How To Write A Professional Article

Picture by: Stephanie Yarnell and Jacqueline Hobbs (2016). NNCI.

When writing formal articles, a lot of authors do not realise that there are a few rules to adhere to. Even though they are not exactly made obvious, they are there to keep articles looking professional to all of its readers. Informal articles have a few exceptions, however formal ones need to be set out in a specific way.

Introduction:

Writing articles can be both an enjoyable and professional route to take for those who love or just want to experience the industry. However, like most things, there are rules to follow and these rules help to improve the quality of your articles. It does not matter how many articles you publish as people do not look for that. Quality over quantity, remember? People care more about how much time and effort you have put into an article and it really shows when you write.

Below, I have provided a few sections on what to and what not to place in an article, as well as solutions.

Profanity – “blasphemous, obscene or inappropriate language.” – Cambridge Dictionary.

A lot of the time, profanity in articles can be avoided by using less offensive words. What you need to remember is anyone could be reading your articles, so it is important that profanity is kept to a minimum. People can get offended when you use profanity and it can sometimes be viewed as rude, which is probably the last thing you intended. The use of profane language also sets a precedent for younger viewers, which is setting a bad example. 

Another problem with profanity is that it can make you sound ignorant. If you are trying to keep a professional outlook on things, then use a different word. There are thousands of words in the English language, so subsiding one with the profane word should be of no problem. Profane words have this impact of making you sound uneducated in a topic because you are expressing yourself in rash, caustic language and disregarding the social ramifications of cursing.

Solution – Try to avoid it. If you cannot avoid it, then at least censor it. Use asterixes to numb out all of the letters. Example – The ‘F’ word = F**k.

Research:

Before writing any articles, it is important to do your research (dependent on article type). If you are writing a professional article, then research would be required. You cannot use your own knowledge for something that is meant to be professional because that would then make your article biased. If you are to write an article, make sure you search around, do some reading and make notes. The amount of research you put into an article, will improve the chances of people reading it and giving you constructive feedback. 

However, it is important to avoid Wikipedia when researching. Wikipedia has an edit button for the public to utilise, so anyone can change anything on their pages. Try to avoid using Wiki as much as you can because it will not look right when writing and you may be corrected by someone else who says that your point needs correcting. Wikipedia is not a reliable source to use when researching.

When researching something that you have a real passion for or something that speaks to you on an emotional level, you need to place a disclaimer beforehand saying that the views are your own. You also need to try and keep a balanced view. This can be difficult sometimes, however, it is a valued part of becoming a great writer and a lot of readers prefer to see a balanced view, rather than a write steering to one side as they may disagree with you and will have something to say about it. Remaining neutral is better.

Solution – Try to avoid using Wikipedia and forums as those are unreliable and biased sources. Using ‘Google Scholar’ and professional writing companies who provide a balanced view is a good place to start. However, when using Google Scholar, you must use in date articles, so from 2007-2017. Journals should be used within the time frame of 10 years to keep information relevant and up-to-date.

Images:

Images add a general outline of what your article is going to be about. A lot of people can read a lot from a picture, which really helps them to focus on articles. However, when using a picture, it is important to credit the photographer with a small reference under the picture. First you need to put either ‘picture by,’ or ‘credit of’ to thank the photographer, then you need to add what year they took it in brackets. After that you need to put where you found the picture then change the font to italics. This is a professional way of doing it. Example – Picture by: Jonathon Smith (2017). Google. 

It is also important to check for copyright laws, as a lot of pictures will have copyrights to them. If they do, then you need to email or get into contact with the owner of that photograph and ask for permission to use it. 

While we are at it, try to refrain from using inappropriate pictures, such as nudity or people using profanity unnecessarily. That can look very off-putting to those reading it. It is important to remember that the picture is often the first thing people see when scrolling through articles.

