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Presentation can make or break an article

Almost every article about creating effective web copy talks about the use of arresting headlines and easy-to-read presentation. And that’s great: if we want to stop people in their tracks and get a message across, this is probably the best approach to take.

However, it’s not always the most appropriate way of doing things. If we’re writing the definitive 2,000-word guide to desprocketing a blue widget, it needs to look like the authoritative technical article that it is. Our cause will not be helped by giving it the headline “10 Great Tricks Only The Best Blue Widget Desprocketers Know”. Nor will breaking the article up into dozens of snappy paragraphs, each with their own intriguing subheadings.

…but don’t be deliberately dull

That said, the other extreme is also not the way to go. We do not want to mimic the way many academic papers are presented online, challenging the reader to wade through pages of prose without a break. Our headline still has to answer “what’s in it for me if I read this?”. After all, the article is part of a sales process which we want the reader to complete.

There’s a happy medium. To do justice to an authoritative technical article, we need to devise a presentation style which falls between two extremes. For ideas on how to do that, there’s nothing wrong with spending an hour online and shamelessly stealing the ideas behind the most attractive but appropriate presentations that we come across.