How to Write a Useful “How To” Article

Laura Ginn

Articles telling the reader “how to” do something are popular. We all like to learn new skills, so there will always be a place for a well written “how to” article online. Just perform a quick search on the internet and you are likely to be inundated with trillions of articles instructing you on how to do one thing or another. Many of them may well be total rubbish, but at least some will be full of useful information. So if you want to tackle this area in your next article, what is the best format for a “how to” article?

Research Your Topic

The golden rule of article writing is that you should know your subject matter before you hit the keyboard. In an ideal world, we would be an expert on whatever it is we are writing about, but unless you only ever write about your favourite topics, it is likely that you will be expected to pen an article on lots of things you know nothing about. This is where research comes in. Don’t be tempted to skim over a few generic websites and make up the rest. A reader has the right to expect accurate information if they read your article, so don’t create a work of fiction unless you are honest enough to admit your article is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Create an Intuitive List of Steps to Follow

How To articles are basically a series of steps. The article is telling the reader how to do something, so each step should follow a logical sequence of events. Start at the beginning and walk your reader through the process. Give them clear instructions at each point in the task. If you do your job correctly, they should be able to reach the end of the article with a clear sense of everything they need to do.

Keep It Simple

Successful “how to” articles are simple, clear and very easy to follow. There is little point in writing an overly complicated article because the majority of readers will stop reading after the first couple of steps. The reason why people go looking online for guidance is because they don’t want to sit and read a 400 page instruction manual. They want the information given to them in bite sized pieces that are easy to digest.

Write a Summary

Once you have covered all of the essential steps in your “how to” guide, write a short summary that picks out the most important highlights and tells the reader why your article is such a useful guide. And if applicable, direct them to where they can find out more in-depth information if they want to learn more about the topic in hand.

Is Your Article Useful?

Once you have written your article, read it through and ask yourself: is my article useful? If it’s well researched, clear and easy to follow, it probably is, but if you made it all up as you went along and none of the steps make any sense whatsoever, it probably isn’t all that useful.