‘Spigot’: How to Spell It Correctly
- How to Write Height Correctly - Writing Feet and Inches
- Assertive Sentence Examples: What is an Assertive Sentence?
- Optative Sentence Example and Definition: What Is an Optative Sentence?
- Grammar Book: Learn Basic English Grammar
- How to Write a Monologue: Tips and Examples
- ‘Writing’ or ‘Writting’: How to Spell It Correctly
- How to Correctly Apply 'In Which', 'Of Which', 'At Which', Etc.
- ‘Goodmorning’ or ‘Good Morning’: How to Spell ‘Good Morning’ Correctly
- ‘Realy’ or ‘Really’: How to Spell ‘Really’ Correctly
- ‘Eachother’ or ‘Each Other’: How to Spell ‘Each Other’ Correctly
- 'Do' or 'Does': How to Use Them Correctly
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How to Start Content Writing (For Beginners)
By: Author Paul Jenkins
Posted on Published: September 26, 2021 - Last updated: December 6, 2021
Categories Content Writing , Writing
Are you ready to make content writing your full-time job? To become a professional writer? If so, there are a few steps that will help you succeed. Whether it’s your first time writing content or you want to take your skills to the next level. This article is an insider guide on how to start content writing and become a successful content writer.
What Is Content Writing
Content writing is a profession that requires certain skills. Not just writing skill!
Content writers must be able to research various topics and perhaps even interview several people on a topic to find out the most important points.
Even before they start outlining, drafting, and writing.
If you’re running your own website, you may also need to learn SEO (search engine optimization), topic research, and on-page optimization. Plus some WordPress skills!
Content writing is a fundamental part of digital marketing, therefore acquiring the skill can help foster a career in marketing.
You don’t learn these things overnight! Becoming a web content writer is hard work, but very rewarding!
Types of Content Writing
There are many different types of content writing, such as:
- writing content for websites
- writing content for newspapers and magazines
- writing content for online marketing
- writing content for public relations (PR)
- SEO writing
There are many different subjects that a good content writer could write about.
For example, it could be recipes or travel guides. Or spirituality and philosophy.
Often, though, content writers tend to specialize in areas in which either they have prior experience or ones in which they develop expertise over time.
Writing SEO articles is a special type of content writing because SEO content writers need to know how keywords work so that the articles can be optimized for the search engines.
Examples of Good Content
It’s a good idea to look at excellent examples of website content online first.
For example, you could search Google for successful content writers and then find their work on various websites. That way, you can look at some of the different types of content writing and content marketing, as well as examples of the best content that’s been written.
The Working Time of a Content Writer
Content writers spend their time in different ways.
They may spend time researching a particular topic, interviewing different people to gather information, and then writing the content when they feel they’ve enough information.
Online research plays a huge role.
The content writer can then spend time editing and rewriting the material to make sure it’s as good as it can be.
Creativity and Content Writing
Although content writing is largely about formulating a topic, researching, and creating outlines to structure the content, there’s also a considerable creative component to this work.
While it’s possible to dig into the more technical aspects of content writing, such as research and editing, the content writer must also develop creative ideas and present them clearly and concisely.
A content writer can even be tasked with presenting a new perspective on a topic, showing how it works and how it can be better understood and used.
You also need to be able to write creatively to develop a story or something that’s compelling.
In content writing, you need to be able to look at a topic from a different perspective. The job of a content writer is to put themselves in the reader’s perspective and ask, “What if it were such and such?” This can be a difficult skill to learn, but a content writer must’ve some creative ability to be successful.
Content writing is a profession that depends on putting one’s thoughts and ideas into words in a way that the reader can understand. In this way, content writing can’t only be a lot of fun, but also a good income for those who do it well.
Content Strategy vs Content Writing
Content strategy is the art and craft of planning, organizing and publishing content. Thus, it encompasses both content creation and content marketing.
Content strategies are developed for different purposes. Some content strategies are created to help websites rank better in search engines. This is to attract more customers. Other content strategies aim to attract customers by engaging with them through content. This type of content strategy aims more to involve customers in the content creation process so that they’re engaged with the company.
It’s not limited to websites or social media marketing but is also an important part of advertising.
Content strategy is about understanding what you want your content to achieve and how you can use it to achieve it.
Content writing is part of content strategy.
Effective Content Writing
It’s important to write content in a way that’s effective.
This means that your copy needs to be written in a way that serves the purpose of the content.
For example, if you’re writing an article on your website to help readers in the kitchen, you need to make sure that you focus on teaching them how to make and use things in the kitchen!
When you’re writing about kitchens, you don’t want to write about something that the reader may not have wanted to know about. If you focus, your readers will be more likely to stay on your website to read more articles.
You need to learn to write clearly so that your readers understand what you’re writing about.
You also need to make sure that you use the right writing style for your audience so that they understand what you’re trying to say, and resonate with the content.
If you don’t make your content focused and clear, your audience won’t enjoy reading it and won’t learn anything.
Freelance Writing Niches
As a rule, it’s a good idea to specialize in niches as a freelance content writer. This means that you specialize in areas where you know your stuff or have a lot of experience to share.
By sharing this knowledge, you help others learn more about the things that interest them.
When you have clear niches, it’s usually easy to get more work. People see that you’re an expert in your field and hire you because they assume you know what you’re talking about.
They also find you more easily online, where they can consult your resume, work samples, and other information.
Having niches also makes writing articles much easier and faster!
Remember that certain niches pay more money for content writers than others. For example, writing SEO articles, medical newsletters, or articles for the legal industry, provided you have the necessary qualifications and expertise.
It’s a good idea to cultivate a consistent and helpful mindset as a writer.
This is important because it allows you to approach writing assignments with a certain amount of composure.
Writing daily is a helpful way to approach things. This allows the writer to write something every day, even if it’s just a few sentences, and then edit and rewrite it. It helps the writer develop his/her content writing skill.
A good attitude is also important.
No matter what your experience as a writer, it’s important to remember that no one is perfect and that you can always learn.
If you don’t have any experience as a writer, don’t worry. No one knows everything about writing when they start out. Most experienced writers will tell you that they’re still learning something new every day.
If you want to write for a living, you need to realize that writing is a business, and it’s important to approach the work with the right attitude. That doesn’t mean all work and no play!
If you’re working, you’ll probably be sitting at the computer for hours, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
Learning to write can be an exciting adventure. It’s fun to see your first articles published, whether it’s on a blog or in an online magazine.
Even if you’ve been writing for a while, it’s fun to see your earnings grow. It’s not easy to get money and work. So when you’re successful, you’ve to appreciate it. That’s part of the business of being a writer.
The benefits of writing every day include the following:
- You can work on a regular schedule, so you can plan your life around your writing.
- You can write a specific workload every day.
- You’ll have a regular number of articles with which to build a portfolio.
- You’ll have a regular number of articles that you can submit to online magazines and other publications. This will help you build a good reputation.
Know What to Write
When you set out to write a text, it’s important that you know what you want to write. In this respect, content writing is very different from writing fiction, for example.
When you’re writing content, you need to know what your message is and how you want to present it.
So before you start writing, you need to do some research and ask yourself some questions.
- What’s the topic?
- How will you approach the topic?
- How will you structure the article?
- Where will you publish the article?
- How exactly do you want to be in the article?
- How will you format the article?
These questions and the decisions you make will help you write high-quality content.
Stick to the Point
You may be tempted to write about something other than the subject of a particular article or content job, but you need to learn to focus on your message and stay on point.
This is a crucial part of being a content writer. You need to find a way to stay focused on the topic you’ve been assigned, and you also need to keep your audience engaged.
You need to keep your content clear and concise. Only talk about what’s relevant to the article!
The best way to do this is to figure out the main topic of the article and use it as a guide throughout the writing process.
- Focus on the main topic of the article.
- What do you want to achieve with the article?
- What’s the main argument of the article?
- What’s the main reason someone wants to read the article (the “search intent”)?
This is easier if you have a clear topic and audience.
If you know what you want to say and who you’re addressing, you can approach the topic from different angles, but you’ll still be able to get to the heart of your text.
Writing valuable content means that
a) the text is valuable to the audience, and b) it’s useful to the company for whom you are writing (which might be your own).
Content writing is a valuable business, and if you learn how to create valuable content, you’ll be able to make a good income from it.
When you think about what you’re sharing with your audience, make sure you’re giving them the information they can use.
For example, if you’re writing about how to bake the perfect apple pie, make sure you provide information about what ingredients are needed, how to mix them together, how to bake the pie, etc.
You need to make sure that your readers can use the information you give them. You’re not doing anyone a favor by giving them the information they can’t use!
Don’t Choose Random Topics
You might think that a website content writer will sit down and pick a topic out of a hat. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Each topic is chosen with a clear goal in mind.
