Chapter 5 - Make the article relevant and interesting

What is relevant and interesting differs from person to person, from one type of reader to another. That is why it is important to get you self a clear picture of the target group and keep that in mind all the way through reading and editing.

Surely, you should not make a lot of effort to attract the reader to the article (Chapter 4), if you do not have anything relevant and interesting to tell. If not, the reader will be fooled and disappointed, and s/he will not return to your articles another time, maybe not even to the publication.
What is relevant and interesting differs from person to person, from one type of reader to another. That is why it is important to get you self a clear picture of the target group (Chapter 2) and keep that in mind all the way through reading and editing.

First you have to consider the timeliness of the specific topic you intend to write about.

  • Is this a part of adult education that involves actors in Europe these years?
  • Is it a working field that is on its way up among adult education activities
  • Is this a topic which is eagerly debated in society as such?
  • Is it a topic which is debated in adult education circles?

If so, the chances that the potential reader will find it interesting and relevant are much higher. On the other hand, a completely new area of work or a completely new method may also be of great interest for a number of readers. But in these cases, you will need to argue much more for the relevance of the content in the article.

Even if you want to write about a really hot topic, commonly debated in the European adult education community, you have not made it yet. Your case or information, your analysis or special view on the topic must add something extra to the knowledge, understanding and motivation of your reader. You may even demand of yourself and your article that each paragraph will have some added value for most readers.
Again you have to imagine your target group. For any author it is a challenge to really know what the potential reader needs to read and wants to read. Writing to be read all over Europe makes it even more complicated.

New experiences, new knowledge and cases with surprising outcomes will often do the job, not necessarily good/best practice and successful tests. That which went wrong may also change the perspective of the reader.

When you are going to address readers in other countries, you should beware that what is old and well known in your own country may be completely surprising and fascinating for readers in other countries. And the other way around: Be careful not to make the assumption that this is “a new type of course” or that this method is being “applied for the first time”.
To solve this you may ask a colleague or two in other countries, a colleague with international connections or someone who have done some scientific research in this field. (More about this in Chapter 7)

Based on all this you must ask yourself questions like these, depending on target group:

  • Will my article help the reader to develop his adult education practice?
  • Will my article make the reader reconsider his views on adult education?
  • Will my article help motivate the citizen for adult education
  • Will my article make the decision maker change his attitude towards adult education?

When you have answered in the affirmative to one of these questions or a similar one, you may conclude that you have something relevant to communicate. But being relevant is not the same as being interesting. We all know the feeling when we come across an article or a book that we “ought to” read, because it covers a topic that we are working with or will be working with. But we keep on postponing it, because it somehow seems tedious. You are sure that reading the text will be hard work.

To avoid that reaction from the reader or to counteract it, it is important that you focus on the story. Facts, background, generalisations, analysis, chronology may be necessary elements of an article, but it does not make up an interesting article. You must have a story to tell. In most text genres you must concentrate on only one story while the feature or the web theme may you give you other options.
Somehow we all know, when we have read a good story. But how do we create a good story as a tool to communicate our knowledge and analysis in a special field?

The crux of a good story is the flow. One part must lead on to the next part of the text. They must be related. The matrix of such a story may be like this: Something happened or someone (individual or group) had a problem. Someone got an idea. Someone did something. Something new evolved. Something/someone changed.
Onto this structure you can then add facts, background information, quotes, analysis, etc. Because of the story the reader will be able to place the information in a context that s/he can relate to – or be in opposition to, which is just as good.

An import element of a story is human beings, real live persons. Again most readers will rather identify with – or oppose – a human being in an article than an idea, a concept or a theory. This does not mean that you cannot write about ideas, concepts and theories. But you will find more readers if you relate these elements to human beings, because stories evokes emotions.

There are lots of ways to introduce human beings to an article on adult education:

  • -       A learner
  • -       A non-learner
  • -       A relative of a learner
  • -       An educator
  • -       An organiser  or director
  • -       A decision maker
  • -       An academic researcher

They can appear in the article with their experience, their personal story, their ideas, their actions, their analysis, their research, their special viewpoint or something else. An article about how a lecturer deals with a new method and the opportunities and difficulties, he meets personally, will be read and enjoyed much more that par purely factual presentation of a new teaching method.
You can insert human beings in the article by telling about them and describing them and/or by direct quotes.

Critical elements in an article will increase the likelihood that it is read. A critical opinion such as a quote or a particular challenge and difficulties should be included in any article. Critical questions in an interview will help the interview person explain about his case or his position much more convincingly.

Facts are necessary for the reader to increase their knowledge and to act consistently and wisely. We often want to communicate facts to others when we write an article. But facts are also stumbling blocks for the reader. So we have to be very aware about exactly how much facts and numbers we introduce into an article.

What is relevant for the reader? This may be difficult to know when you write to foreign audience. Some facts are absolutely necessary for a foreign reader to understand what goes on in another country. But a lot of facts and numbers will stand in the way of the central message of the article. Again, conferring with a colleague or an expert may help you to know what is necessary and what is not.
Last but not least, something very basic but often forgotten: The facts must be accurate and correct. If not, you let the reader down, especially the reader in another country who will have trouble checking the facts himself. As a side effect of letting the reader down you risk destroying your own credibility and that of the publication.
 

An import element of a story is human beings, real live persons. Again most readers will rather identify with – or oppose – a human being in an article than an idea, a concept or a theory. This does not mean that you cannot write about ideas, concepts and theories. But you will find more readers if you relate these elements to human beings, because stories evokes emotions.

There are lots of ways to introduce human beings to an article on adult education:

  • -       A learner
  • -       A non-learner
  • -       A relative of a learner
  • -       An educator
  • -       An organiser  or director
  • -       A decision maker
  • -       An academic researcher

They can appear in the article with their experience, their personal story, their ideas, their actions, their analysis, their research, their special viewpoint or something else. An article about how a lecturer deals with a new method and the opportunities and difficulties, he meets personally, will be read and enjoyed much more that par purely factual presentation of a new teaching method.
You can insert human beings in the article by telling about them and describing them and/or by direct quotes.

Critical elements in an article will increase the likelihood that it is read. A critical opinion such as a quote or a particular challenge and difficulties should be included in any article. Critical questions in an interview will help the interview person explain about his case or his position much more convincingly.

Facts are necessary for the reader to increase their knowledge and to act consistently and wisely. We often want to communicate facts to others when we write an article. But facts are also stumbling blocks for the reader. So we have to be very aware about exactly how much facts and numbers we introduce into an article.

What is relevant for the reader? This may be difficult to know when you write to foreign audience. Some facts are absolutely necessary for a foreign reader to understand what goes on in another country. But a lot of facts and numbers will stand in the way of the central message of the article. Again, conferring with a colleague or an expert may help you to know what is necessary and what is not.

Last but not least, something very basic but often forgotten: The facts must be accurate and correct. If not, you let the reader down, especially the reader in another country who will have trouble checking the facts himself. As a side effect of letting the reader down you risk destroying your own credibility and that of the publication.