Disclaimers or Warnings:

If you know that your article is going to be long, insensitive, possibly subjective, controversial or offensive, then it is of high important that either a warning or disclaimer is placed at the beginning of the article. This way, people have been warned of what they are about to read. A formal way of doing this is by placing two astrixes before the actual disclaimer or warning then writing what needs to be said. Example – **Disclaimer – There are some disturbing descriptions in this article, therefore, please proceed with caution.**

Disclaimers or warnings give readers the chance to look away if they feel something may be too uncomfortable for them. It is a considerate feature to add in. 

Remember – if you are going to add something into your article that may be deemed any of the above, then place a warning or disclaimer in.

Contractions:

Contractions – “Two words made shorter by placing an apostrophe where letters have been omitted. To contract means to squeeze together. Example – They’re: They are.” – Cambridge Dictionary.

When writing a formal article, contractions should be used to a minimum, because they look unprofessional. They are not wrong, they are just less formal than the expanded forms. When it comes to writing, some ways of expressing information are more formal than others, and different contexts come with different expectations about what is deemed appropriate. The use of contractions are a part of informal writing.

Remember – You should only use contractions when writing an informal article. Similar to university or college, you should refrain from using contractions as it looks unprofessional.

References and Citations:

This is really going to hit those university days. Referencing and citations can be a real pain to some, due to how complicated different versions are, however, if people want to research further into something you have written, then providing references at the end of your article gives them that opportunity. There are many different referencing styles that are used in different countries. So, it is important to make a note of what style you use. The United Kingdom uses Harvard referencing, which also has a booklet that can be used to find different references and citations:

https://studyskillshub.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/harvard-referencing-guide-ed-6-2016.pdf

If you have researched something from a particular site and have reworded a few of their explanations, then you need to reference the author. It is plagiarism otherwise, which you could get into trouble for. It is also important that references are placed in alphabetical order, so that it is easier for readers to find a specific author. My references have been placed at the bottom of the page, should you want to take a look at what they look like. I will provide an example of what a reference from a journal would look like with Harvard referencing, then what one from a website would look like:

1) Eede, C., and Jones, J. (2017). How to write a formal article. Wix, 1(1), pp.12.

2) Eede, C., and Jones, J. (2017) How to write a formal article. Wix [online]. Available from: **insert website link here** [Accessed: 06.11.2017].

Citations on the other hand are only usually used when using a journal article. They should be placed at the end of a sentence from which the article was used. When using a citation, you need to place the surnames of each author or put ‘et al‘ (and others) if it has more than 3 authors, the date and page number in brackets. Then at the bottom of the page, you need to do a full reference. Examples:

1) (Eede and Jones, 2017, pp.12).

2) (Eede et al., 2017, pp.12)

Plagiarism:

Plagiarism – “Copying another’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own.” – Cambridge Dictionary.

Plagiarism is the equivalent of stealing, also known as ‘literary theft.’ In other words, it is an act of fraud as it is stealing another’s work then lying about it afterwards. According to United States law, ideas can be stolen. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way.

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided by citing sources. Acknowledging that certain material has been ‘borrowed‘ and referencing the site is usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

Remember – If you are going to borrow someone else’s work, then give them an acknowledgment, otherwise, you could be in trouble for breaching copyright laws and fraud.

Grammarly:

Grammarly is a great tool to use, especially for writers and academics. It helps people to communicate more effectively and improves the quality of their work. This feature checks your text for writing issues and corrects them or offers a suggestion on what to change it to. The checks include grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and irregular verb conjunctions. It also provides synonym suggestions to make your writing more readable, clear and concise. It is an online feature that allows you to write with more confidence.

General Information:

When writing formal articles, it is important that you keep your information clear and concise. Use a clear font, preferably size 12-16 font, underline new sections and proof -read your work. Placing an introduction and conclusion makes it look professional when writing formally too. It gives the reader an indication of what the article will entail, as well as what has been gathered from the article overall.

Conclusion:

When writing formal articles, it is important to adhere to the above rules. Yes, writing an informal article allows for some exceptions, however, when writing a formal article, the above points need to be considered. 

Thank you for reading.

What are your thoughts?

References:

I am a freelance writer and aspiring author. My passion lies within UK adult education, stigmatised topics and mental health, however, I aim to keep an open mind.


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