Are you looking to write informative articles? Once upon a time, journalism was a universally noble profession, seeking to speak truth to power, and inform people of what was really taking place. Sadly, the desire for articles to be informative has somewhat fallen by the wayside. Instead, the aim of the game these days is to shock and polarize. The changing media landscape has led many writers to seek to incite rather than inform.
Things don’t have to be this way.
The status quo only continues if people accept it. Sick of sensationalism? Fed up of the awful echo chamber we seem to be sinking further into by the day? Thankfully, there is something you can do.
By learning to write informatively, you make a stand against the tide of trash content cascading across the modern media landscape.
Here are our top tips on writing informative articles.
Writing Articles With An Informative Tone
You can break the creation of an informative article down into its constituent parts.
Of course, your choice of language matters. We’ll cover that a little later. But, equally as important, is the overall tone or ‘vibe’ of your content.
There is no hard and fast rule for what is and isn’t informative. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and one man’s informative content is another’s Fox News.
However, in our humble opinion, informative articles should follow a few fundamental principles to strike the right tone. These include:
- Transparent. For an article to be truly informative, it needs to be honest. If a writer, or publication, is upfront about their purpose, background, and sources, it’s a lot easier to weigh up the information they provide on its own merit. It removes the need for guessing games about an article’s true agenda. If you want to truly inform your readers, be absolute straight with them.
- Measured. Are you fed up with clickbait? This isn’t exactly a hot take. Almost everyone online these days is fed up of sensationalist nonsense content that overpromises and underdelivers. Bloggers have brushed up on copywriting, leading to overuse of power words and headline formats taken from the world of advertising. So what do you do? Simply deliver what you promise. You can still entertain and write colorful copy. Just be honest and don’t oversell it.
- Purposeful. There’s a scene in the latest season of ‘Black Mirror’ where Topher Grace portrays a millennial tech leader of a social network company. Without spoiling anything, the character delivers a speech/rant in which they lament that their creation has become self-perpetuating, and is essentially unstoppable. We are in serious danger of content becoming this way. Think about it. We are raising generations of kids to be hooked on devices that deliver a dopamine hit based on provoking a reaction in others. If you think content creators are sensationalist now, just wait for the next generation. If you want to break the cycle, write purposeful content. Something that informs or inspires. Not something that just shocks and begs to be shared.
Ultimately, if you can be transparent, measured, and purposeful, your content will be more informative than the vast majority being produced today.
Perhaps this seems a little futile? After all, if the vast majority of content creators and consumers are dumbing down, surely your own efforts won’t turn the tide?
That may be true. It also doesn’t matter. The days of mass media are dying. Don’t seek to Make Content Great Again. Instead, focus on making a relatively small, but absolutely meaningful change, for yourself and your audience.
That’s all any of us can really do. But, if enough of us do it, it will be more than enough.
How To Use Informative Language
We’ve looked at some principles to give your content an informative tone. But what about your choice of language? How do you choose the right words to ensure you are being as informative as possible?
- Learn from others. Oddly enough for a language as developed as English, there is very little new under the sun. It can be tempting to follow modern trends, such as clickbait style sensationalism, but there are other ways. Study from sources you feel are tried and tested beacons of informational content, such as the BBC.
- Emotive. One thing most writers are taught early on is to avoid being emotive when writing informational content. This is actually questionable. If you want to strike a dry tone, sure, avoid being emotive. However, you can still inform while causing an emotional reaction. If you can write in a way which is factual, but affecting, it is all the more powerful than something melodramatic and forced.
- False facts. It’s very easy to write in a way which seems to be informative, but is actually opinionated. One example is quoting sources with an agenda, even if it’s hidden. Have you ever read a news article which quotes an innocuous sounding organization such as a think tank? These are often named in a way which makes them sound neutral and balanced. However, when you dig deeper, you’ll often find politicized funding or some obfuscated agenda. To make your own content truly informative, dig deep into the sources you reference. You might be being biased without even knowing it.
Ultimately, we’re all human. We all suffer from cognitive biases. The language we use might have loaded connotations to others.
We can never be purely, objectively, informative. It just isn’t possible. But, when we know these limitations, we can strive to overcome them to the best of our ability.
When To Write Informatively – To Inform, Or Not To Inform?
Informative content is valuable. Especially in a world where it is increasingly rare.
That’s not to say it’s a panacea though. There is plenty of space for other types of articles. So when is it right to be informative? When might another tone work better? Here are some thoughts on choosing when to write informatively or not.
- Publication. Who are you writing for? If you’ve seen the comedy show ‘Who Is America’, you’ll remember the rap battle sketch. There is a time and place for informative content. If the readers are knowingly there for something else, give them what they want! There is no harm in opinionated or personal content. As long as the readers are, well, informed about it!
- Topic. At the risk of verging into proscriptive territory, some topics need to be treated informatively, while others don’t. When it comes to issues such as health, science, or someone’s reputation, be as informative as possible. Words stop being just words when they negatively impact people’s lives. Misinformation has led to murder and neglect. If you’re choosing to write in a style other than informative, stop and think for a second. What’s the worst that can happen? This ‘Dr. Pepper’ test will help you choose how informative to be.
- Role. What is your role as a content creator? Are you an impartial journalist? An opinionated pundit? Sharing a firsthand story in first-person language? Your role as a writer in any given scenario will guide the level of information required. You have a responsibility to be true to your role and the level of informativeness it necessitates.
Often, this isn’t a decision you’ll be making alone. Style guides, editorial guidance, and even reader feedback, will all guide you about how informative to be. However, there are plenty of times when you’ll have discretion. Be sure to use it well.
ABI – Always Be Informative (and inform your readers if not!)
In a nutshell, Article Smart believes in being informative as a default mode. So much of the world is set to shock and outrage as its default setting. Why not be a breath of informational fresh air?
By the same token, there’s a place for hot takes. For opinionated rants. For politicized venom.
Just be real about who you are, and why you are writing what you are writing. If being informative is almost always a good idea, honesty truly is the best policy.
Your readers deserve it, and you owe it to yourself.