Whoopee! Hot Diggety! If a webpage could kiss, this one would be planting a juicy wet one on your cheek about now. Smack! Miss or mister potential writer for the spiritual formation and prayer website, welcome. Here are tips that will help make your next article a hit with our readers.
Tip 1—Grab their attention in the first sentence.
Our readers, college educated folk between the ages of twenty and forty, are busy trying to change the world. While reading your article, they are also listening to music, checking email on their phone, and drinking an iced latte at their home office, Starbucks. Unlike a person who sits down for a hour to read a novel, internet readers behave more like a wild animal on the hunt for a quick meal. If you can’t grab their attention in the first fifteen seconds, they will be on to something else.
Tip 2—Use the first paragraph to summarize your article
Internet readers rarely read an article word for word. They skim. So welcome them and in the first four or five sentences tell what you want them know. In other words, make your last summary paragraph your first paragraph. Don’t start with a quote unless it is part of a full sentence as this makes trouble for the automatic feeds.
Tip 3—Use headers to introduce each section of your article
The reader will scan the headers first to get the gist of the article. If a header sounds interesting, it will help build anticipation and hold their attention.
Tip 4—Write in the first person whenever possible
Yale professor William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well says,” Writers are obviously at their most natural when they write in the first person. Writing is an intimate transaction between two people conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity. Therefore I urge people to write in the first person: to use “I” and “me” and “we” and “us.”
Tip 5—Article or blog word length
400-600 words are a good length for a blog post or a Spiritual Formation and Prayer article. That is enough space for the introduction, body, application, and ending without putting the reader to sleep. Keep blog posts clean, concise, and engaging. If you have more to say, it is better to write two short articles rather than one long one.
Tip 6—Avoid religious jargon
Avoid using religious jargon or making assumptions that confuse. Clarify any theological terms that you use. For example, the phrase "Spiritual Formation" can be misleading for many. Define it: “The process of becoming like Jesus for the sake of others.”
Tip 7—Use active verbs rather than passive verbs
William Zinsser says, “Use active verbs unless there is no comfortable way to get around using a passive verb. The difference between an active verb and a passive verb—in style and vigor—is the difference between life and death for a writer. “Joe saw him” is strong. “He was seen by Joe” is weak. A style that consists of passive constructions will sap the reader’s energy. Nobody ever quite knows what is being perpetrated by whom and on whom."
Tip 8—Retreat Guides
We recommend keeping retreat guides to two pages in length. If the reader wants to download the attached PDF file, they can easily print the pages back to back and use one sheet of paper. Retreat guides usually have an opening prayer and instructions on how to quiet oneself. They also contain a focus of reflection such as a Scripture passage, poem, painting, or song. Some include quotes from devotional classics, reflection questions, or art work. They usually conclude with a prayer. As with other articles, a retreat guide should include a short introductory paragraph that summarizes the guide.
Tip 9—Include Links
Internet links standout because they are a different color on the page. They are also a good way to include additional information for the person hunting for more or related content.
Tip 10—Writing is a Team Sport
After you have written a draft that you are satisfied with, invite a friendly critic to read it. Ask them: Is the article clear and concise? Does it hold your attention and if not, where does the article jump the rails? What assumptions does the article make that need to be clarified? Will the reader learn something about you the writer that will help them connect with the content?
Potential writer, there you have it. Ten tips to help you get started. Have fun and let us know when you have something to show us.