Whether it’s to get more organic search traffic to a website, with SEO writing to get backlinks that improve SEO rankings, to generate leads for a company’s products or services, to promote a company’s products or services, or to drive traffic to a company’s landing page.
It can also be about increasing leads for a business, establishing a new brand name, making people aware of the brand, or selling a product.
It can also be about getting people to sign up for a mailing list or download a free eBook.
You get the point. Each topic is chosen with a specific goal in mind.
It’s important to be aware of this because it’ll help you write more effectively.
Pay Attention to Keywords
Even if as a writer you get an assignment where the keyword research is already done for you, it’s still important to think about the keywords when writing a content piece.
If you don’t include the keywords in the article, the article isn’t technically optimized for the keyword and someone searching for that keyword may not find the article even if your article is the best answer to their question.
Keywords help you structure your article and focus on the main topic.
For example, if you’re writing an article about how to make a perfect organic smoothie, you will need to know what’re the most important keywords for this article.
Don’t Keyword Stuff
You need to avoid the so-called ‘keyword stuffing’ in your work.
Keyword stuffing is when you don’t focus on the topic of the content piece, but try to pack in as many keywords as possible.
Content writing is all about creating the best content possible. If you try to cram keywords into an article without structuring it thematically, you’re doing yourself (and your client and readers) a disservice.
You should only use keywords when they naturally fit the topic. For example, if you’re writing about organic smoothies, make sure you use words like “organic” and “smoothie.”
Match Search Intent
The best way to meet search intent is to really understand what the person searching for the keyword is trying to find. Think about how and why they searched for the keyword.
In other words:
- Why are they searching for the keyword?
- What do they want to accomplish with the information?
- What’ll they do with the information after they read it?
Your goal as a content creator should be to provide the most comprehensive and helpful answer to the search query.
Get to the Point
As a rule, it’s a good idea to avoid long, wordy introductions.
Get straight to the point.
The same advice applies to paragraphs. Keep them short and to the point.
Because your main goal is to give your audience the information they’re looking for, and you don’t want to tell them over much. Whether they match a buyer persona or are simply looking for information.
Your job is to get right to the heart of the matter.
Write only the words that are necessary to get your message across!
Sometimes it can be a really good idea to tell a story in an article.
However, if you do this, you should make sure that you tell the story in a way that serves the purpose you want to achieve.
For example, if you’re writing about the organic smoothie mentioned above, you could also tell a story about how you learned about the health benefits of smoothies.
Efficient research is at the heart of any good writing. You need to find a way to research in such a way that you don’t get bogged down in details.
Avoid rabbit holes!
Remember, you only have a limited amount of time to write your content, so you need to be able to research quickly and effectively.
The best way to do this is to use a combination of online and offline tools.
- Start with free sources like Wikipedia. Find the best sources of information on the topic.
- Use crowdsourcing websites like Quora to ask experts about the topic.
- Use Google to refine your search for information.
- Use tools like Answer the Public to find out what questions people are really asking.
- Tools like SEMRush can help you find out what keywords people are searching for.
Don’t ignore personal experience and experiments.
Let’s say you’re writing about boomerangs and you want to know how to throw them most effectively and efficiently.
The best way to do your research might be to start throwing boomerangs yourself!
In other words, go out and buy a boomerang and use it for several weeks.
This way you’ll get a good understanding of how the boomerang moves through the air and what’s an effective and what’s an ineffective boomerang throw.
You can develop a much better understanding of what you want to write about, and some fun stories, that will make it much easier to write a quality article.
It’s critical to be clear about what plagiarism is.
Plagiarism is when you copy another person’s work and pass it off as your own.
When writing content for clients, you need to make sure that you never plagiarize someone else’s work or ideas.
Back up your work with your own research and opinion.
If you take the example above – the boomerang – you could simply copy and paste the information you find on the Internet about boomerangs into your content.
That would be plagiarism.
It’s important that you build on your research, expand it, and improve it. Never simply copy and paste information from other sources.
Cite your sources properly. Either with direct links in the body text or with a list of sources.
If you use a quote from a book or article, put it in quotation marks.
Understand Fair Use
Fair use means that you use copyrighted material without the author’s permission, but only for a limited and “reasonable” purpose, and that you use only as much of the copyrighted material as is necessary for your purpose, and that you credit the source of the material.
You use a copyrighted work for a limited and “transformative” purpose.
The copyright owner can still sue you if you use content without permission, but if you use it according to the rules of fair use, you aren’t technically in violation of copyright.
Mastering Opening Lines
Opening lines are very important when writing content. Whether it’s the beginning of a text or the beginning of a story, the opening is what draws your audience in.
It’s your way of grabbing the reader’s attention and enticing them to read the whole story.
Opening lines can pique the curiosity and interest of your readers and/or customers.
You make them wonder, “What’s going on here? I want to find out.”
That’s why you should avoid clunky, boring, and tedious opening sentences.
Remember that you want your text to grab the attention of your target audience and captivate them.
For example, if you’re writing a testimonial, you could start with a bold statement like “This product has changed my life”.
You can start with a question or a statistic or fact.
The most important thing is that you grab the reader’s attention. The first words – together with its headline – are the most important part of your article.
You can write captivating content, but if you don’t manage to grab the reader’s attention with the first line, they won’t read to the end of the first paragraph.
Imagine writing an article about how to throw a boomerang.
You could write:
“The best way to throw a boomerang isn’t to throw the boomerang.”
This is a snappy, creative, and interesting opening line. You can use it to grab the reader’s attention and get them excited about the article.
Get Great at Outlining
The more content you write, the better you’ll get at creating an outline quickly.
You’ll reach a point where you’re able to write a full article in a few minutes.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to write a great article in a few minutes, but you’ll be able to formulate the outline of an article in a few minutes.
It means that you’ll know all the important points of the article and you’ll be able to write those points down quickly.
The reason why you should write your outline quickly is that you want to make sure that you get to the heart of your ideas and concepts quickly.
In my opinion, there’s nothing better than mind mapping to quickly and easily outline your ideas and concepts and then flesh them out into a full text.
The advantage of a mind map is that you can easily see how all the ideas and concepts relate to each other.
This way you can make sure you cover all the areas and provide the most benefit to your readers.
You should always write the title in the middle of the mind map. Then you should write down the most important points and arrange them around the title.
Once I’ve outlined and restructured the article in the mind map, I export it as markdown and take it into my favorite text editor. With markdown, all the branches and sub-branches of the mind map appear as headings in the text.
When you start writing content, guess what? You actually have to write!
A lot of it.
I’d recommend at least a thousand words a day, but that’s only for beginners. If you’re a veteran, I’d recommend at least two thousand words a day.
Part of that’s making a schedule for yourself and committing to putting in the hours.
Personally, I write at least 4,000 words a day. It’s a discipline.
The more you write, the better you get.
It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun.
But it’s necessary.
You’ll get better.
You’ll become faster.
You’ll get better at developing ideas.
You’ll get better at organizing your ideas.
You’ll get better at writing.
You’ll get better at writing complete content.
Over time, your skills will improve.
So don’t give up after one, two, or three posts.
And keep improving.
Have a Writing Den
Having your own place to write will help you get ready to write. If you get up, go to a specific area, and start writing, it’ll be much more effective than if you write in the same area where you do all your other tasks.
When you get up and go to a specific area, you can concentrate better. It makes you more productive.
It makes you a better professional content writer.
You can create your own space in different ways. You could set up a home office. You could set aside a room in your house for that purpose. You could set up a special room in one part of your house.
The most important thing is that you create a space specifically for writing.
This will help you start writing, get in the writing mood, and get the most done.
Time Management and Tracking
Since I use a Mac, the wonderful Session app is very useful for keeping track of time and remembering to take breaks.
However, there are many ways to track how much time you spend writing and how much time you spend on each article or piece of content.
If you get your time management right, you can become more efficient.
I recommend the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.
First, try to write for 25 minutes at a time and then take a break.
Then increase the time you write.
Then extend the break time.
Remember that writing is only part of the job. You usually need to allow time for other tasks as well, such as research, editing, and formatting.
Master a Variety of Writing Styles
If you’re freelancing, it’s helpful to develop different writing styles that fit the tone and style of the publication you’re working for.
This will also help you build an impressive writing portfolio.
For example, if you’re writing a business-related blog post, you’ll need to develop a slightly different writing style than if you’re writing an article for a lifestyle magazine.
Each of these publications has a different target market.
Therefore, the tone of the article will be different, as will the way the article is structured.
Freelance writers who work with a variety of publications and learn to develop a unique writing style for each publication are more valuable to a variety of clients.
In my blog, I use a light, modern, and sometimes humorous tone.
In some of my assignments, I use a formal, academic style.
On some other assignments, I use a playful style.
You shouldn’t use the same writing style for all your projects.
You should make sure you use the style that best suits your audience.
