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What Is a How-To Article?
How-to articles are instructional content where interested readers can view a step-by-step guide on how to do something—such as how to change a car tire, create a website, or swaddle a baby. A good article contains a list of steps fleshing out each phase of the process until completion. Whether you’re an experienced article writer or a casual blogger, anyone with a basic knowledge of a subject and a few reliable sources can write a how-to article.
How to Write a Great How-To Article in 8 Steps
Regardless of the depth of your knowledge, there are a few steps you need when writing an instructional sequence for others:
1. Pick a Topic.
Find a subject in your life you’re relatively knowledgeable about and choose a specific aspect to be the focus of your article writing. For instance, if you have experience as a chef, you may be able to write a great how-to article on how to make the perfect au jus. If you’re a successful small business owner, you may write a how-to article on how to start a small business. A thing you’re well-versed in or passionate about will not only make for good content, but keep you interested in the topic as you continue to write about it.
2. Figure out Your Audience.
Learning how to do something is why your audience is coming to your article or blogging site in the first place, so it’s important to know how to effectively communicate what they seek. A teenager may find your article on how to fix a bike chain, but if it’s written using too many sophisticated terms, they may not understand, thus rendering your article ineffective. Tailor your style to appeal to your target audience, keeping the reader’s attention and maximizing comprehension.
3. Do Your Research.
Spend a lot of time gathering all the information you can. You want your readers to trust your information. Despite how much you may already know on a given subject, providing supportive, credible resources when writing articles will boost your legitimacy as a knowledgeable person in your field.
4. Outline Your Steps.
Writing a rough first draft of how your main points will play out will help you organize your thoughts and keep your process in order. Outlining will help you figure out what your tone is going to be and which steps need more information before you dig in to the actual writing. Don’t worry about word count yet, just put as much information as you can down. Afterwards, when you comb through it to formulate your steps, you’ll get a sense of which sections have too much information and will need to be broken up into bullet points and simplified.
5. Write the Process.
The first paragraph should be a summary of your how-to article, including what you’re going to teach the reader. Next, list each step with all the pertinent information required—and be thorough. If you have experience on a topic, information that’s readily known to you may not be to your casual reader, so don’t skip any steps, no matter how obvious it seems. Be sure to explain any common mistakes people make when completing this process, as it will also be helpful to the reader to know what not to do.
6. Keep it Simple.
Overexplaining, going off on tangents, or including irrelevant information will confuse and lose the reader. Good writing for how-to articles includes streamlining your solution clearly and efficiently from the first sentence until the last. This is especially true for when the steps of your how-to aren’t in any chronological order. It’s up to you to make the process easy to follow and digest for the person reading.
7. Make it Friendly.
A good writer will make their tone helpful and assertive, not condescending and arrogant. No reader, regardless of their demographic, likes to be spoken down to. You want the audience to trust you know what you’re talking about, and stay with you the whole way.
8. Test it.
Your how-to is only a great article if it works. Test your own steps to see if your how-to works, and if you can, find multiple people to certify your process. Having more than one person go through each of the steps, replicate the instructions, and test its validity is how you ensure what you’ve written is accurate. If you can communicate the proper information well enough, you’ll become a reliable how-to source that will generate an audience for your next article.
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