Use a journalistic rather than academic style so that the material is accessible to a broader audience
Capture and hold on to readers’ attention. Your article is competing with many other sources of information. Write your article so that it captures your readers’ attention early and holds on to it.
Start at the top. Write an “I have to read this” title. In this example, which title would convince you to read the article?
USDA Agricultural Projections to 2021
Long-term Prospects for Agriculture Reflect Growing Demand for Food, Fiber and Fuel
Make the first few paragraphs really count by putting the “bottom line” first. In the “inverted pyramid” style of writing, the conclusions, fundamental facts, and most important information appear in the lead paragraphs.
Using the inverted pyramid style is even more important today when readers are increasingly “scanners” who want information quickly. Research shows that you have less than 10 seconds to engage the average Internet user before they click on the next page or website so you MUST make the first few paragraphs interesting and engaging.
The first paragraphs after the “bottom line” information should outline the issue and why it’s important.Subsequent sections should describe your research approach, etc.
Write to reach a wider audience. If you target your article specifically to a technical audience, you are underestimating the value of your information and results to policymakers and others without expertise in your subject area.
You can have it all! Write your article for a general audience, but include a link to the specifics of your data, model, etc., for interested, more technically minded readers.
Follow the top ten rules for writing in plain language for a general audience.
Rule #1: Watch Your Language! Writing in plain language means avoiding the use of jargon and buzzwords. Using technical terms is sometimes unavoidable so include the definitions in the paragraphs containing the first use of the term or include a sidebar “glossary” in the text.
Rule #2: Plain Language Speaks Volumes about Your Work. Writing clear and straightforward articles expands the audiences for your research.
Rule #3: Write for the Web. Studies show that web users only read about 18% of what's on a page. Use subheads (Rule #7), bullets (Rule #8), charts, etc. (Rule #9), to break up text and draw your readers’ attention to critical points in your article.
Rule #4: Use Active Voice Instead of Passive. Passive voice tends to be a more awkward and stilted way of writing. Beware of using “to be” and its conjugations.
Rule #5: It’s Not Only What You Say, But How You Say It. Pay close attention to spelling, grammar, usage and punctuation. You may have made the discovery of the century, but spelling and grammatical errors will cast doubt on your credibility.
Rule #6: Verbosity is not a Virtue. Express one idea in each sentence and one thought per paragraph to avoid confusing your reader.
Rule #7: Subheads Can Help Tell the Story. “Eye Track” research shows that readers may scan a headline, skip a detailed or ponderous introduction, and move right to where a subhead signals an interesting or provoking segment of the story. Avoid using subheads such as Introduction, Summary, and Conclusion or similar terms used in scientific journal writing.
Rule #8: Use bullets to highlight critical points and grab your readers’ attention. See www.copyblogger.com/writing-bullet-points/ for helpful tips for “writing bullet points that people actually want to read.”
Rule #9: Charts, Tables, and Photos Add Supporting Information and Visual Interest. Well-placed charts with active titles allow readers to quickly see major points rather than relying on lengthy text descriptions.
Be sure to caption the photos in your article. Select photos and captions that support the text and capture the readers’ attention.
The accompanying chart shows the trend in farmland values in just a glance. The title helps the reader quickly understand the information in the chart.
Rule #10. Do not repeat the summary of your information for your article’s conclusion. In the inverted pyramid style, the conclusions are in the opening paragraphs. The Literacy Education Online website (http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html) recommends: 1) Answer the question "So What?" 2) Synthesize, don't summarize; 3) Redirect your readers by giving them something to think about, perhaps a way to use your paper in the "real" world; and 4). Create a new meaning by demonstrating how your ideas work together, for example.