Compelling Content Using the Right Words
As you progress with content writing, you’ll start to acquire knowledge about copywriting.
Although content writing is different than copywriting, it can be helpful to incorporate a little copywriting into your content. This way, you’ll create more compelling writing.
For example, you could use a headline that’s identical to the headline of a direct response ad. Or you could use a call to action that would appear in a direct response ad. Or you could create a list that’s in the style of a direct response ad.
You don’t have to do any of that, but you can.
Don’t try to copy a direct response copywriter. Instead, learn from the best and use some of the techniques to create better content.
Get Good at Editing
The ability to quickly hack into a first draft to see the forest for the trees is really valuable.
In most cases, content is better when it’s a little shorter.
Aim to cut 15 to 20 percent of your first draft.
Remember, you shouldn’t edit the first draft while you’re still in the writing flow.
You should set it aside and come back with fresh eyes.
If you’re looking for a really good first revision solution, I recommend taking a look at Instatext . With the ability to correct an entire text with one click and choose the tone and region, it’s a really cool tool. One of the benefits is that it helps keep tone and style consistent.
At a later stage of editing, I use Grammarly Premium to make fine corrections (although I find that it’s often too tedious to make all the suggested changes – I reserve that for particularly valuable content).
Format Like Your Life Depended on It
If you publish your articles in WordPress (and I recommend using the built-in Gutenberg for this), make sure the article is easy to read for users reading it on a mobile device.
The best way to do this is to reduce the size of the window you’re working in to mimic the proportions of the mobile device in portrait mode.
Be Easy to Read
People don’t want to read difficult content. They want to read great content that they can understand quickly.
If you’re writing for the web, you need to make sure you’re able to write quality content in a way that’s accessible, but at the same time educates, informs, and entertains.
Hemingway App is a great tool to make sure you’re writing in a way that’s easy to understand. There’s a readability score based on Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.
I like this app because it provides a clear, clean, and quick assessment of a text’s readability.
The tool tells you if you’re using the passive voice, how many words are in each sentence, and how hard the text is to read.
A great way to spice up your written content is to use relevant quotes.
Make sure you attribute the quote, of course!
Best tools for Content Writing
For a whole article on content writing tools, check out this article I wrote recently.
Finding Work and Money as a Content Writer
Maybe you want to make money writing content as a freelancer.
In that case, I’d advise you to find online publications in your niche, read them, see what they write about, and then approach those publications about publishing content you want to write for them.
Regardless of your level, you can always approach companies in your niche and offer your services.
You might find employment in a content writing company (or set up a content writing business yourself!), Watch out that it is not a content mill, that might wear you down and degrade your skills.
As a freelancer, start small, take on jobs you’re confident you can do, and build a client base.
There are certain marketplaces that have a good reputation, including WriterAccess, ProBlogger, and some of the gigs on Upwork.
The problem with some of these sites is that you can get lost in the crowd, and it can be difficult to get the attention of the companies you’d like to work with.
Still, you can find a freelance writing job on these sites , and they can help you earn an income.
If you can get copywriting jobs, they generally will pay more than content writing.
Have a Portfolio
One of the best ways to build a portfolio and get freelance writing jobs is to set up a blog and write regularly.
You can use your articles as writing samples. If you have a blog, people can see how well you write.
Remember that not all jobs are right for you, and not all clients are either. You have the absolute right to turn down a job if the client is too demanding or if you suspect that payment won’t be made on time or at all.
A quick Google check on potential employers can work wonders!
For your part, act like a professional. Deliver what you promise, build a reputation for quality work, and for quick revisions (within reason). Make sure you follow content guidelines and client instructions to the letter.
Have and Keep Goals
Keep SMART goals in mind when planning which assignments to accept and which to reject. SMART goals mean that the objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
When writing, it can be easy to get lost in the words and lose sight of the overall context of the business. This is another good reason to measure the time it takes you to write certain types of content.
Your goal should usually be to increase the number of words per hour.
Dictation can be a great way to achieve this, as can an AI writing assistant like Sudowrite (which I’m using to write this article!).
Keep reviewing your goals throughout your freelance writing career.
How do I get started writing content from home?
The best way to start writing content from home is to create and grow a blog and then do freelance work for online publications. You can also approach certain companies and ask if you can offer your services.
How can I start writing content with no experience?
If you don’t have experience, you can start writing content by writing for your own blog and then using that blog for assignments.
What’re the basics of content writing?
The most important thing when writing content is that the content is relevant to the target audience and that it can be found.
What’s SEO Content Writing?
SEO Content Writing is the art and craft of writing content so that it’s seen by search engines and ranks well in search engines.
What’s the format in content writing?
The format in writing content is to make it as readable, accessible, and exciting as possible. If you can do that, you’ll do well in content writing.
What are types of content writing?
Types of content writing include blog posts, web content, articles, reviews, e-books, magazines, white papers, videos, scripts, technical writing, digital content, and presentations.
What are content writing examples?
You can find good content writing examples at major publishers like Mashable, Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Inc, Business Insider. Pick a topic that interests you and read through some of the articles. Look at how they’re formatted, how they’re written, and what grabs your attention.
What are good Content Writing courses?
There are a number of good online courses to learn content writing. I’d be crazy not to mention my own: The Content Writing Course on Udemy.
- Content strategy
- Inside Writer
– 14 min read
How to write better: a quick-start guide for anyone and everyone
Just about everyone knows how to write — but writing well is something different. Great writers are formed through hard work and a passion for learning. But just like you, they all started from the beginning.
Problem is, a lot of “start writing well’ articles focus on the result. But good writing begins before you tippity-tap on that keyboard. Studying everyday practices, learning how to organize your thoughts, and then turning those ideas into effective writing should be your priority.
Whether you’re a blogger , an SEO writer, a marketer, or want to be the next Stephen King, these universal writing tips give you lots of ways to write better.
15 writing tips to help you write better
1. think before you start writing.
One of the best writing tips for beginners is organizing your thoughts in a logical, explainable manner before putting pen on paper. The biggest hurdle is often not knowing how to begin or what to say—everything is a jumble of ideas that probably look like a bunch of paint thrown against a wall (and not in an artistic way). It can be very frustrating.
Note: THIS IS NORMAL. Don’t get discouraged. There’s a reason the phrase “writer’s block” exists. Let yourself think about it for a day or two, especially if you’re doing creative writing. You’ll be surprised at how that paint blob slowly transforms into a recognizable shape.
2. Embrace the writing “brain dump”
In business writing , the “brain dump” signals the beginning of every new project or assignment. It’s the opportunity to get whatever is in your head out on digital paper in a stream of consciousness.
Avoid correcting misspellings, typos, sentence structure, or grammar—just type, type, type until your brain excavates all musings. You can use this creative writing skill for all kinds of work, from personal blogging and copywriting to essays and work emails.
Remember that at this phase of writing: bad ideas don’t exist. Your best creative ideas will come when you’re not held back by perfectionism.
3. Make an outline
Now that you have all your wonderful, messy thoughts on paper, it’s time to get more granular and organized. Some tips on how to edit your brain dump: do a first pass and delete the parts that are definite “nos.” Then go through again and highlight the ideas you like best. Revisit the “maybes” later.
Now, take your favorites and as briefly or as detailed as you like, make an outline that conveys your message. Start top-level with your biggest, overarching ideas, and then get into the details. Fill in missing parts, elaborate on other parts—rinse and repeat until satisfied.
4. Know your audience
This is a straightforward writing tip for beginners, but a lot of people forget it. For example, your voice and elements of style for personal blogging will be much more informal than business writing (i.e writing a proposal for a new client). Being mindful of your audience is key to improving writing skills and creating more impactful work.
5. Keep a journal
Being a better writer means writing more! Keeping a journal should be a very low-pressure thing. It can be as simple as writing a list of things you did that day, playing around with word choice for a LinkedIn headline, or recounting a conversation you had with a friend.
If you don’t want to keep a physical journal, you can start a note on your phone or a document on your computer. The point is—there are no journaling rules. Just start writing whenever you feel like it, because the more you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.
6. Pen a letter instead of texting
Great writers write letters for fun and for practice. Pen a letter (or an email) to a friend who lives in another city. A hundred years ago, people wrote long letters detailing everything from the mundane to faraway travel. Why not now? It’s the perfect way to get your creative writing juices flowing, rather than relying on boring texts.
Remember to check spelling, comma use, sentence structure, typos, etc. Your friends deserve good writing too. Spell-check is a nice starting point, but writing well happens when you use a reputable grammar or punctuation checker tool like Writer to support you.
7. Read more to do better writing
One of the best, passive ways of becoming a better writer is to read a book (Stephen King’s work makes for great binge reading). Not into books? Long-form business writing, graphic novels, or short stories do the trick as well.
