Why Your How-To Articles Aren’t Helping Anyone

When individuals are looking to learn more about a specific subject, or when a knowledgeable individual is in the sharing mood to let you know about that topic – a how-to article then becomes in the works. However, there are times when how-to articles lose their main purpose. They are devoid of giving individuals a true direction in the problem they are attempting to solve. As a result, the individual is left without something to leave the article with, and the writer is left with a disgruntle reader. How can we curve this? That’s the subject of the article today on, how to write an effective how-to article.

Your How-to Titles Are Weak

While it is true that the meat of your article is more important than the title, the title is what will draw your readers in the most. However, it’s important to remember that the title has a bit more importance than some may think. The title draws in the reader because it introduces the topic that the reader thinks they are about to read about. If the title is about “Tackling Mac’s Automator”, but you continue to talk all about Bootcamp, your readers will hate you and feel annoyed that you are talking about something unrelated to the topic at hand. Lastly, deviate from the crowd and don’t title your how-to articles “How-to”. It’s always a rule of mine, unless the editor wants otherwise.


Not Outlining the Pre-Requisites

If your how-to article is about building a computer, you should let your readers know what they will need beforehand. If you dive directly into the topic without outlining what your readers need first, they will be surprised and won’t be able to follow through with the directions straight through. Plus, outlining the prerequisites in the intro allows readers to know if the topic at hand is even a possibility. Granted, it’s important to note that topics as simple as this one – only requiring a computer and a blog – will not require such an outline beforehand.

Distancing Yourself from Readers

The worst thing you can do is make it out that your issues are not that of the readers. Yes, the readers will think that you’re writing this simply to get an article out, but what’s even worse is that they will think you are unqualified to present the topic at hand. Ethos can be established through multiple forms. For example, I like to make use of personal stories. The reader will then feel, “that happened to me too” or will think, “I’m not alone”. In the end, bringing your reader closer to you as an authority figure, but also as a friend letting you in on something they know about.

Ignoring the Facts

An upcoming topic I have to do is on improving one’s sleeping practices. This is a topic that heavily research intensive. However, if I were to attack this topic without a simple statistic or fact, what basis will such a how-to article have? Plus, and all my high school and college students know this first hand, students come to news articles as a way of research themselves. You, as the author are becoming their source, and offering statistics or facts can be food for their research paper or thesis. Your readers will love you for that!

Your How-to Topic is Too General

Lastly, covering a how-to article that is too general isn’t the way to go. It may leave a lot open for you to write about, but you won’t necessarily grab any readers by going this route. An article on “Saving Your Holiday Dinner” could work for most readers during Christmas per se. However, there are unique issues that arise with a Thanksgiving dinner that doesn’t arise for Passover for example. This is the one time when being inclusive doesn’t work. If you are writing an article about “Saving Your Holiday Dinner” during November, tweak it and make it more specifically toward Thanksgiving. You’ll see your views skyrocket, and your readers will love you for it!

Let us know in the comments below how you make your how-to articles stand out from the rest.

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