Why your article is struggling

Your article is needs work. Here what's going wrong
Charles Orton-Jones

If you've been sent this article it's because something has Gone Wrong with your submission. Could be small. Could be big.

Here are the likely errors.

1 Solutions-tastic prose

"We are an end-to-end solutions provider with an unparalleled commitment to aligning strategy with tactics to find synergies..." This style of prose has no place in an article. The best writing style is the same voice you use with a close friend or your mum. Do not use words like "omnichannel" or "deliver". Just write in normal English, not business-ese.

2 Boring intro

The first lines of an article should Hook'em and Hold'em. Grab the reader from the start!

Ask yourself whether your article achieves this. Around half the articles we receive begin with The Generic Intro: "In today's global economy businesses are being asked to do more with less. With inflation and economic turbulence..." blah blah blah. Boring. Delete this.

Hit us with something gripping with your opening syllables.

3 Lacks insight

Your article needs to tell the reader something they don't know, or couldn't figure out in ten seconds. This is not always the case.

We recently received an article on the subject of career burnout. Great subject! Many entrepreneurs get frazzled by the long hours. And the solutions offered by this masterpiece? Go for a walk. Watch a funny movie. Hire a therapist. And that was it. Nothing we didn't already know. The author was too lazy to really investigate why burnouts happen, or what the actual answers might be. It lacked insight.

Go deep. Readers want to read the unexpected.

4 Poor focus

A great article should stick with its thesis from the first line to the last. This is not easy. It's common to see the author pad the article with extraneous thoughts. This is bad. Focus on your idea relentlessly.

5 Weak statistics

Numbers matter. They must be rigorous. Articles are often cursed by feeble statistics, of which there are two main kinds.

a) The macro-statistic. Can't think of anything interesting to say on a subject? Then it's tempting to throw in a macro-statistic. For example, for International Women's Day a column written by a famous brand began with a list of statistics such as "There are 252 million companies run by women", and "If women started companies at the same rate as men this would add $6.2 trillion onto the global economy." Whilst not wrong, they are too abstract for readers to visualise. Best avoided.

ps: Statista is not a source. Nor is Wikipedia.

b) Survey waffle. Eg, "74% of CTOs believe innovation is important". We are inundated by these meaningless survey numbers. The hallmark is questions which no sane person could answer in a meaningful way. "What's more important to your business, the cloud, cyber security, or invoice finance?" No one can answer this. The PR industry routinely runs badly worded surveys in an attempt to produce content.

6 Too broad

An article should have a tight focus. If the remit is too broad the author won't be able to cover the topic in the word count. No one would try and write "How to cook" in 700 words. So why do authors attempt "How to motivate employees", "How to use data", or "How to boost sales" in a single article? Cooking articles are best with a single recipe. Business authors should write about a single idea. The tighter the focus the better.

7 No evidence

You can't just tell the reader stuff and expect them to believe you. You need evidence. Real world stories. Anecdotes. Hard numbers. Run through your article and count how many times you've simply asserted something without supporting evidence. Then add the evidence to convince a sceptical reader.

8 Just plain dull

Writing an article is a chance to dazzle. To amaze the reader with wit and creativity, with metaphors, anecdotes, and personal insights. And yet too often an article reads like a Municipal Council's update on road works. Be honest. How many times in your article did you demonstrate your flare as a writer? Give yourself a tick each time, and then count the ticks.

Be brave! Be a wordsmith! No publication ever complained that an article is too fascinating or too entertaining.

Written by
Charles Orton-Jones
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