Reading every day puts you in the fast lane for improving your writing skills. As Roz Morris , the author of the bestseller book, Nail Your Novel , puts it: “Reading exposes us to writing that’s better than our own and helps us to improve. Reading—the good and the bad—inspires you.”
By reading more, your brain will naturally pick up on things like good word choice, different writing styles, and good sentence structures. It also improves your reading comprehension and concentration levels (which comes in handy for the procrastinators among us, including me).
8. Keep your writing simple
As the legendary American novelist, Jack Kerouac, once said, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
One big misconception about writing is that it should be full of beautiful prose and impressive words. Wrong! Sure, I can use the word 'floccinaucinihilipilification,' but most people will just think my cat walked across my keyboard. Click To Tweet
No matter who they are, you should empower readers with your words. Complex writing can leave readers feeling insecure, weary, or both. To simplify your writing:
- Replace adverbs with more powerful verbs (e.g. she talked quietly > she whispered)
- Get rid of unnecessary adjectives
- Opt for simple word choice
- Delete fluff (e.g. instead of saying “in order to”, say “to”)
Go ahead and make use of a thesaurus, but don’t try to be a Shakespeare or even an Ernest Hemingway—just keep it simple and true to yourself.
9. Tone up your tone in writing
Getting tone right is key to being a good writer. It’s the personality of your writing, influenced by the type of writing you’re doing and who you’re talking to.
Just like we said in “Know Your Audience,” business writing like an email might sound conservative, while a personal social media post can be friendly and casual. Your tone can and should change depending on your needs. An extreme example: don’t start a cover letter with: “Hey, dude! Wassup?”
10. Prioritize your key points
If you want to learn how to write good, sentence structure and word placement is everything. If you have a question to ask, don’t put it in the middle of a paragraph, because it could get skipped over. Similarly, if you have an important piece of information to share, make it into its own paragraph or strategically place it in the introduction or conclusion—the sections readers tend to pay attention to the most.
11. Break up your writing into bite-size bits
Long sentences that are full of fluff are boring to read! Like staring directly at the sun—you just have to look away. Instead of creating a heavy block of text, break down large sections of information into concise, punchy sentences. Bullet points in particular are an amazing tool. They help you:
- Communicate information effectively and quickly
- Emphasize important points that are more easily remembered
- Provide easily digestible information to the reader
(See? They come in handy) AI writing software like Writer can help you be a better writer by identifying paragraphs that are hard to read.
12. Use active voice
Once you’re comfortable with sentence structure, punctuation and comma use, and word choice, it’s time to look at elements of style. One core element is passive voice vs. active voice.
An active voice is key for effective writing. It makes for a much more engaging read, conveying a strong and clear tone. Whereas passive voice pulls you away from the action, which can create an apathetic experience.
Here’s an example:
- Active voice: The thief stole one million dollars (subject + verb + object).
- Passive voice: One million dollars was stolen by the thief (object + past participle + subject).
See how in the first sentence, the subject performs the action? This eliminates extra processing time by getting to the point faster, unlike the passive voice example which puts the subject at the end of the sentence.
13. Edit (then edit again)
Now that you’ve overcome writer’s block and have the first draft, it’s time to move on to the editing process. Chances are, you’re not a professional editor, but that doesn’t matter—you can do a great job on your own. First, don’t edit immediately after writing. You want fresh eyes on that baby. Revisit it the next day and it will be easier to look for:
- unnecessary words (like adverbs and adjectives)
- long sentences that can be shortened
- passive voice use
At this phase, don’t worry about grammatical errors. Right now, you’re editing for clarity of your ideas and thoughts.
14. Proof your writing
Proofreading is where you check spelling, punctuation (i.e. comma use), run-on sentences, typos … you get the picture. Spell-check is a good starting point, a reputable grammar checker tool like Writer gives you advanced support.
Whenever possible, ask a real human to read your writing. They’ll likely be able to point out any writing mistakes and even offer suggestions. Over time, the lessons you learn from using these tools will help you become a great writer.
15. Reflect on your main point
We’ve made it to the very end. You’ve taken your idea and found many words to make into numerous sentences that communicate your intended message… or did you?
The last step is to always take an objective look at your writing. Pretend you’re a total stranger. Now ask yourself—does the narration make logical sense? Can you read it once and understand its message? Even better, can you sum it up in a few sentences? If so, you’ve written something you can feel good about.
8 exercises to improve writing skills
Here are fun activities you can do every day to become a better writer.
1. Write every day
This is the best writing tip for beginners. Write like it’s your job. Practicing every day is key to learning how to write good. It helps you stretch those writing muscles and learn from doing. Keeping a journal with you at all times also means you can write whenever inspiration strikes, like when you’re walking your fave four-legged friend.
Write every day, and you’ll turn it into a habit. That doesn’t mean you have to write ten thousand words every day, as the author of the children’s novel, See You in the Cosmos , Jack Cheng says:
“When mastery is the goal, spending an exorbitant number of hours in one sitting will likely lead to burnout. We don’t go to the gym expecting to put on 20 pounds of muscle in a single, day-long workout. Instead, we do several short workouts a week, spread out over months.”
2. Turn long paragraphs into bullet points
Want to learn how to write better sentences? Sentences that are easy to read and get to the point right away? Practice the art of brevity by chopping up hard-to-read paragraphs into succinct bullets.
This is especially useful for business writing because your readers are likely short on time. They want you to get to the point fast! And they want easy to digest information.
There is a place for long sentences in your work though, especially when it comes to creative writing. Writology has a great guide on this full of ace writing tips for beginners.
3. Change passive voice into active voice
A little recap on passive and active voice: Active voice is when the sentence starts with the subject acting on the verb. Passive voice is when the subject is a recipient of the verb’s action. Active voice is more engaging because it takes less processing time from the reader, and also gives the impression that the action is happening now, not in the past.
Use an AI writing platform like Writer to spot unengaging instances of passive voice and transform them into the active voice. This will help you draw readers in and make your writing easier to read.
4. Use grammar checker tools like Writer
Use a grammar checker like Writer helps you spot mistakes you may have missed. Mistakes such as misused commas, spelling errors, typos, incorrect use of words (we’re looking at you, thesaurus lovers), etc. Writer is also ideal for business writing. You can submit your company styleguide and the app will measure your written work against it to ensure consistent and on-brand content.
5. Proof your friend’s or colleague’s writing
One effective way to improve writing skills: Proofreading other people’s content. You can pick up on common grammar mistakes , different sentence structures, new words, word placement – everything that you might not learn from your own writing. It’s about getting a fresh perspective on all the different ways language is used.
Bonus: you get all the good feelings for helping someone out. And they might even return the favor one day!
6. Write fanfiction
Improve your creative writing skills by writing about stories and characters you love. Why? The more passionate you are about what you’re writing, the more fun and engaging it will be to read. Because you’ll naturally inject your love of the subject into your work. Plus, you can ensure your favorite novels or short stories live on through that amazing imagination of yours! It’s also a great place to start if your idea bank is running on empty, giving you the inspiration and direction needed to write freely.
7. Read out loud
Sometimes you can’t tell if a word or phrase doesn’t work until you read it out loud. Same with spotting mistakes. This is especially true if you’ve read your work over a hundred times (hello fellow perfectionists). Your brain will find it more and more difficult to spot mistakes – reading out loud can fix this!
When you read out loud, it requires you to slow down and focus on every single word that you’re saying, so that it can make its way from your brain to your mouth. When we proofread inwardly, we tend to rush through things and don’t actually read the text properly.
That’s because our brain already has a version of the content embedded and it wants to concentrate on the meaning rather than the words. As psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos at the University of Sheffield in the UK, says : “We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”
8. Read books on how to write better
These books on how to write better are simple, easy to read, and full of valuable info.
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley – for business writing, marketing, and blogging
- On Writing by Stephen King – for writing novels and improving your creative writing skills
- Write Tight by William Brohaugh – for business and creative writing, with lots of writing tips for beginners
- The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker – for writing novels, letters and understanding the sciences of mind when it comes to language
- You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins – for business writers with great writing tips for beginners
- Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris – for budding novelists who want to polish their first draft or write a book
That’s your next vacation reading list sorted!
Now you can write better
It’s time to unleash your amazing writing skills and creativity! Got a friend who also wants to learn how to write well? Share the tips you’ve learned today. By teaching them, you’ll embed them further into your wonderful brain.
Write with clarity and confidence when using Writer. Sign up for your free trial .
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May Habib CEO, Writer.com
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Explore online writing courses and programs
Why learn writing skills.
The ability to write well is a foundational skill for communication in both personal and professional settings. Writing allows you to express thoughts, opinions, ideas, and emotions. It facilitates connections between people and allows them to engage in the type of discourse that can lead to discovery and progress.
Clear and concise writing that conveys information both accurately and precisely can help guide people’s decision making and actions. The style of writing can express the importance and sense of urgency behind a message. The flow of writing can change the emotions that people feel when reading those words.
