5 Ways to Know You’ve Written a Good Article

Picture 5There are times when you have an article finished and you wonder if you’ve really done the piece justice. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

5. It has great sources.

Great sources include leaders or well known folks in the field, interesting subjects that give a personal perspective to the piece or sources with something new to offer on an evergreen topic. Great sources have been vetted, they provide accurate information and there’s a demand for the information they are offer.

4. There are no holes.

All the questions have been answered – the ‘why’s’ and ‘why not’s’ researched and the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where’ and ‘when’ exposed. Attention has been paid to the audience and what they want to know.

3. It’s been thoroughly edited.

The editing process went beyond spell check. The article was allowed to marinate, then read aloud, printed out and double checked. It has been screened more than Dionne Warwick at the airport.

2. It has a killer lede (lead).

The kind of lead that stops you in your tracks and pulls you in like an ant at a cook out. The lede (lead) is catchy without being cliche, makes the reader think and stops the reader from turning the page.

1. You know it’s awesome.

Writers know when they’ve given an article their best. They know when a turn of phrase is magical or when an interview subject has just given the pull-out quote. It’s almost orgasmic when a piece or a lede seems to write itself, flowing from brain through fingers and out onto the computer screen. It is equally satisfying when an article is hard won. It’s a fight between the writer and the words and only one can win. The struggle to get every transition smooth, every bullet point packed with succinct information and finally, finally, victory. An article is good when there’s no need to see the score, you already know who won.


9 responses
  1. Prerna Avatar


    This is extremely helpful and so very true. Love point #1.There is something about a well-written article that just hits you hard and you just know it!! Love this.. Am gonna memorize the checklist and mentally tick out each line item when I write my next article..

  2. Clara Avatar


    It’s so true that one knows when the article written is a slam-dunk! My question ? Why aren’t they all?

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar


      That’s a great question, as a writer you’d want all your work to be a slam dunk. Some articles are better than others but those that are not a spiritual experience-type good aren’t necessarily bad articles. There are some articles that touch you or readers more – so it’s really subjective.

      Should all of your articles follow the basic rules to make them of use to your editor, audience and your portfolio? Absolutely!

  3. Lauralee Moss Avatar

    I agree. If you have that emotional attachment, you probably have everything there and that bang at the end. Other articles can be productive and well written, but just not as powerful. They are still good, though.

  4. Phil Avatar

    No. 1 says it all.

    No. 4 can be a point of contention, especially with an ongoing article/trend, like the lack of health of the economy. You have to assume your audience has some knowledte, or you have to decide when answering one question in copy brings up too many more questions. Case in point, I wroted about a bank takeover with a very basic description of the transaction and the concept of goodwill (very basically, a valuation on the ongoing business that is above value of assets), but my editor dumbed it down to the point that it was inaccurate (because she felt that there was a hole, I didn’t).

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      Phil, I understand your point, that’s a situation that can be really frustrating. Some perceived holes could be open for interpretation & it’s the editor’s job to think of the audience. When there’s space I like to use pull out boxes for that type of background info. But I realize that’s really a tough spot for dailies…

  5. Barbara Alvarez Avatar
    Barbara Alvarez

    I write online articles and I have gotten a feel for when an article “hits” the topic right on the sweet spot. Thing is, sometimes the editor knows this too and other times, doesn’t know this.
    I agree with Phil. It can be very frustrating to know you’ve written an article that answers every question, has a terrific, attention-grabbing lede and is packed with info and — and you don’t recognize it when it comes out of the editing process.
    I have to force myself to calm down at these times and realize that the editor has the experience in editing. I don’t have that yet.
    But still, it hurts!

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      You know Barbara, it isn’t always that the editor knows best, sometimes it’s better to give a bit of pushback on an article & by pushback I mean just a quick email or call explaining what you were trying to do with the piece, specifically when an edit changes the meaning or the intention of the information, or in Phil’s case, made stuff wrong! When the piece has been edited beyond all recognition but the essential meaning of the information it there you then have a decision to make – do you give pushback, do you let it go or do you look for new work elsewhere. I used to have an editor who would edit about 70% of my work out & put her words in place of mine. It was frustrating because it was one of my first gigs. I realized that she was just a frustrated writer & hey if she wanted to do all that extra work as long as she paid me I got over it. I didn’t use those clips though…

  6. SK Avatar

    It’s funny though . . sometimes an article you consider awesome, others don’t find it the same way and the article you put together last minute receives all the accolades. 🙂 Guess writing is like art . . you never know what others will really like.

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