As someone who developed his skills in the realm of offline writing, it's probably not surprising that previously I was typically more into writing persuasive essays rather than articles. Of course, I wrote some research papers, including quite a number in my college years. But even then, I often left people asking themselves questions.
I don't think it's fair to always give people straightforward answers, especially when there can be multiple “right” answers. Yes, purely informational articles are fine. Depending on the situation, you may 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. Still, if the topic has some grey areas, don’t try to answer every possible question. It’s OK to leave the reader with some questions.
One great example of leaving the reader with more questions than answers is when discussing philosophies of how and why to write. Sure, I can explain what works and doesn’t work for me. But as I’ve found over the years, you can take lots of advice as a writer, but you have to find your own way. You have to ask the right questions of yourself, and that’s why I always pose so many in my writing articles.
Sure, sometimes you’re going to have writing guidelines, especially for work-for-hire assignments. In those cases, clients pay you to write the content they want. But when you have your own website, or have permission to express yourself freely as an op-ed or guest blogger, it’s OK to ask more questions than give answers. This translates to any sort of writing. You need to keep your own voice and keep readers involved by making them think.
The purely informational approach is best when discussing topics that have step-by-step guides or otherwise specific directions. Then, there’s taking the position of trying to persuade your audience to consider one or more perspective. The last option is to have the reader question his or her own opinions on particular topics. Preferably, I prefer the last option the most in my writing work.
This is why I like to alternate between writing articles and more casual, conversational "bloggy" 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 that the "infoplease" types of pieces can often lead to "hit-and-run" traffic that doesn’t really engage. It’s hard to make money this way. I’ve found you 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. You want them to ask questions, even if you don’t have all the answers. After all, asking questions is the first step to true wisdom.
Before you begin writing any piece, ask yourself:
If you could write about anything, what would it be and why?
Then, ask yourself:
If I think no one will care about what I want to write, how can I make them care?
If that second question involves asking the reader to ask even more questions, that’s fine. Just be clear in sharing what you know and make readers think. So, should web writers produce more questions or answers? In my opinion, you’ll always produce plenty of both, and it all evens out in the end.