Whether you are writing a script for a podcast, crafting an email to your colleagues, or penning a message to a family member, strong writing skills can significantly improve how the communication is delivered and how it is received.
Browse online writing classes
Stand out in your field, learn at your own pace, earn a valuable credential, related topics, online writing course curriculum.
With online writing courses, any learner can master the skills needed to become a strong writer. Start with the fundamentals in an online grammar course, where you can learn about the different parts of speech, punctuation, conjugation, and sentence structure. Or more advanced writers can practice their storytelling and persuasive writing skills with an essay writing course. Develop your own style by reading and analyzing the works of other writers, and explore how to write in different formats and tones in creative writing courses.
You can even find courses that teach writing for specific contexts. For example, a business writing class may cover how to relay tough feedback or how to adjust your tone to build consensus.
For learners interested in advancing their knowledge in a variety of subjects, edX offers a range of educational opportunities, including boot camps , as well as bachelor's degree programs, and master’s degree programs. Explore how online education can help you build the critical skills you need and get started learning today.
Explore writing jobs
Clear writing and communication skills are assets in nearly every industry. Regardless of whether you work as a lawyer or a mathematician, you will likely need to be capable of crafting a well-written message.
But for those who enjoy writing, there are careers that can leverage their talents, including:
Journalist: Writes news or feature articles for video, online, or print publications.
Novelist or author: Focuses on storytelling by writing longform fiction and nonfiction.
Copywriter: Writes marketing-driven copy such as advertisements and emails.
Communications or public relations specialist : Delivers strategic messages on behalf of a client or an organization.
Speech writer: Crafts speeches for individuals including leaders or lawmakers.
Screenwriter: Develops scripts for movies, television shows, and other visual media.
Editor: Reviews and revises written materials for accuracy, clarity, and style.
How to start a career in writing
Writing takes practice. If you are interested in pursuing a career in the field, it’s important to ensure that you have a mastery of the fundamentals of writing. You can build those skills through instruction and coursework in which you have to apply what you have learned. That means responding to prompts, writing essays, and critically reviewing your work to better understand how you can improve.
Writing also requires expertise. While you can be a general writer, somebody who wants to pursue a technical writing career, for example, will need background knowledge of that field in order to be able to understand what they are reporting on or writing about. A strong understanding of how to research, interview, and source can also be beneficial for aspiring professionals in this space.
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Effective writing is clear and accurate and provides enough context to engage readers and help them understand the message you are trying to deliver. For example, journalists provide context by focusing on the “who, what, when, where, and why” of a situation.
There are many different types of writing including, but not limited to: persuasive writing, creative writing, poetry, script writing, journalism, nonfiction, academic writing, speech writing, and song writing.
Learners develop writing skills at their own pace. Developing mastery takes practice and time.
Sometimes grammatical rules are not universally applicable, which can make them difficult to remember. Everyone has different learning styles and speeds. Memorization can help, but practice is key.
There are online courses that can help you learn how to organize your ideas and develop your voice for a business setting. You can practice writing effective emails, reports, and presentations.
Aspiring creative writers can develop their skills by taking classes that not only teach them about the essential elements of storytelling, but also give them opportunities to practice writing and critiquing both their own work and the work of other writers.
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- Can ChatGPT help law students learn to write…
Can ChatGPT help law students learn to write better?
By Stephanie Francis Ward
March 6, 2023, 8:38 am CST
Image from Shutterstock.
ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that can speak and write like humans, can be weak on facts but may already be a better wordsmith than some attorneys, according to David Kemp, an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School.
“If you’re asking it to organize several concepts, or are struggling to explain something in a way that’s really understandable, it can help,” says Kemp, who also is the managing editor of Oyez , a multimedia website focused on opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court.
The technology, created by the research lab OpenAI, seems to prefer active voice, as does Kemp. He introduced ChatGPT in an advanced legal writing class and plans to include it in a summer course about emerging technology.
Various law schools are following suit. Legal writing faculty interviewed by the ABA Journal agree that ChatGPT writing can model good sentence structure and paragraph structure. However, some fear that it could detract from students learning good writing skills.
“If students do not know how to produce their own well-written analysis, they will not pass the bar exam,” says April Dawson, a professor and associate dean of technology and innovation at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Additionally, using tools such as ChatGPT for graded assessment assignments may be an ethical violation if students are not producing their own work, Dawson adds.
Regarding the accuracy issue, some academics think that ChatGPT could get better with time.
“It doesn’t have access to legal research platforms at the moment, like LexisNexis and Westlaw, so it doesn’t know caselaw that only exists in those databases,” says Ashley Armstrong, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
She wrote an academic paper, titled “ Who’s Afraid of ChatGPT? An Examination of ChatGPT’s Implications for Legal Writing .” Armstrong’s research includes asking for a series of legal research and writing tasks, and she says some of the responses were impressive.
For instance, her paper noted that ChatGPT was able to indentify “logical flaws” in contract clauses. Additionally, she wrote, it did a “pretty good job” summarizing facts and wrote text that sounded lawyerly.
However, accuracy was an issue, including answers for questions that she submitted about Connecticut’s Recreational Land Use Statute.
“I asked it to give me 10 cases I should look into. It did, all of which don’t exist,” says Armstrong, who used LexisNexis and Westlaw to check the cites provided.
Dyane O’Leary, an associate professor of legal writing at the Suffolk University Law School, recently assigned students in an upper-division practice skills class to draft a law clerk email advising a judge whether a motion should be granted. In class, after students did their research, they prompted the same legal question into ChatGPT and evaluated whether responses were reliable research.
“A student noted that the ChatGPT answers were great at fluff,” says O’Leary, who heads the law school’s legal innovation and technology concentration.
“As a class, we discussed that it had a lot of words in the right ballpark, but on this particular prompt, the answer was wrong,” she explains, referring to legal terms.
At the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Daniel Linna Jr. assigned students in his class focused on the law of AI and robotics to sign up for ChatGPT, try it out and share their thoughts on the discussion board.
“Almost everyone recognized it’s bad with facts but really good at writing prose,” says Linna, a senior lecturer.
He also has a joint appointment as director of law and technology at the law school and the university’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
A former equity partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, Linna says law firms already use tools powered by technology similar to ChatGPT.
“I have no doubt that lawyers who use these tools are drafting better contracts,” says Linna, who is also an affiliated faculty member at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics. “As we improve the tools, they will help us write better contracts faster. It’s not just about efficiency; it’s about drafting terms that improve the speed of getting the deal done, which adds value for clients.”
ABAJournal.com : “Should lawyers embrace or fear ChatGPT?”
ABAJournal.com : “Does ChatGPT produce fishy briefs?”
ABAJournal.com : “The Case for ChatGPT: Why lawyers should embrace AI”
ABAJournal.com : “Meet Harvey, BigLaw firm’s artificial intelligence platform based on ChatGPT”
Law firms | law schools | practice management | law professors | law students | technology | careers | career & practice | legal writing | legal education | artificial intelligence & robotics, you might also like:.
- How can lawyers use AI to improve their practice?
- Techshow vendors relish return to exhibition floor amid ChatGPT buzz
- Meet Harvey, BigLaw firm's artificial intelligence platform based on ChatGPT
- The Case for ChatGPT: Why lawyers should embrace AI
- Does ChatGPT produce fishy briefs?
Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.
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Seven Easy Steps in Writing an Article with Substance
- Content Marketing
Who’s your favorite article writer? Do you envy how a writer comes up with great blogs and articles you see on the internet? I’m sure you can name different authors from your favorite sites. But do you dream of writing an article on your own ? The structure of article writing follows general and advance rules. However, article styles vary in creative forms to reach the target audience or readers. This article writing guide gives you a step-by-step plan to help you write your own article content.
Article Writing Guide in Seven Simple Steps
Step 1: Select your main topic and define your objectives.
The first step on how to write an article is to choose your topic. Come up with specific topic to avoid scattered contents. List the objectives your content must have. Decide the scope and boundaries of your article. It is easier to compose an article that has target topic to tackle. Once you’re happy with the choice of topic, be sure to stick to it.
Step 2: Target your audience.
After you settle your main topic, you must know your target readers. Ask yourself, what do you want your readers to learn from you using your article? What information do they need to know in your article? And define your writing approach.
Step 3: Gather your information and resources.
After selecting your main topic and target audience, do research existing works. Find articles with the same taste of idea and content flow. You’ll need to back up yourself once you start writing the article. Pick up ideas and support your claims. If you’re writing an opinion, you must claim facts from researches and authors as your basis. Bullets and adding keywords to highlight your article eases the flow of writing. And you must never forget to site your resources.
Step 4: Create your topic outline and rough draft.
