When I take on ghostwriting gigs I’m often asked to write articles or reviews of around 500 words. My policy is that I’m willing (and able) to write about pretty much anything. How is this possible? It is down to a 4 point formula I once learned from Andrew Hansen. It enabled him to write a ton of articles in a very short stretch (I believe it was 24 or 48 hours). When you’ve got this formula down you can easily string 500 words together of the highest quality. Even though there may be concerns the output may seem formulaic it is not something that should worry you. As long as you use the method diligently, gather your 4 points and fill in the blanks you should be golden. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an article or a review, people will love what you write.
The Article Formula
For a 500 word article I like to include 4 points. Even with just 4 points I tend to go comfortably over the 500 word target, which is something my clients love. At it’s simplest the formula I use is the following.
- Tell them what you’ll tell them.
- Tell them.
- Tell them what you’ve told them.
This formula will make sure the audience gets the point, but won’t make them feel you’re spoonfeeding it to them. People love recognition (some would in this instance call it repitition). Being able to nod in recognition will make your reader feel good about himself. Since you have to reach 500 words without getting too repetitive I feel you need about 4 points.
Sidenote: What’s the difference between an article and a review?
In my opinion it’s just a matter of the POV (fancy writing term for “point of view”). When I write an article I try to educate my reader about a specific subject matter. When I write a review I try to provide the reader with the best foundation for deciding whether to make a purchase or not. The difference, as far as writing the darn thing is concerned, isn’t that big.
The 4 points make reaching 500 words a breeze. When writing an article I look for 4 points that follow a logical path and are the most critical in regards to the subject matter. It really needs to be some of the key points. A review is a little different. Since a review is about a product or a service I look for the greatest benefits. If I have a hard time finding the benefits I look at the features, but I definitely prefer benefits. It’s also important take note of some of the negative aspects of the product or service. If your review is 100% positive without any hint of a drawback it will lose credibility in the eyes of the reader. With the introduction and the conlusion/call to action you’ve got a total of 6 points for your stucture. To hit 500 words you need to write 84 words on average for each of those 6 points.
Filling in the Blanks
As mentioned you need 84 words per point to make sure you hit 500 words, in fact, 84 words will take you to 504 words. When you open your favored text editor you need to list the 4 points in a logical order. Then you write a short introduction introducing the subject matter and the 4 points in a few sentences. Make sure the final sentence leads naturally into the first point.
For each of the 4 points start by introducing the points. Then spend a couple of sentences going into greater detail about the point. In the final sentence you want to bridge into the next point. If it’s the 4th point you will need to bridge into the conclusion/call to action that will conclude the 500 words.
In the concluding paragraph you need to summarize the 4 points. Get into the overall advantage/drawback of the subject matter, and potentially add a call to action (make the reader do something).
A Formulaic Approach?
Does this approach seem too formulaic? Probably. Is formulaic a bad thing? No. I read a book on the writing craft (fiction writing) by James Scott Bell where he mentioned that formulas are used because they work. Just because something follows a given formula it doesn’t have to be dull. What really matters is what you put into the formula. That is, your writing. The formula gives you and your reader a recognizable structure. Humans love recognition (as I believe I mentioned earlier). It makes it easier to process the information in the article.
Now I’ve reached the concluding paragraph of this article. I’ve followed the formula outlined. I may have bend or broken a rule here and there, but overall, the structure should be recognizable. I’ve used the 4 points, I’ve filled in the blanks, and although I’ve taken a formulaic approach I hopefully haven’t bored you to tears.
Using a known formula is a key element to improving the speed and quality of your writing. It means there is one less thing to think about. If you want more tips on improving your writing I urge you to take a look at “Money Love Words” which is a course on writing that I have put together based on my experience with writing non-fiction books and articles.