As someone who developed his skills for the realm of offline writing, it's probably not surprising that I was typically more into writing persuasive essays rather than articles. Of course, I wrote some research papers in my day - including quite a number in my college years. But even then, I always left people asking themselves questions. I don't think it's fair to just consistently give people straightforward answers when it comes to discussing philosophies of how and why you write. I even had one professor tell me that I wrote far too rhetorically for historical essays. He continuously attacked my writing style, as well. Suffice it to say, this professor and I had a falling out which led to my quitting that history program. Apparently, he did not appreciate my intentions.
I know that sounds a little selfish, but you cannot have people telling you how to write unless it is for a ghost-writing or a work-for-hire assignment. In those cases, the clients are paying you to write the content that they're looking for. I'm talking about when you have your own website or have been given the permission to express yourself freely as an op-ed or guest blogger. In the field of academics, especially, a professor should never be forcing his ideals upon you when it comes to you expressing your opinions about what you have researched or studied. This, of course, translates to any sort of writing. You need to keep your own voice and keep readers involved by making them think.
I'm not saying that informational articles are bad. On the contrary, depending on the situation, you do want to be concise and straight to the point without leaving any realistic chance of confusion. Of course, you can never be 100 percent sure that someone won't misunderstand, but the skill of being as clear and precise as possible is extremely important to have. However, this approach is best when discussing topics that have step-by-step guides or otherwise specific directions. Otherwise, you have to take the position of either trying to persuade your audience to consider one or more perspective or have the reader question his or her own opinions on particular topics. Preferably, I like to write the latter sort the most in my work.
This is why I like to alternate between writing articles and more casual, conversational pieces. While they don't seem to go together, in reality, it is my belief that you have to write both in order to truly grow as a writer. Also, you can compose brilliant informational pieces until your fingers fall off or your brain conks out, but rarely get interactions. I've sadly found this to be true - that these sorts of pieces can often lead to "hit-and-run" traffic. This is why I believe you also need more conversational pieces in order to truly be viewed as a thought leader in your particular topic or field. Otherwise, you just offer free information that people will glance over and move on with their lives. You want to plant seeds of interest and motivate people to come back and be challenged again. This is the sort of audience that will in the long run become your greatest fans and advocators.
That's why I will finish with this question: If you could write about anything, what would it be and why? That's the question you should always ask yourself before you begin writing any piece. Then, ask yourself just one more question: will anyone care, and if they won't, how can I make them care?
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