7 Reasons Why Your Article Tanked

By  |  0 Comments

After spending seven hours with your eyes glued to a laptop screen, yawns complimenting every click of the keyboard, your masterpiece is finally complete. With dreams of breaking the Internet floating in the back of your mind, you hit submit. But instead of becoming the next Oscar’s selfie, your article disappears into the recesses of the Internet, or worse, goes unpublished. While tears are prohibited, proactivity is welcome. Save your editor the nosebleed next time by checking out seven reasons why your article straight up sucked.

1. You put your reader to sleep with passive voice


You heard it back in middle school, but this golden rule doesn’t seem to stick: passive voice bogs down great writing. No one–not even second grade teachers–wants to read an article that sounds like a second grader’s spelling homework. We get it, “The man was watching TV.” Make it active by giving your subject an action: “The man watched TV.” Remember, avoid “to be” verbs at all costs. Goodbye “has” “was” “is” and “are.” Instead, keep your reader engaged with active voice through creative verbs. Although you can’t always evade that little devil “is,” a little rewording can make a paragraph shine.

2. You gave your reader a research paper

Remember the last time you enjoyed reading a textbook? Me neither. While styles differ depending on the publication, your article shouldn’t read like a term paper. Steer clear of language such as “secondly,” “however” and “therefore,” and consider your article a conversation with your reader. If you wouldn’t say those words in a conversation with friends, you shouldn’t write them in your article.

3. You Missed Your Window of Opportunity

Do you think your reader wants to read your flawless “back to school” article in June? As in love, cooking and publishing, timing is everything. Stay hip by keeping up with the latest events and trends.

4. You needed an extra proofread

While the typical reader will miss small grammar and style mistakes (unless he’s a grammar snob, then, god bless), articles tend to lose their luster when the copy isn’t clean. Consider the AP Style Book the Bible you actually read. Spend an extra few minutes brushing up on rules that you crammed in five minutes before your freshman grammar final. Yes, “percent” should be spelled out. Your editor will thank you.

5. You Lost Your Reader With Wordiness

It’s very unfavorable when sentences become so superfluous and long-winded that the reader’s eye tends to wander, and sooner than you know it, the reader is disengaged and reading an article on the competitor’s website. Yeah, that sucked, didn’t it? Amazing thoughts and ideas get lost in wordy phrases and long paragraphs. Remember how much you hated reading Moby Dick in high school. Keep your sentences concise and to the point.

6. You Told Instead Of Showed

Achieving the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why” in a story seems like child’s play and then you go and write a sentence like “It made me sad.” What was it that made you sad? Why did you feel that way? Don’t assume that your reader is a caveman who can’t discern the obvious. Load your graphs with colorful detail and allow the reader to figure things out on his own.

7. You didn’t take it the extra mile

Yeah, your article was pretty good, but it could’ve been better. And your reader knows the different between “meh” and “brilliant.” There’s always that extra piece of research, additional anecdote or colorful quote that can take your article to the next level. When you finish a draft, be overly critical during your proofread and find that piece that you’re missing. If you do, your article may become as Instafamous as a star-studded selfie.

Daniel Kuhn is a senior studying journalism at Penn State University. A great companion. Just don't feed him after midnight.

Enter our Monthly Giveaway

Win $100 for YOU & $100 for your student org. Sign up to enter our monthly giveaway.