An article (500- ) is a form of prose writing found in newspapers, magazines and encyclopedias. Each of these are made up of articles. Each article is about just one subject and can be read independently of the others.
Origin: The science books by Aristotle and Pliny are almost written in articles. But the form did not make sense till the 300s when the codex (a book of leaves) took the place of scrolls. The first real articles began to appear in the 500s. See, for example, the Institutions of Cassiodorus.
Length: An article is hundreds to thousands of words long. For example, most articles in The Economist are between 450 and 1500 words long, though some run as long as 4000 words.
Magazine and encyclopedia articles are meant to be read from start to finish. Newspaper articles are not.
An article is meant to be read in one sitting, so it is not divided into chapters, though it might be broken into parts with headings.
Title: An article has a title. The title is there to get your attention and draw you into the article. In a magazine or the back pages of a newspaper, titles are written with some wit, sometimes making reference to film and song titles.
In newspapers the title is called a headline. It can also be a play on word, but most often it is much more matter of fact, telling you in the shortest possible way the news that the article reports.
Newspaper articles are written in an inverse pyramid style. The most important facts are given first, less important ones later. You stop reading when you lose interest.
The inverse pyramid style is the opposite of how you would tell a story: it gives away the ending in the title and the very first lines.
- “World floods, Noah saves animals”
- “Prince finds Cinderella, marries tomorrow.”
Then the details are filled in, the more important or newsworthy ones first.
Web articles: An article is a natural form for the Web. But what works in print does not always work on the Web. And the Web can do things print cannot.
Some pointers on writing articles for the Web:
- Make the title searchable. Put the subject in plain view.
- Do not divide it into pages. This is a holdover from print. On the Web it makes your article much harder to read, print, copy or search.
- Use an inverse pyramid style. Most come to your page looking for something. Make it easy.
- Make the paragraphs short – about four sentences long. Each should stand on its own as much as possible because most will read it that way.
- Make the article short, about 500 to 1000 words long. It is better to write ten short articles of 500 words each than one long article of 5000 words It will make your articles more useful and more people will read it.
The Web allows you to link articles together in ways you never could in print.