I’m worried! I’ve been asked to write an article that people will read. How do I begin?

I’m worried! I’ve been asked to write an article that people will read. How do I begin?

With so much online noise to compete with, if I’m going to write an article, I want it to stand out from the crowd. But how do I do it?

This is something I find myself grappling with. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Or rather, what used to be natural, when I was much younger, is no longer the case.

I’ve been so busy working as an M&A consultant – advising organisations and leading major changes, that long-form ability to write articles has been lost over the years.

But with lockdown, I thought this was the perfect time to ‘give it a go’ and try my hand at writing some content.

Ok, if I’m going to write, I need to do some research first!

So, in a bid to improve my own writing and to gain the confidence to join my colleagues who write regularly, I conducted research to learn how to write articles people will read.

I came up with six tips. Here goes..

Tip 1: Minimise barrier to entry

You have 10 seconds to grab your readers attention.  Therefore, your first sentence is the most important.  It must incite the curiosity of your reader and make them want to read the next sentence.  But how to do this…

Keep your opening paragraph short and punchy.  Incite curiosity through storytelling, asking a question or quote an interesting fact.

Tip 2: Keep it short and sweet

If a sentence doesn’t move you closer to making your point, delete it.  Use strong, precise language and balance words with white space to make it an easy read. Limit words by combining sentences, removing needless words and most importantly, edit after writing.  Treat the editing process as separate to the writing process.

Tip 3: Tell a story

People love stories and always respond to a compelling tale.  Incite curiosity by recounting an event, the setting of a stage or the unfolding of a plot. Pepper your writing with seeds of curiosity; a short sentence or phase that gives your reader a reason to read on.

Tip 4: Show then tell

Present ideas in a logical manner.  Help your readers navigate your writing by writing in a conversational style.  Anticipate your readers’ questions and answer them as if the questions were asked face to face.

Tip 5: Always write for someone

People crave connection so always write for an individual not the masses.  Don’t visualise your readers as a nondescript crowd, instead, imagine a single person in that crowd and write for them.  Give your reader the impression you wrote for them alone, for their benefit; this is very engaging.

Tip 6: Give substance

Never write for the sake of writing.  Write for the sake of conveying meaning and understanding.  It is important that your readers leave having learnt something or been given food for thought.

One last thing… Everyone has something interesting to say. Including me!

In our noisy online world, there is a need for meaningful, compelling content that is well written and improves understanding.

So, having done my research, it’s time to put it into practice and write, write, write! Because practice makes perfect. I have plenty of stories to tell and lessons to offer.

So it’s my turn to chip in with my own thoughts and experiences so that all of us in the M&A profession get that little bit better next time around.