Having an outline for an article helps give it structure, and structure means focus. This in turn means a tighter, more readable article, and of course a more readable article means a more read article, which is what you’ll be after. But how do you create a tight article structure in the first place?
One of the traditional ways of thinking about article structures is to work on the basis of having a beginning a middle and an end. Certainly this is a fairly easy way of thinking, and isn’t a bad way to begin. Having a sound beginning means establishing the focus of the article, capturing the attention of your reader and providing them with a reason for reading the rest of your article.
Your middle should develop your main point, provide further background information and flesh out the purpose more. Your conclusion should be as succinct and clear as your beginning, helping to summarise your article in a way that makes it clear to the reader that you have provided an answer or response to whatever the initial question or issue was.
But whilst this three stage article outline is easy to understand it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to writing an article. If you’re writing an 800 word article, your first 150 words or so will be your introduction, and your last 150 words will be your conclusion, But that still leaves 600 words for the middle – how do you structure that?
Many people don’t, and this is where the three stage article structure falls down. People’s articles end up a little like someone who doesn’t visit the gym that often – rather saggy and bloated round the middle. To tighten up the middle we need to provide structure here too.
Rather than a three stage article structure you might think about a five stage article structure. The first section captures interest by posing a question, offering a statistic or making a statement. Your second section should expand on this and explain what the problem is or provide a little background to the issue.
Your third section should then provide an alternative, a solution of some kind, with the fourth section clarifying how this would work with examples or demonstrations. Finally your fifth section will summarise the main purpose of the article and leave the reader with a clear idea of what the solution is. Your resource box can then offer a resource or further information which will allow them to take advantage of that solution, apply it to their own work or benefit in some other way.
A five stage article structure isn’t going to work for everyone, but when compared to a three stage article structure it’s a lot easier for people to work with. Whether you choose a three stage, five stage or some other form of article structure, your articles will certainly be tighter and more purpose driven. If you look around you at examples written by established writers you’ll notice how often you see examples of this five stage article. For example – re-read this article and see how it was used here!