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How to Write the Perfect Meta Article

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Tired of stories with titles like "17 best ways to improve your marketing"? Or "Do this one thing and drastically improve your productivity overnight!"? Or "4 Haskell functions you can't live without?" Everybody tries to exactly define their target or their article's value, and this is great for a while, but after a thousand highly-targeted articles it all just sorts of runs together for the reader, as I demonstrated with my "Roll Your Own LinkBait Tech Headline" article.

Perhaps it's time to move up to the meta-article. The meta article takes all articles of a certain type and provides advice at a higher, meta, level. Meta articles promise to give the reader more general -- but still very practical -- advice. I've been writing blog articles for many years now, and I've written some fairly popular meta articles. Meta articles can have a positive impact on your readers, and people will keep coming back to read them. In fact, recent studies show that a well-written meta article has on average 127 times the value in readership than a regular article does. It's because they don't fade or lose their value with time. But it's not easy. Picking up and handling effectively such a large topic can be scary, I know. Stick with me and I'll show you how it's done.


  • Start your story with a question. People like answering questions. So hit them with a question that they can easily answer "yes" to. Or one that makes them intrigued. A question creates tension that you can then resolve with the rest of your piece.

  • Tell them why they should care. Don't be subtle. Punch them in the gut with the main reason why they should read your article. Make up a statistic if you have to, as long as you tell them later on. As long as you don't lie to the reader, it's okay to push them around a bit. Writing is a contact sport.

  • Assure them of your expertise. People don't trust general advice from just any schmuck on the internet. Tell them that you're the person who can work at a higher level. Reassure them that your advice can help.

  • Make a list. People don't have time for long. drawn-out windbags. Give 'em a quick list of bullets they can thumb through

  • Make a generalization at the end. Make some kind of pithy or insightful observation at the end. It helps if you sprinkle in a big word or two: gives the text a bit more impact. People are more trusting of folks who can talk at their level, but still remind them that they have a lot to learn.

  • Leave them smiling. Any article, no matter how badly done, can be a success as long as you leave the reader feeling better than when they started. So finish up on a high note.

As you can see, it's really not that hard. Be gentle to the reader, go over the concepts in an easy-to-read format (especially if the concepts are difficult), draw some conclusions, then give them a smile on the way out. Avoid loquaciousness and diffuse meandering.

And of course, if you go back and look carefully, that's exactly how this article is structured! :)







For the humor-challenged among you, this is satire. But like all good satire, there is a nugget of important truth in there. Meta articles are very difficult to write, as they must be breezy and general without being vacuous. The good ones can appear trite or superficial to the casual observer, but hold deep truths for those looking for them. Even if sometimes you have to spell it out. (wink)

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on January 20, 2011 11:09 AM.

Roll Your Own Linkbait Tech Headline was the previous entry in this blog.

Start Small, Stay Small is the next entry in this blog.

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