cft
Become a CreatorSign inGet Started

Why I Use The Same Structure For Almost Every Article

Here I’ll talk about the benefits of structuring and outlining your writing before you sit down to actually write. But if you just want the juicy template information, skip ahead.


user

Alexander Boswell

5 months ago | 7 min read
Follow

And what that article template looks like

I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I’m one of those who absolutely have to have a skeleton to structure my writing. I’m certainly no ‘pantser’ that’s for sure. If you come from a background of academic writing, like me, you’ll be able to relate.

For some reason, I thought that writing online would be different. There’s an element of freedom and creativity that you don’t find so much in academic writing. So, for the majority of the time, I attempted ‘pantsing’ my articles or stories.

Boy, was that a mistake. Does this sound familiar to you?

You wake up, maybe get a coffee or something. You immediately sit down at your desk and open your writing application (after all, the Greats always insisted on writing first thing in the morning, right?).

You’re greeted with a blank screen and a blinking cursor that never rests. You stare at it for quite some time, even an hour or so occasionally. Thinking. But words are hard to come, and the writing session is a struggle.

That’s because it’s so much easier to write when there are already words and guidance on the page, rather than looking at a blank screen.

So, instead of hitting your head against the proverbial wall, you could try to plan and organize instead.

But you don’t have to go wandering in the dark searching for ways to do that, because I’ve already done the work for you!

Why You Should Structure Your Writing

Here I’ll talk about the benefits of structuring and outlining your writing before you sit down to actually write. But if you just want the juicy template information, skip ahead.

A well-organized structure will keep readers on the page.

According to Buffer, 55% of visitors will read your article in 15 seconds or less. And as we know, reading time is important in your blog posts. It’s also essential here on Medium too.

In these 15 or so seconds, your readers are scanning your article for relevant information, so they are unlikely to read your article linearly or completely.

It’s enormously helpful for the scanners to have relevant headers and subheaders so they can find the information that’s most relevant to them (in this case, probably the template itself).

Supposing you’ve thought out your article well and structured it helpfully, the reader will stick around for longer than 15 seconds to get more information from you.

Having an outline structure will help you write faster.

If my earlier example rings true for you, having an outline structure will help remove writer's block and get words on the page more quickly. And since you already know what it is you’re going to write about in any given section, you’ll use a lot less brain power while you’re writing.

When you get stuck mid-section, it’s easy to refer back to your outline structure and remind yourself what the whole section is supposed to be about. That way, you can get back on track to your main point without losing a beat. This brings me to my last obvious benefit.

It keeps your message clear.

As an editor of The Brave Writer, I often come across articles that start well, but then the author meanders away from the point they’re trying to make. When this happens, the reader also loses track of the point and will likely click away — forgetting why they clicked in the first place.

Having a clear structure allows you to stay on topic and circle back to your article's main point more often.

It’ll help keep readers on the page, reminding them why they’re there. Coming from a reader's perspective, a clear structure also gives the author more authority or credibility.

What changed when I started using the same structure?

This section will be a little shorter than the rest because I’ve already outlined the benefits above. Those benefits are exactly what I experienced when I started using the same structure for most of my articles.

But we can also take a look at the data. Some of my best-performing articles use this structure with varying degrees:

The outlier in this situation is my third best performing article: How People Respond to Me When They Realize I’m Transgender (P.S I Love You). It doesn’t neatly follow the structure I outline in the next section, in that it’s a personal reflection piece.

One of the key variables that you can see in each of these articles got into more popular publications. Which, I’d wager, were a result of the quality structure in their foundations.

So what’s the structure I use?

Just to put a disclaimer, I first found this structure in this article. I’d encourage you to read it so you can see what the original looks like. What I’ve done in my version is taken it and added a few bits and added contextual information. They form as triggers or prompts that get me thinking quicker.

Another little disclaimer is present in my title, but just to reiterate, this is the structure I’m using in most of my articles. Each article will vary to some degree depending on the angle they take on the topic and whether each section is wholly relevant.

With that out of the way, here’s what my outline structure usually looks like:

Introduction (set the scene):

Present a relatable anecdote/statistic/problem, and propose a solution.

Here I’ll usually write a story that helps the reader identify with the situation I’m writing about. By doing so, you present a problem the reader is likely facing and then propose a solution for them.

