Here at The Book Shelf, we work with writers and professional editors. Editing articles is a pretty standard part of our day.
Now, I’m not going to admit I’m a world-class editor. I’m still learning the art of my craft, but that’s what good professionals know. They know there is always room to be better — do better. But I know when one of our own articles will do well.
I think I’ve got you for about 3 minutes of reading time here, so strap in.
Keep it short and keep it sweet. There are studies conducted to indicate shorter articles have higher views and clicks.
If they’re not concentrating on your article, why should you? Hone your niche here, and take the opportunity to list what is important to you and what you know.
Known as the Attention Economy, researchers have discovered readers who lack knowledge, lack the ability to read comprehensively.
Keep in mind that your reader has not spent the last week writing the article and will know less than you did when you started it.
Therefore, you need to write a title which condenses the entire article in one sentence (and then a little extra seasoning on that dish with the subtitle).
Some writers enjoy the artistry of a pretentious title. You’ve condensed all your thoughts into an article but don’t want to be too blunt with exactly what you’ve created. Here’s the hard truth, titles need to say exactly what you mean.
Obviously, there’s no pleasing some readers. It’s hard to write a title that everyone will want to click on. You can run it through all the SEO engines in the world, but soon all those titles start to look the same.
For example, I wrote an article for our website and titled it in the bluntest way possible:
I’d been playing around the ideas such as:
This is too long, and it’s not indicative of who or what helped me. It could’ve been friends or family for all the reader knows! But here’s the clue: the reader.
I know my audience. You’re writers and readers like me. Also, it’s snappy and to the point. It prepares the reader for a list as well as the tone (my writer’s voice) which is that I’ll sound like a writer who reads a lot and uses reading to help my writing.
Remember, it’s okay to be blunt. Plain language is what the vast majority of us use every day! Stick to your roots!
Why do I want to write about article writers’ mistakes?
Because I make them, and I know other writers who make them, too. I know I want to help writers and readers because I wish someone had helped me out.
Obviously, you can’t just write what you want:
Well, if you changed these to…
… you’ll really be capturing the audience’s attention!
Readers don’t care about the personal essays of your day or lunch, not unless you’re Margaret Atwood or Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own is an outstanding personal essay about being a woman and a writer, and she’s the exception here). Readers care about what they know (or want to know to help them out).
Sharing article ideas with others helps you focus on the audience and your mode of creativity. Beta readers can be a great, honest help with an expansive range of reading who know what authorial voices do well.
Don’t be afraid to be criticised. True friends and family will want to help you, not judge you. Editors change the language and grammar without changing the writer’s voice, but it can be frustrating when writers forget who is actually reading their work in the end.
If you want to find out how to write well, we share tips in our monthly newsletter. Or, if you can’t wait, check out our Writer’s Guide. Find us on socials, our website and Goodreads to get notified whenever we publish something new.
We’re here to help writers — we’re here to help you.
by Shelby Jones
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