writing articles, write

Write an article: size matters

What do you do if an editor asks you to write a 600 word article?

I’m talking to the entrepreneur and PR side of the writing industry, by the way. Journalists will damned well write 600 words and make sure they’re the right length. A lot of magazines to which I contribute prefer to have a selection of “contributed content”, or writing from industry people/prominent speakers and soforth.

Write to length

So it was that I was editing something recently which was 1150 words long for a 600 word slot. Longer-term readers might remember the occasion I was expected to fill four 500-word pages with a piece that was 700 words long.

Size definitely matters. Actually the majority of people get the size bit right; here are some other areas I come across that people get hopelessly wrong. If you want to see your marketing material in print, bear the following in mind and you’ll stand a better chance:

  • As per the above notes, when an editor gives you a length they mean it. In the online world we can be a bit more flexible; both of the extreme examples above were for paper-based publications. We can’t stretch a piece of paper – it has to fit.
  • Perhaps you’re paying to take part in an advertorial. This is welcome and it pays our bills, and readers appear to like it. However, making it nakedly commercial is a turn-off. Write something the reader will enjoy so that they come to you asking for more – “my company is wonderful” will have people switching off en masse.
  • Read your work out loud to yourself if it’s at all practical. If it sounds awkward, don’t allow yourself any excuses, rewrite so that it’s clearer.
  • You probably won’t spot all of your typos. I never do and I’ve been doing this job for years. Here’s an article that explains that I’m very intelligent as a result (it is therefore factually correct). If it’s at all practical get someone else to check it. No, it’s not infallible and of course we’ll check it but yes, a professional writer may well start judging you if you seem less than 100% accurate and therefore professional.
  • Don’t get precious about your house style when you’re in our publications. Yes, you might be very particular about your job title having capital letters, or you might insist your own jargon is vital (I once had a client who decided all of its products were not products but ‘routes to value’ or RTVs – and I had a blasting every time the word ‘product’ was in the copy). That’s fine in your own marketing materials but when you’re dealing with an independent publication, our rules will trump yours. The reader really doesn’t care. Write a clear and engaging message and they’ll be a lot more attentive than any upper case v. lower case argument is going to make them.

Tomorrow I will be tutoring a client on writing in the corporate market. If your own copywriting skill needs smartening up I can help – contact me by clicking here, calling 07973 278780 or filling in the form below.

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