Writing Illustrated Articles

Breitling wing walker on Boeing Stearman SE-BOG

Grab your reader’s attention

How many times have you sat in the dentist’s waiting room, opened a magazine, read the first paragraph of an article and flicked over to the next page? Now think about the times that first paragraph grabbed your attention and you carried on reading. When writing articles grab your readers attention. Here’s how.

Identify your reader

Not everyone is going to be interested in your writing. Most aircraft enthusiasts will read my article A Brief History of the P51 Mustang and think, yes I know that – tell me something new. Someone visiting an airshow and seeing the plane for a first time might read the history in the programme and think, that’s interesting. I have written two versions of a caption for my picture of The Black Prince Steam Engine. One aimed at the casual reader and one at the enthusiast.

Showing and Telling

Showing is when you use your (or your subjects) senses or reactions to an event or scene to transport the reader into your world. Slow your writing down, describe what you heard, smelt, tasted and your feelings about what you saw or did. If you are recounting another person’s experiences, ask them questions or read accounts to try and find out how they felt. Telling simply presents a factual piece of information and moves the article along which leads me to …

Avoid clichés

The aircraft went up like a rocket. The sunset was beautiful. The Quol Sharif mosque is stunning. As writers and photographs we know that a picture is worth a thousand words (oops there’s another one) so use your writing to show your reader what they cannot see from a picture; the history, the sounds, what it feels like to see, smell, hear a place or touch an object.

Try – the P51 Mustang, a veteran of world war II, arced almost vertically into the blue sky, the beat of its engine echoing across the crowd. As it reached the top of the loop sunlight flashed on the polished metal wings.

P51D-25-NT Mustang G-MSTG 414419 LH-F ‘Janie’

Chania was silhouetted against the oranges and reds of the sunset that reflected on the calm Mediterranean. All I could hear was the gentle beat of waves against the ancient sea wall.

The minarets of the new Quol Sharif mosque tower above the walls of the Kazan Kremlin announcing that this is predominately a Muslim city.

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Write about what you know and what you love

You may have gathered from this site that I am an aviation and enthusiast (OK nut) as well as a photographer. I write about these subjects primarily because I have a good knowledge of them. That does not stop me writing about anything else I find interesting; history, travel, different foods; I just have to do even more research.

Get Your Facts Right

Do your research; check the sources of your facts. The internet is a wonderful resource for research but so much of it is inaccurate or just plain wrong. Even when cross checking several sources always bear in mind that they can all have copied one another. If you cannot go there, see it or do it get a quotable first-hand source. If you cannot establish exactly what happened, for example when writing in an historical context, quote more than one reliable source. Quoting from other writers is not plagiarism but always recognise your sources. Provide a link to any articles you have quoted when researching you own.

Use attention grabbing pictures.

You don’t have to be great photographer. Clear sharp, correctly exposed and well composed pictures will often grab a readers attention. If you cannot produce your own photos don’t just rip them off from other websites (you could end up with a large copyright infringement bill). Buy them from stock photography sites such as Alamy or approach the photographer. I often allow publication of my photos for free on non commercial sites as long as I get a credit and a link and the watermark is not removed. But if you are making money from your site and my pictures a fee is payable.

Writing articles is about engaging the reader whilst conveying the relevant factual information. A good article with clear illustrations will help you get your work seen and published.

Interested in travel writing? Ten Tips For Writing Travel Articles

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