As you gather data and ideas from your research, create a rough draft. Topic outlining is an effective way of letting your ideas flow. Jot down concepts and create section breaks. Write every idea that pops into your mind. Mind your grammar, punctuations, and analytical factors lesser at this step. Just let your mind and hands work. Inject ideas to form your article. Use the bullets and keywords to solidify your article’s work.
Step 5: Edit your draft.
After your rough draft, the next step in article writing guide is to edit your content. Be sure to follow correct grammar usage and punctuations. Scan for misspelled words and track your article’s flow. Ideas must come in order to avoid directing your readers away. Spot proper usage of words and align it to your target audience.
Step 6: Proofread your content.
As any article writing guide would say, proofread your work. Don’t just trust your editing skills. Proofreading defines how your article sounds and how it affects your readers. Grab the chance to spot for any more mistakes and aim for a seamless reading flow.
Step 7: Add visuals, infographic, and images.
Last step in article writing guide, is to add any infographic, visuals, and images in your article. This gives your readers a break. For today’s fast-paced industry, audience engages more with visual materials and it helps them digest what they’re reading. Add visuals relevant to your content to make sure reading engagement.
Seven Tips to Boost Your Article Writing Skills
1. read more..
Reading promotes learning and it harnesses your skills in different areas. Read more and update yourself to the trends of literature and social media.
2. Use lists and bullet points in your article.
As one of the steps in article writing guide, using lists and bullet points organizes your thoughts in crafting your draft. Even using this tactic helps your reader to absorb direct info with lesser stuffing. Arranging the data in bullet or list form attracts readers. This also conveys solid info.
3. Keep a writing tool in your pocket.
Whether it’s a small pad of paper, a notebook or even a gadget, always have a writing tool with you. You’ll never know when an amazing topic hits you or you see catchy quote as you travel. Ideas are everywhere so be ready once it’s in front of you.
4. Engage with your audience.
Talk to your audience. Let them feel you are pointing at them and relate to what they experience. Write an article that your readers want to digest.
5. Stop showing off too much.
Your reader’s capacity to enjoy your article depends on your word usage and style. Unless you’re speaking professionally in jargons, avoid using deep words and prioritize your readers.
6. Remove distractions while writing.
Imagine trying to write while watching your favorite Netflix series. Do you think you’ll be able to write up with distractions around you? It’s best to block the world and enter your article’s dimension.
7. Love what you do. (Writing)
Doing what you love is the most efficient way of working. Fall in love in writing as much as you love your morning coffee. Get excited with your topics and you won’t notice that time flies. Whether it’s a job or a hobby, learn to love writing. All else will follow in the article writing guide for you to create a content with substance.
This article writing guide aims to give you the basic guidelines you need to write an article. Writing offers you a wide range of career fields to grow. Take time to experience writing and its creative world.
Feel certain that this article writing guide from Allied Writers is the great start for good articles.
Sources: writersdigest.com | entrepreneurs-journey.com| thepenmagazine.net | thoughtcatalog.com
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The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it
Exclusive conversations that take us behind the scenes of a cultural phenomenon.
- Will Douglas Heaven archive page
When OpenAI launched ChatGPT, with zero fanfare, in late November 2022, the San Francisco–based artificial-intelligence company had few expectations. Certainly, nobody inside OpenAI was prepared for a viral mega-hit . The firm has been scrambling to catch up—and capitalize on its success—ever since.
It was viewed in-house as a “research preview,” says Sandhini Agarwal, who works on policy at OpenAI: a tease of a more polished version of a two-year-old technology and, more important, an attempt to iron out some of its flaws by collecting feedback from the public. “We didn’t want to oversell it as a big fundamental advance,” says Liam Fedus, a scientist at OpenAI who worked on ChatGPT.
To get the inside story behind the chatbot—how it was made, how OpenAI has been updating it since release, and how its makers feel about its success—I talked to four people who helped build what has become one of the most popular internet apps ever . In addition to Agarwal and Fedus, I spoke to John Schulman, a cofounder of OpenAI, and Jan Leike, the leader of OpenAI’s alignment team, which works on the problem of making AI do what its users want it to do (and nothing more).
What I came away with was the sense that OpenAI is still bemused by the success of its research preview, but has grabbed the opportunity to push this technology forward, watching how millions of people are using it and trying to fix the worst problems as they come up.
Since November, OpenAI has already updated ChatGPT several times. The researchers are using a technique called adversarial training to stop ChatGPT from letting users trick it into behaving badly (known as jailbreaking). This work pits multiple chatbots against each other: one chatbot plays the adversary and attacks another chatbot by generating text to force it to buck its usual constraints and produce unwanted responses. Successful attacks are added to ChatGPT’s training data in the hope that it learns to ignore them.
OpenAI has also signed a multibillion-dollar deal with Microsoft and announced an alliance with Bain , a global management consulting firm, which plans to use OpenAI’s generative AI models in marketing campaigns for its clients, including Coca-Cola. Outside OpenAI, the buzz about ChatGPT has set off yet another gold rush around large language models, with companies and investors worldwide getting into the action.
That’s a lot of hype in three short months. Where did ChatGPT come from? What steps did OpenAI take to ensure it was ready to release? And where are they going next?
The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Jan Leike: It’s been overwhelming, honestly. We’ve been surprised, and we’ve been trying to catch up.
John Schulman: I was checking Twitter a lot in the days after release, and there was this crazy period where the feed was filling up with ChatGPT screenshots. I expected it to be intuitive for people, and I expected it to gain a following, but I didn’t expect it to reach this level of mainstream popularity.
Sandhini Agarwal: I think it was definitely a surprise for all of us how much people began using it. We work on these models so much, we forget how surprising they can be for the outside world sometimes.
Liam Fedus : We were definitely surprised how well it was received. There have been so many prior attempts at a general-purpose chatbot that I knew the odds were stacked against us. However, our private beta had given us confidence that we had something that people might really enjoy.
Jan Leike: I would love to understand better what’s driving all of this—what’s driving the virality. Like, honestly, we don’t understand. We don’t know.
Part of the team’s puzzlement comes from the fact that most of the technology inside ChatGPT isn’t new. ChatGPT is a fine-tuned version of GPT-3.5, a family of large language models that OpenAI released months before the chatbot. GPT-3.5 is itself an updated version of GPT-3 , which appeared in 2020. The company makes these models available on its website as application programming interfaces, or APIs, which make it easy for other software developers to plug models into their own code. OpenAI also released a previous fine-tuned version of GPT-3.5, called InstructGPT , in January 2022. But none of these previous versions of the tech were pitched to the public.
Liam Fedus: The ChatGPT model is fine-tuned from the same language model as InstructGPT, and we used a similar methodology for fine-tuning it. We had added some conversational data and tuned the training process a bit. So we didn’t want to oversell it as a big fundamental advance. As it turned out, the conversational data had a big positive impact on ChatGPT.
John Schulman: The raw technical capabilities, as assessed by standard benchmarks, don’t actually differ substantially between the models, but ChatGPT is more accessible and usable.
Jan Leike: In one sense you can understand ChatGPT as a version of an AI system that we’ve had for a while. It’s not a fundamentally more capable model than what we had previously. The same basic models had been available on the API for almost a year before ChatGPT came out. In another sense, we made it more aligned with what humans want to do with it. It talks to you in dialogue, it’s easily accessible in a chat interface, it tries to be helpful. That’s amazing progress, and I think that’s what people are realizing.
John Schulman: It more readily infers intent. And users can get to what they want by going back and forth.
ChatGPT was trained in a very similar way to InstructGPT, using a technique called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF). This is ChatGPT’s secret sauce. The basic idea is to take a large language model with a tendency to spit out anything it wants—in this case, GPT-3.5—and tune it by teaching it what kinds of responses human users actually prefer.
Jan Leike: We had a large group of people read ChatGPT prompts and responses, and then say if one response was preferable to another response. All of this data then got merged into one training run. Much of it is the same kind of thing as what we did with InstructGPT. You want it to be helpful, you want it to be truthful, you want it to be—you know—nontoxic. And then there are things that are specific to producing dialogue and being an assistant: things like, if the user’s query isn’t clear, it should ask follow-up questions. It should also clarify that it’s an AI system. It should not assume an identity that it doesn’t have, it shouldn’t claim to have abilities that it doesn’t possess, and when a user asks it to do tasks that it’s not supposed to do, it has to write a refusal message. One of the lines that emerged in this training was “As a language model trained by OpenAI …” It wasn’t explicitly put in there, but it’s one of the things the human raters ranked highly.
Sandhini Agarwal: Yeah, I think that’s what happened. There was a list of various criteria that the human raters had to rank the model on, like truthfulness. But they also began preferring things that they considered good practice, like not pretending to be something that you’re not.
Because ChatGPT had been built using the same techniques OpenAI had used before, the team did not do anything different when preparing to release this model to the public. They felt the bar they’d set for previous models was sufficient.