For example, you need only scroll back to the top of this article to see what I mean. It’s part of my interpretation of the PAS formula, a famous method of copywriting.

Section 1 (explain the topic, definitions, key viewpoint):

What is this article about?

After going through the introduction, in this section, introduce the topic as a whole. I’ll talk about any key players and give general background information.

Why does it matter?

Usually, this section presents itself as a “benefits to the reader” section, as you can see in this article and the one about digital minimalism. But in other kinds of articles, it could be social benefits, environmental importance, company performance, etc.

Research or Examples

This part also depends on the angle you’re taking. Usually, I’m writing from a personal experience perspective, but you can also highlight statistics or other examples that support why you’re talking about your topic.

Key Point related to the overall topic

Here you want to look back at your headline choice, think about the point you’re making in the whole article, and summarize this section by rounding back to that key point.

Section 2 (personal experience, case studies, expert interview):

What is this section about?

This part is usually just a section introduction to transition from ‘benefits’ to explained examples or further in-depth research. Again, it depends on the angle of the article.

Why does it matter?

Here you’ll say what these personal experiences, case studies, or interviews bring to the table, why they’re included, and generally how they support the main point.

Research or Examples

Depending on the article type, this area can sometimes be the main section of the article overall. If it’s a case study, then you’ll present most of your case here.

But if your article is a tutorial, then this section is likely to be a little shorter (though it doesn’t have to be).

Key Point related to the overall topic

Again, rounding off and summarising how your research or examples demonstrate your point. In some cases, as I mentioned, this will lead directly to the conclusion.

Section 3 (the ‘how-to’ aspect, address the reader):

What is this section about?

In the tutorial type article (like this one), this section will form the body's bulk. A line or two here solidifies the purpose of this section.

Why does it matter?

The reader wants to be able to replicate the information, right? This is where you (briefly) restate the benefits or consequences of whatever it is I’m talking about.

The tutorial (if applicable)

This is the section you’re currently reading. It’s the practical aspects of ‘how’. Many people miss this part out when they’re talking about adopting a new habit, behavior, or mind frame. They’ll state why and what, but you’ll get an edge if you can say how.

Potential pitfalls and how to overcome them

Just like the previous point, I think this section adds a lot of value.

If you can think about hurdles your reader might encounter while trying to implement your advice or framework and then suggest how they might overcome them, that brings them enormous value.

Key Point related to the overall topic

Again, go back to your title, think about your main point and how this section supports it.

Conclusion (restate the lessons, benefits, or problem/solution)

Summarise the article key points

Here you can go back to each of the key points you’ve raised in each article section and summarise them here. Usually, I’ll remind the reader of the problem and then move onto the next part.

What has the reader learned, and what can they do with this information

This is restating your solution in fewer words to the reader and suggesting what actions they can take as a result of finishing the article you’ve written.

It also crystallizes the reader's value proposition (and any CTA’s you might have to help them further).

So that’s the template I normally use to structure most of my articles. It probably reminds you of being taught how to write essays at school or university, and there’s a good reason for that. The structure works.

Summary

This will probably feel a bit like Déjà Vu due to this article's nature; sorry about that. The template I’ve given you (based on this one — be sure to give that a read, too) is just that, a template.

Just like I did with Divad’s, it’s better to think about how you can make it work for you instead of working in the confines of the template. But, if you struggle with writer’s block, it should help you get started putting words on the page.

Or if you just wanted an idea of how other people structure their work; I hope I’ve satisfied your curiosity.

Now, you can easily copy and paste each of the template headers and subheaders into a document of your choice for you to refer back to (assuming you don’t want to open my story every time you write).

However, if you’re a little on the lazier or busier side, you can also sign up to my email list, where I’ll send you the template as a Google Docs file, printable PDF, and Notion page.

Happy outlining!

Upvote


user
Created by

Alexander Boswell

Follow

Alexander Boswell is a Business Ph.D candidate specialising in Consumer Behaviour and uses this knowledge as a freelance writer in the Content Marketing and B2B SaaS space. Find him on Twitter @alexbboswell or his website alexanderbboswell.com


people
Post

Upvote

Downvote

Comment

Bookmark

Share


Related Articles