If you're reading this, chances are you fall into at least one of three categories:
- You're new to writing articles and would like any advice you can find.
- You've submitted an article and instead of approving it, I gave you this link.
- You are very bored, and read every article published here.
Whichever the case, I hope to share some tips about writing articles that will help improve your writing, get you published, and cure you of some of that boredom instead of adding to it. This article is a continuation of another article I wrote that gave a general outline of what we're looking for in article submissions. It went over the three parts of a well-written article.
The other article also gave a few examples from authors who have a good grasp of what an article should be. In this article, I will briefly review that, but I will also point out some common issues that prevent articles from being published.
The goal of this article is to help a new author learn how to express their ideas clearly in a format appropriate for the articles section. It is also to be used as a tool by myself or other editors/moderators to help authors who submit articles understand why their submission wasn't approved, and what they can do to improve it enough to pass a follow-up submission. Well, that should be enough of an "introduction", let's get on to the "body" of the article.
Review of the previous article: Intro/Body/Conclusion
In my previous article, I wrote about the three parts of of an article. Those are the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. To quickly recap: the introduction tells the reader what the objective of the article is or can be a simple summary that tells the reader what they're about to read. The body is the message you're trying to convey and should be broken up by topics. Detailed descriptions belong here, not in the introduction. The conclusion is a brief review of what you told them.
Many submissions are uncoordinated jumbles of thought typed into the computer. They contain good information, but in a format that is hard for the reader to understand. Some submissions are so convoluted that the author becomes "lost" and may omit key concepts that they wished to convey. A well-written article will take more time to compose than a similar forum post. The author should put a little extra effort into outlining the information they plan to share before writing it down.
The introduction helps the author outline, for themselves as well as the reader, the content that will be presented. It also helps set the order in which the information will be presented.
The body of material should be thorough and complete. If the article describes the steps of a project, make sure that all of the steps are included and explained. Pictures should be used to help illustrate the what is being described in each step.
The conclusion should briefly restate what you wrote about. It's a chance to go over what you intended to describe in your article. It is also a great place to talk about what your expectations were, whether they were met, and to express your opinion. If you were doing an article about an aircraft you designed and built, this is the place where you could go over what you hoped the aircraft would do, and where it may have fallen short. If you didn't make the adjustments prior to the article, you can point out the changes that you intend to make in the future versions of the aircraft. It is best to express your opinions about things like materials here instead of in the body of the article. Throwing an opinion about something, like foam thickness, into a list of detailed build steps may confuse the reader as well as interrupt the flow of your article.
Common issues that prevent an article from being approved.
Now onto the meat of this article: presently I am the only person that's approving articles that are being submitted. This means I read, or at least review them all. There's certain article submissions that just get the prewritten reply because the article is missing something that is required by the Flite Test staff. There's also some that are close to being approved, but just need a little bit of adjustment, so I will take the time to write to these authors directly. I'll list and explain of these types of stumbling blocks now.
- Video only. This has been the most frequent reason for not getting an article approved. The articles section is an online magazine. The submissions are called articles because they are expected to be written submissions that can be supplemented by a video, but are not intended to be a place to post just a video. Even the Flite Test episode videos are submitted in article form. There are stills from the video, and text to explain what happened with enough detail that the reader would have a grasp of what was being shared, even if the video did not work.
- No story. These are submissions that after reading, I have no idea what the author was trying to express. Make sure you ask yourself: "Is this something that a reader will find interesting? Have I included enough details so that the reader will know where the beginning, middle and end of my 'story' is?" In the occasional submission there might have been some facts included, but they were so disorganized that none of them seemed willing to be in the same paragraph together. The articles section isn't a place to ask questions. It's not a forum post for a dialog type conversation. Articles are stories, reviews, or tutorials, where you are teaching a lesson, presenting a completed project, or in rare cases, sharing a particularly unique flying experience.
- No pictures. This isn't necessarily an automatic rejection, but how many magazine articles do you read that have zero images attached to the story? Do they keep your interest for long? Some articles might not be improved with graphics, or pictures, but most will be better received with some illustrations included. They don't have to be your pictures. But if you're borrowing them from the internet, make sure you give proper credit to the owners. If possible ask permission, or at least let them know that you're using them in your article. They might be honored that you chose their work to express your message.
- Blurry pictures. If you're going to take the time to share your project, show yourself respect by taking pictures that are reasonably clear and crisp. With digital cameras we're able to instantly review the pictures we take. There's no extra developing costs involved in taking the picture again. It does the reader no good to have a picture included that is too dark or blurry to tell what the author is trying to share.
- Bad spelling or grammar. I am not going to beat most authors up for the occasionally misspelled word, or improper grammar. I understand we're not all English majors. I make my fair share of mistakes. (My wife will be reading this before I submit it, and she will be swearing about all the errors I have included. Wife's edit: I do not swear! I roll my eyes and groan in frustration.) That said: if u submeet 2 me a artkal that looks like dis, i will rejek it.
- Hasn't been reviewed. Did you read the article after you wrote it? Or did you just click the submit button? Read it aloud. I do this with mine. If I have a hard time reading my article aloud and have it sound like something I'd want someone to listen to, then it's probably not going to be easy for someone else to read either. As I said above, I almost always have my wife review my articles before I publish them. If you submit it without letting someone review it, then I'll be the first person to see it. It might sit in the waiting list for a while, until I can think of a polite way to tell you what I found wrong with it. Some of those take longer than others.
- No links. If you mention another article, a website, or a video, be sure to include the link to what you're talking about. At the end of each article submission page there's a section where you can link to articles with similar topics to yours. Use this as a way to link to other articles you mention in the body of your work.
So there's the "short" list of things to look for that hinder the approval of articles. Many of the items are easy to fix. I've repeatedly mentioned how helpful it can be to have someone else read your article before you submit it. There's a section of the forums just for this.
We are very fortunate to have a large community of people eager to help people without being rude or overly critical. They are a resource that should be tapped whenever you feel the need.
So here's the closing summary. We're getting some great submissions. In fact the overall quality has improved so much that articles that we're having to be more selective in which ones we approve, and which ones we tell the author to make improvements on. I'm hoping that you as authors are seeing a higher quality of article lately as well, and know that when your submission is accepted, that it's because it was considered to be a valuable contribution to the Flite Test community. I put this article together to review some of the main points of the last article on this topic, as well as an opportunity to share the common reasons why submissions are not always immediately accepted. I hope that this article will provide some helpful tips on how to better craft your own articles so that they'll meet the requirements, and get published on the first try.