Identify your audience
Before you even start typing take a moment to think about who will be reading your article. Are you writing for children, or adults? Are they industry professionals, or complete beginners in their field? The way in which your article is written is dictated by these answers, so consider it carefully.
If you’re writing for beginners then you’ll need to cover the basics and guide them through the process step-by-step, with screenshots where applicable.
Professionals or more advanced users should already understand the fundamentals, so you can skip them or cover them briefly if it’s relevant. Just remember not to patronise your readers.
The audience will also dictate the length of your writing – children have a much shorter attention span! Regardless of who you’re writing for though, remember to be concise. Don’t bulk out an article for the sake of making it longer. A short, concise article will be more popular than a long-winded one. Also remember your sentence length. Several sentences which have the same number of words can make a piece extremely difficult to read.
Existing magazines are one of your greatest assets when determining your writing style and article length. Go out there and read some.
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” – Confucius
Choose a topic, but make it unique!
Nobody wants to see 10 articles, by 10 different authors, all covering the same subject in exactly the same way. Find a new topic to make yours unique! If you simply can’t think of something new, approach the topic in a way which makes it new – go into more detail about a particular aspect of it, or show a different way of achieving the same result. Whatever you do, cover it in a way which will aid people’s understanding, rather than just regurgitating the same information.
Research if you need to
Possibly the biggest crime you can commit when writing an article is arrogance. Don’t assume you know everything. The last thing you want to do is claim something and then have your readers refute it. It’s better to double check now.
Not all articles will require it, but for some you may wish to cite your sources – especially if you’re making a particularly outrageous claim. If you can back it up with reputable sources, it’ll carry more weight.
“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.” – Albert Szent-Györgyi
Conducting an interview
Preparation is key when performing an interview, even if it’s online. Make a list of your questions and keep them open-ended (no “yes” or “no” questions). If you find that your interviewee is being short with their answers tease more information out of them will follow up questions. These impromptu questions don’t need to be written into your final interview, but you can use the new information to lengthen their answers.
There are many techniques to record your interviewee’s responses, but even if you’re using a Dictaphone always take notes as well. Technology can fail, or it might not pick up their voice very well, so it’s always best to have a backup.
Once you’ve collated the interview, read it. Don’t be afraid to reword their answers or your questions slightly to help the article flow better (and surely it goes without saying to correct grammar and spelling errors). Just ensure you’re not changing their opinion on anything.
Even if you’re submitting it somewhere that has a proof-reader, check your work yourself. The less work the editor has to do the more credible you’ll be as an article writer. Depending on the voice of the magazine, you may need to take out any abbreviations or symbols (& to “and”), so it’s paramount that you make these changes before submitting.