How To Write A How To
Posted on 07 Dec 2001
by Joel D Canfield (spinhead)
Rated 4.37 (Ratings: 15)
- More articles in FAQ
So, you've realized that your comrades in the evolt.org community could really use whatever excellent idea is rattling around in your head (or your code.) You say you'd love to write an article, but don't know where to start? Step right this way, folks . . .
or, Why You Should Keep Reading
While writing is always challenging, learning to present your ideas in a logical orderly fasion will make it easier on you and more valuable to your readers. This article focuses on good structure for that how-to article we hope you're going to submit to evolt.org.
or, What Should I Already Know?
Egregious errors in spelling will distract from your point and complicate the learning process for your readers. Use a spell checker, no matter how good you are. Grammar is less critical. Unless your speech is frequently misunderstood by friends and family, just write like you speak.
To get started, here's the most basic outline:
- Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em
- Tell 'em
- Tell 'em what you told 'em
No, really. I'll expand, of course, but if you have that brief outline in mind, it's much easier to get a mental picture of the overall process.
or, Now We Get to the Point
Okay, for real this time:
- Introduction: State, in two or three short sentences with virtually no detail, the point of the article.
- Validation: Why should anyone care? Tell them what value they'll get from reading the article.
- Preparation: What do they need to know to understand the meat of the article?
- The Meat: One step at a time, describe exactly how readers can reproduce your results.
- Application: In more detail than step 2 (validation) explain the practical application, including examples if possible.
- Review: State, in two or three short sentences what you taught them.
- Call to Action: Explicitly invite your readers to try it for themselves.
- Bibliography/Notes: If you have any references, either stuff you used to derive your content, or places where readers can get more info, give 'em links. If they're books, provide complete info, and maybe even a link to Barnes&Noble or Amazon. Make it easy for folks to follow up on your great idea.
or, So, You're Saying, I Can Write An Article Myself?
If you really understand the task you're describing, you should be able to describe it to others. If you structure it right (and perhaps practice a bit) you'll get your point across.
or, Could You Repeat That, Please?
A structured approach will help you organize your thoughts, enabling you to present them in a logical, orderly fashion. It will help ensure that you don't miss important points, and will assist your readers to understand and retain your information. If you're writing to teach, that's what it's all about.
Call to Action
or, What Now?
If you're an absolute beginner, you'll probably need to gather more experience before you're ready to write for public exposure. Of course, you may have a cool bit of code none of your friends knew about, or a really simple procedure that others always seem to do the hard way. In that case, write it up and submit it. Evolt.org is always looking for good articles to share with the rest of the community. If your article needs a bit of help, those who review it will offer suggestions. They're nice folks; they'll be gentle.
You seasoned veterans, what are you waiting for? The web is about content, right? If evolt.org has helped you, this is an excellent way for you to give back to the community. Remember that SQL stored procedure that saves you hours every week? How about that CSS trick everyone tells you is so cool? Spend an hour going over it with these guidelines in front of you, and see if you can't share something with your fellow evolters.
Still not sure if you can do it? I mean, look at that keyboard. It's got, like, two dozen letters on it; practically the whole alphabet! If you really don't know where to get started, even with these guidelines, let us know. If we can help you provide the quality content we need, it's a fair swap.
or, Where Did That Come From? Where Can I Get More?
Please read the existing writer's guidelines. They'll clarify and expand on some of the points above with specific reference to evolt.org's requirements.
Also read the submission style guide. All the info on tags and format and the technical stuff to make your article fit evolt.org's style, including some general info on writing for the web.
An expanded, more generic version of this document is available as well. If you want to create well-structured content, I hope you'll find it useful.
And, once again, if you'd really like some assistance getting started, give a shout and we'll be glad to help.