Sandhini Agarwal: When we were preparing for release, we didn’t think of this model as a completely new risk. GPT-3.5 had been out there in the world, and we know that it’s already safe enough. And through ChatGPT’s training on human preferences, the model just automatically learned refusal behavior, where it refuses a lot of requests.
Jan Leike: We did do some additional “red-teaming” for ChatGPT, where everybody at OpenAI sat down and tried to break the model. And we had external groups doing the same kind of thing. We also had an early-access program with trusted users, who gave feedback.
Sandhini Agarwal: We did find that it generated certain unwanted outputs, but they were all things that GPT-3.5 also generates. So in terms of risk, as a research preview—because that’s what it was initially intended to be—it felt fine.
John Schulman: You can’t wait until your system is perfect to release it. We had been beta-testing the earlier versions for a few months, and the beta testers had positive impressions of the product. Our biggest concern was around factuality, because the model likes to fabricate things. But InstructGPT and other large language models are already out there, so we thought that as long as ChatGPT is better than those in terms of factuality and other issues of safety, it should be good to go. Before launch we confirmed that the models did seem a bit more factual and safe than other models, according to our limited evaluations, so we decided to go ahead with the release.
OpenAI has been watching how people use ChatGPT since its launch, seeing for the first time how a large language model fares when put into the hands of tens of millions of users who may be looking to test its limits and find its flaws. The team has tried to jump on the most problematic examples of what ChatGPT can produce—from songs about God’s love for rapist priests to malware code that steals credit card numbers—and use them to rein in future versions of the model.
Sandhini Agarwal: We have a lot of next steps. I definitely think how viral ChatGPT has gotten has made a lot of issues that we knew existed really bubble up and become critical—things we want to solve as soon as possible. Like, we know the model is still very biased. And yes, ChatGPT is very good at refusing bad requests, but it’s also quite easy to write prompts that make it not refuse what we wanted it to refuse.
Liam Fedus: It’s been thrilling to watch the diverse and creative applications from users, but we’re always focused on areas to improve upon. We think that through an iterative process where we deploy, get feedback, and refine, we can produce the most aligned and capable technology. As our technology evolves, new issues inevitably emerge.
Sandhini Agarwal: In the weeks after launch, we looked at some of the most terrible examples that people had found, the worst things people were seeing in the wild. We kind of assessed each of them and talked about how we should fix it.
Jan Leike: Sometimes it’s something that’s gone viral on Twitter, but we have some people who actually reach out quietly.
Sandhini Agarwal: A lot of things that we found were jailbreaks, which is definitely a problem we need to fix. But because users have to try these convoluted methods to get the model to say something bad, it isn’t like this was something that we completely missed, or something that was very surprising for us. Still, that’s something we’re actively working on right now. When we find jailbreaks, we add them to our training and testing data. All of the data that we’re seeing feeds into a future model.
Jan Leike: Every time we have a better model, we want to put it out and test it. We’re very optimistic that some targeted adversarial training can improve the situation with jailbreaking a lot. It’s not clear whether these problems will go away entirely, but we think we can make a lot of the jailbreaking a lot more difficult. Again, it’s not like we didn’t know that jailbreaking was possible before the release. I think it’s very difficult to really anticipate what the real safety problems are going to be with these systems once you’ve deployed them. So we are putting a lot of emphasis on monitoring what people are using the system for, seeing what happens, and then reacting to that. This is not to say that we shouldn’t proactively mitigate safety problems when we do anticipate them. But yeah, it is very hard to foresee everything that will actually happen when a system hits the real world.
In January, Microsoft revealed Bing Chat, a search chatbot that many assume to be a version of OpenAI’s officially unannounced GPT-4. (OpenAI says: “Bing is powered by one of our next-generation models that Microsoft customized specifically for search. It incorporates advancements from ChatGPT and GPT-3.5.”) The use of chatbots by tech giants with multibillion-dollar reputations to protect creates new challenges for those tasked with building the underlying models.
Sandhini Agarwal: The stakes right now are definitely a lot higher than they were, say, six months ago, but they’re still lower than where they might be a year from now. One thing that obviously really matters with these models is the context they’re being used in. Like with Google and Microsoft, even one thing not being factual became such a big issue because they’re meant to be search engines. The required behavior of a large language model for something like search is very different than for something that’s just meant to be a playful chatbot. We need to figure out how we walk the line between all these different uses, creating something that’s useful for people across a range of contexts, where the desired behavior might really vary. That adds more pressure. Because we now know that we are building these models so that they can be turned into products. ChatGPT is a product now that we have the API. We’re building this general-purpose technology and we need to make sure that it works well across everything. That is one of the key challenges that we face right now.
John Schulman : I underestimated the extent to which people would probe and care about the politics of ChatGPT. We could have potentially made some better decisions when collecting training data, which would have lessened this issue. We’re working on it now.
Roomba testers feel misled after intimate images ended up on facebook.
An MIT Technology Review investigation recently revealed how images of a minor and a tester on the toilet ended up on social media. iRobot said it had consent to collect this kind of data from inside homes—but participants say otherwise.
- Eileen Guo archive page
AI is dreaming up drugs that no one has ever seen. Now we’ve got to see if they work.
AI automation throughout the drug development pipeline is opening up the possibility of faster, cheaper pharmaceuticals.
The original startup behind Stable Diffusion has launched a generative AI for video
Runway’s new model, called Gen-1, can change the visual style of existing videos and movies.
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- Melissa Heikkilä archive page
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How to Write a Data Analyst Cover Letter
Are you a recently qualified data analyst? If so, you’ve made a good choice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, data analytics roles will grow by 23% between 2021 and 2031. For context, this is much faster than the national average for all occupations, which is just 5%.
However, to get your foot in the door for any data analytics role means making a good impression. And that’s where a strong data analyst cover letter comes in.
A well-crafted data analyst cover letter will showcase your skills and get your resume noticed. In this article, we provide tips on how to write a data analyst cover letter, along with examples and a template to get you started. Whether you’re an entry-level analyst or a seasoned professional, you’ll soon be ready to produce a cover letter that pops!
Read on, or use the clickable menu to jump to the topic of your choice:
- Why do you need a data analyst cover letter?
- How to write a data analyst cover letter (step-by-step)
- Data analyst cover letter examples
- Data analyst cover letter template
Ready? Then let’s get started!
1. Why do you need a data analyst cover letter?
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of writing your cover letter, it’s helpful to understand why you need one in the first place.
Besides being a front piece for any job application, the main benefit of a well-written cover letter is that it showcases your qualifications, skills, and experience in a way your resume cannot. You can introduce yourself and your skillset to an employer in a pithy paragraph or two.
Here’s a list of the benefits of sending a well-honed cover letter with your data analytics resume and portfolio:
- A good data analytics cover letter establishes a connection with the hiring manager
- It highlights the most relevant skills and experience for the job
- You can use it to demonstrate your passion for the role
- It’s an additional opportunity to show off your communication and writing skills
- When executed well, it helps you to stand out from other applicants (especially those who don’t bother to include a letter at all, which is more common than you might think)
Now that you know why a data analyst cover letter is an essential part of your job search, let’s explore how to write one.
2. How to write a data analyst cover letter (step-by-step)
A data analyst cover letter shouldn’t typically include anything you haven’t mentioned elsewhere in your resume or portfolio. However, it’s an opportunity to zero in on the most salient aspects of your application, placing them front and center.
In this section, we offer a step-by-step guide to writing your data analyst cover letter, exploring the basics of professional letter writing and the nuances of a letter for this specific role.
Let’s take a look.
Step 1: Layout your letter correctly
First up, structure! Don’t make your data analyst cover letter too wild or creative—save that for your portfolio. Instead, stick to the following standard professional letter format:
[Your contact details]
[A link to your portfolio/professional website]
Top Left (below the date)
[Name of recipient]
[Their job title]
[Their contact address]
[Reference, e.g. ‘Re: Application for role X’]
Next, begin your letter with a professional greeting, using the hiring manager’s name if you know it. If you don’t know their name, simply write ‘Dear Hiring Manager’.
Step 2: Open with a strong introduction
The opening sentence or two of your data analyst cover letter should, in effect, be a punchy summary of what the letter will then cover. This means ticking a few standard boxes while also making a good impression:
- Include the title of the job you’re applying for
- Include the name of the company you’re applying to work with
- Briefly highlight why you’re the best candidate for the role (picking one or two of your most distinguishing features—don’t make it too long, though, as you can go into more detail later)
Beyond that, what exactly makes an introduction ‘strong’? The strongest intros typically use confident, evocative, yet concise language and include specific details about the role to demonstrate that you’ve researched the company.
You might also want to include a ‘hook’ that captures the reader’s attention, such as an intriguing element of your data analysis expertise that others might not have. For example, maybe you have skills using specific data tools or have experience in a relevant industry.
