Writing Articles That Are Readable

Foreword By The Author

writing articles

WordWeb pro (Photo credit: Kei!)

Writing articles that are readable might seem to some experts to be a case of unnecessary advice but the fact is that many authors overestimate the readability of their own copy. Yet there are a number of free writing aids that can help any writer to produce quality, easily understandable text. Coupled with the other tips here, there is no reason now to ever produce copy that doesn't say exactly what you want it to say.
Mike Alexander
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Introduction

Readability should be a primary concern for anyone whose job includes writing articles. After all, if what you write cannot immediately be understood, there is not much point in writing it. It's not about precisely correct words or grammar or precisely correct punctuation (though all of these things are desirable) but about writing in such a way as to be clearly understood. In order to be properly understood you need to be precise in some important areas.

Planning

Keep notes and snippets of information somewhere convenient so that they are always easy to add to and easy to find. Plan ahead and arrange the data you want to impart in a logical and easy-to-understand manner. Arranging your material under temporary and concise headings can help you to do this.

Putting It On 'Paper'

My preferred method of operation is to write a draft without taking account of paragraph layout, using correct words etc. In other words, using my notes, I write it as I would speak it. This allows me to put my thoughts down without too much regard to punctuation, grammar etc. Once the draft is complete, then the editing process can commence. If you find that you tend to wander off topic sometimes, then during the editing process you can decide whether you want to incorporate your wanderings into the article or whether you should use that diversion as the genesis of new article under a different title.

Writing Articles Using Aids

Spellcheckers are the most commonly used writing aids and are included in most writing applications (such as word processors etc) although I am constantly amazed at the number of people who don't make use of them. Finding the right word for what you want to say, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult.

Words

The use of incorrect words, or malapropisms, is extremely common nowadays, especially on the Internet. Often, the problem wouldn't arise at all if only short, popular words were used in preference to longer, less well known ones when writing articles. On the other hand, if you know the word you want to use will precisely convey what you want to say, then by all means use it, provided you are reasonably sure your readers will also know it. A very valuable tool that can be an enormous help in this area is WordWeb. It is a University of Princeton project and serves as a dictionary, thesaurus and word finder extraordinaire. On top of all else, it is free (although there is a superior version available for sale).

Punctuation And Grammar

These can sometimes be a bit tricky, though they are by no means insurmountable problems. Several of the better class of word processors have built in grammar checkers which also manage to correct punctuation where necessary. Another way of solving many punctuation and grammar problems when writing articles is to always use short sentences. Apart from that, stick to simple punctuation such as a comma (wherever a natural pause occurs) and the period (full stop to speakers of British English).

Editing

Re-read the completed work after a reasonable break (like overnight). It is surprising how much easier a proper appraisal can be when seen through ‘fresh eyes’. Avoid anything that unnecessarily distracts the reader’s attention from your message. If readers have to keep re-reading a section of an article in order to work out what it means they are being distracted from the message.

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