Experience of working as an editor shows that analytical articles are often rejected because of the stylistic/linguistic mistakes rather than scientific excellence. Of course, this is unfair, since the researcher or analyst spends a lot of time and effort in conducting research.
However, for the experts, publishing and distributing their analytical work and its results are just as important as conducting research. A well-done research and a well-written final article will increase the chances that a respected media will accept your work.
This Module focuses on 10 common mistakes that many authors make when writing analytical articles. If you are just starting to learn writing, you have a great chance to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
- Wrong Format
Before you start writing, do not forget to read carefully the rules and requirements for the authors of the specific media where you want to publish your article. Before submitting the text, do your ‘homework’ and study the instructions, which will not only help you to structure the article properly, but also save you from a number of stylistic mistakes. You can also visit the media’s website and read articles published recently. This will save you and the editor a lot of time and effort.
- Absence of Structure or Poor Structure
Often, the authors send large unstructured text. Such text is difficult to read and understand.
The typical structure of an expert analytical article of an open journalistic nature does not differ much from the classical structure of academic works. It consists of three parts: an introduction, a body of the text and a conclusion.
You should start working with a future article by outlining a detailed plan. A well-considered, structured and detailed plan is almost half of the work. It is possible that you will change it more than once; however, it does not really matter.
It is necessary to divide into parts not only the entire text, but also each paragraph and sentence. Try to simplify overly complicated text; the paragraphs on one or even half a page are not working. Try to break them down into the smaller pieces.
Tip: after outlining a preliminary structure of the article, show it to a specialist, expert, or just a close person who may see the weaknesses and inconsistencies in your plan.
- Creating the Title
The title of the article should be precise and clear, problematic, short and literary. The title should contain some kind of a problem or a hint to it.
The title should contain keywords that represent the text; the reader should understand the topic from it. The choice of the right keywords (usually, 4-6 words) will determine how the search engine indexes your article. Try to use those keywords that are most often repeated in the article (including the title and subtitles).
The title must be precise. Try to avoid the common words like “certain”, “some”, or “special”. These filler words do not contain information. Often, the authors use these words when they cannot precisely define the topic.
The brevity of the article title is also important – it should not be too long. Long article titles can be shortened with colons, and a larger topic can be replaced with a more specific one. Often, the readers are more interested in articles with a question in the title, for example, “Why Is It Difficult to Open an NGO in Uzbekistan?”
Tip: when the article is already finished, it is much easier to come up with a title for it.
- Obscure Problem
The introduction of the article should indicate the main problem and direct the reader, formulate a goal and task, and grab attention. Usually, the introduction of the article consists of two or three paragraphs and does not exceed 10% of the whole text.
When starting to write, you need to start with the most important thing. Often, due to deviations from the main topic and some distractions, the author cannot describe the essence of the issue, or describes it very briefly. Especially many distractions can appear when you begin with the history of the ancient world.
If your article has two or three main ideas, you need a very good argument not to divide the current article into two or three separate articles. Therefore, you should not put ‘all your eggs in the same basket’ or try to seize the unseizable. This applies not only to the main idea, but also to the geographical narrowing of the research area. It is better to write a focused article about the problem in Kyrgyzstan than to write an ordinary, general text about Central Asia.
- Narrative Techniques
Long sentences. Try to avoid complex sentences occupying several lines. Such sentences should be divided by their meaning into two or three parts without waiting for editorial correction. Large sentences are dangerous, because the reader, having read the end of the sentence, forgets about its beginning. One sentence should contain one thought or idea.
Complicated terms. Think as a reader, and try to write the text as simply as possible. This will help keeping the reader interested in your article. However, you should not make the text too primitive. The main rule is to try to avoid complex terms difficult for perception.
Overloading with details. Do not use too much professional slang in your article. Do not try to impress the reader with insignificant numbers and statistics, or endless quotes from interviews and official documents. If your text has many figures and various calculations, they should be placed in separate tables, illustrations and appendixes.
Repetition. Two types of repetition should be avoided in an article: the first is ideas and arguments; and the second type is basic words and phrases. When you end up repeating your ideas often, and repeating the same thing over and over again (as we do it now), it usually means that you did not thought through the idea of your article. The solution to this problem is to create more ideas during the planning stage. A well-written draft ensures that you do not duplicate the same concept or fact.
First- or second-person narrative. Your article must present an objective and unbiased point of view. For this, use third-person narrative. The first-person perspective seems biased because you are expressing your own opinion and share experience as arguments. Try to avoid pronouns.
Abbreviations. Unexplained abbreviations can confuse the reader. There is a general rule: for the first time in the text, you must provide the full term (and indicate the abbreviation in parentheses next to it), and use this abbreviation in all subsequent mentions. This will clarify the term for the readers.
- Citations and References
If you do not refer to every material you used in your article, you may accidentally commit plagiarism. Whether it is just an idea, a paraphrased sentence, or a direct quote, do not forget about references in the text, which should briefly refer to the bibliography.
The three most important things to remember when working with citations: (1) consistent formatting in accordance with the required style; (2) listing each citation from the text at the end of the article, and an indication of each reference in the text; and (3) providing complete background information, if available.
- Problems With Conclusion
The conclusion of the article should not contain any new information for the reader. Summing up the main arguments will remind the reader about discussed arguments, especially if the text is long and has complex structure.
At the end of the text, you need to draw up the conclusions that follow from the material; the structure and partly the content of the conclusion should be built from the body part of the text, but should not repeat it exactly. Here, the author can state own opinion. If possible, you need to add recommendations in the context, which will give a hint to solving the problem. The recommendations should be precise and direct, not generalised and explicit.
- Exceeding the Volume
Often, the authors ignore the guidelines with the required text volume, although this requirement is as strict as others. The editors may allow a slight excess or lack of words in the text, however, if the author sent material several pages larger than required, or, on the contrary, wrote very little, most likely, they will ask the author to rewrite the material.
Do not hope that the editor will shorten the text for you. This is the author’s responsibility. The editor may shorten the text, but the author may not like the final version. After all, for the author, every line is priceless and all the words in the text are necessary.
Writing the text is important process, so it would be a mistake to start working on an article the night before the deadline. You may not finish it, disrupt your sleeping schedule, or write something illogical.
The deadline is usually discussed with the editor in advance, so it is better not to wait too long to do important things, and not to ignore the discipline. If you write a paragraph every day, then after a few days, you will have a text.
- Lack of Self-Editing
It does not matter how good your spelling skills are – everyone can make mistakes. Never forget to check and proofread your article (more than once if possible) before submitting it to the editor. Check your spelling, make sure everything is in order, and check the content. Same as with the initial plan, you can ask a friend, colleague, or editor to read and, if possible, edit your article.
Digital grammar tools, unfortunately, do not solve all problems, they highlight mistakes in words, but they miss the cases of inappropriate use of correctly spelled words.
Source: V. Radaev. Rules for Writing (reports, articles, study essays)