Step 3: Explain why you’re interested in the role
In the second section/paragraph of your data analyst cover letter, hone in on why you’re the ideal candidate for the role. To show that you’re genuinely interested in the company, aim to mention any specific aspects of the position mentioned in the job description that you find attractive or intriguing.
For example, perhaps you’re particularly excited at the prospect of using your data analysis skills to work on the organization’s flagship project. Or maybe you’re passionate about the company’s mission or potential for career growth. This can be a sentence or two—you don’t need to go wild.
Step 4: Showcase your skills, experience, and qualification
The third section of your data analyst cover letter is typically the longest. It’s your chance to show that you have the skills and abilities to excel and is the place to highlight why you’re uniquely qualified for the job.
While you should avoid listing every skill or qualification, don’t be afraid to get specific—list relevant data analysis techniques that you’re proficient in, for example, or qualifications and experience with certain types of software. Perhaps you’ve worked on a project that closely mirrors the work described in the job description. If so, mention it.
This is also the place to namedrop any professional achievements or awards you’ve achieved. Always keep them relevant to the role, though. Nobody needs to know that you won the pie-eating award at the local town fair. Employee of the month, however, is a different matter.
Step 4: End with a strong closing statement and sign off
In the final sentence or two of your data analyst cover letter, wrap up your application and thank the reader for their time. Include a call to action, such as asking for a meeting or a phone call, if appropriate. If in doubt, just say that you look forward to having an opportunity to discuss the position in person (this sounds confident without being too self-assured).
Finally, include a professional sign-off. Traditionally, if a letter’s recipient is unnamed (e.g. ‘Hiring Manager’) you’ll use ‘Faithfully yours’ as a sign-off. Meanwhile, if you know the person’s name, ‘Sincerely yours’ is better. However, if you find these terms old-fashioned, that’s OK. Just stick with something like ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Warm wishes’, and you won’t go too far wrong. The main thing is to avoid being too casual.
Step 5: Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Once you’ve finished your data analyst cover letter, it’s vital to proofread it for errors before sending it off. As a bare minimum, sleep on it and review it in the morning.
Ideally, you should ask a friend or family member—or better yet, someone working in the industry—to read through it, to ensure you’re not missing anything or have made any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Some general tips for writing your data analytics cover letter
In addition to the steps outlined, here are some additional tips for writing your data analytics cover letter:
- Use active rather than passive language, e.g. ‘I achieved’ rather than ‘achievements were made’ (people often use passive language under the misguided notion that it sounds ‘professional’ when plain English is fine)
- Use fresh adjectives to describe yourself rather than tired, overused ones, e.g. ‘versatile’, ‘meticulous’, and ‘ambitious’ over ‘experienced’ or ‘motivated’
- Avoid jargon and technical language, unless you know for sure the person you’re sending it to will understand it, e.g. ‘I used predictive analytics to identify patterns in customer behavior’ is better than ‘I applied advanced ML algorithms to CX insights’
- Always tailor your letter to the job description, and make sure you address the requirements they’ve outlined
- Keep it concise; your letter should ideally be two or three short paragraphs (about 250-300 words) and certainly no more than a single page. This is probably the most challenging part, so expect to write a few drafts and then edit them down
Now that we’ve covered the basics of your data analyst cover letter, let’s take a look at some examples to highlight the best approach.
3. Data analyst cover letter examples
In this section, we’ll get more specific, looking at how you might want to write each section of your data analyst cover letter. We’ve included a good example and a bad example for each of the points covered in section 2, before explaining why one is better than the other.
Example 1: Opening
I am writing to apply for the Business Intelligence Analyst role at Weyland-Yutani Corporation, as advertised on the Big Space Data Jobs Board. With 2 years of experience analyzing customer and business data, I have the necessary skills and qualifications to thrive in this role. I believe I would be a valuable asset to your insights team.
I am applying for the Data Analyst role at your company. I’m sure I’d be a great fit for this job, as I have a lot of experience in the field.
The first example is strong. It shows that the candidate has done their research (mentioning the job title, organization, and even the board where they found the role) and is confident in their skills and qualifications. It also shows respect to the recipient by addressing them by name.
Meanwhile, the second example is too generic. It doesn’t demonstrate any research or knowledge of the role. And while it’s not always possible to know the manager’s name, don’t open with ‘Dear sir/madam’ which presumes the recipient’s gender. It’s not worth offending the person that you want to give you a job!
Example 2: Explaining why you’re interested
I am especially excited about the prospect of using my data analysis skills to assist with Weyland-Yutani’s flagship project, which I know explores the potential product applications of new biological discoveries. As a lifelong advocate of xenobiology, I am particularly interested in how this area of study can potentially intersect with the customer experience.
I have a great deal of experience in data analysis and I’m sure that I would be a great asset to your team. In addition, I’m interested in this role because it pays a lot of money.
The good example here offers more than just generic platitudes; it provides a real insight into the candidate’s motivations for applying for the role while demonstrating their knowledge and enthusiasm for the company’s work. Obviously, we’ve used an imaginary example here, but it highlights the point.
Once again, the bad example is too generic. It shows no real knowledge or understanding of the company and it lacks enthusiasm. And while there’s nothing wrong with being money-driven, think about what the reader will want to see. It’s much more appealing to the hiring manager to hear about your ambition (which benefits them!) rather than your desire to get paid well (which benefits you!)
Example 3: Showcasing your skills, experience, and qualifications
My experience and qualifications make me an ideal candidate for this role. As a Business Intelligence Analyst at Hyperdyne Systems, I developed expertise in predictive analytics and machine learning, which I used to draw insights from large datasets about current product trends. I also lead a project to improve the accuracy of customer segmentation models, resulting in a 5% increase in marketing ROI.
As a data analyst, I have experience in data analysis, machine learning, predictive analytics, and working with large datasets. I am confident that I have the skills and experience necessary for this role.
The good example provides specific examples of the candidate’s accomplishments, demonstrating their expertise and passion for data analytics. This is much more effective than listing generic skills.
The bad example, on the other hand, gives no information about the candidate’s accomplishments or achievements. And while it is OK to list skills in your resume, it’s a waste of your data analytics cover letter not to dig deeper to showcase how you used these skills.
Example 4: Closing
I look forward to discussing my experience and qualifications further and learning more about the opportunity on offer. I would welcome an invitation to discuss the position further.
I hope to hear from you soon.
The good example provides a strong closing statement. It’s polite and respectful, yet confident. It also shows that the candidate has done their research and is genuinely interested in the role.
The bad example is bland, lacks any genuine passion, and does nothing to demonstrate any knowledge of the role or company. Which one would you invite to an interview?
4. Data analyst cover letter template
Now that you’ve seen some examples of how to write a data analyst cover letter, here’s a template you can use to get started with your cover letter. This is, of course, a very generic template, and you should do more than simply fill in the gaps and send it off!
Instead, use the template as a guideline, using the prompts provided to expand on the topics. Tailor the letter to each role you are applying for.
[Link to your portfolio]
Dear [Name of recipient],
I am writing to apply for the [name of the job] role at [name of company], as advertised on [name of job board]. With [number of months/years] experience analyzing [type of data], I feel confident that I have the necessary skills and qualifications to become a valuable asset to your [team/department].
I am especially excited at the prospect of using my data analysis skills to [outline a specific task or project that the role involves]. As a [describe a personal/professional trait], I believe that this project has the potential to [outline a specific benefit that you think the project will bring].
My experience and qualifications make me an ideal candidate for this role. During my time as a [previous role] at [company], I developed expertise in [list relevant skills], which I used to [outline a project/task you’ve been involved in]. I was also able to [outline an accomplishment], resulting in a [describe the outcome].
I look forward to discussing my experience and qualifications further and hearing more about the opportunity that you’re offering.
So there you have it, everything you need to know when writing a job-winning data analyst cover letter. Now that we’ve discussed how to write one, here’s a quick recap:
- A data analyst cover letter is a great way to introduce yourself and your skillset to a potential employer
- Structure your letter in a professional format, with a clear introduction and closing statement
- Include specific details about the role and company in your introduction, and explain why you’re interested in the position
- In the body of your letter, showcase your skills, experience, and qualifications, and explain why you’re the ideal candidate
- Proofread your letter and get someone else to look it over before you send it off
Following this simple advice, you’ll soon have a data analyst cover letter that stands out. Before you know it, you’ll be preparing for that all-important interview!
To learn more about what a career in data analytics might involve, sign up for this free, 5-day data analytics short course . Prefer to read some more? Then check out the following beginner’s guides:
- What does a machine learning engineer do?
- Python pandas tutorial: An introduction for beginners
- Data analytics for beginners: Jupyter Notebook tutorial
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Step 4: End with a strong closing statement and sign off. In the final sentence or two of your data analyst cover letter, wrap up your application and thank the reader for their time. Include a call to action, such as asking for a meeting or a phone call, if appropriate.