1. Research. Never compose articles off the top of your head, even if you're an expert in the field. Never do guessing. Verification of the data is a must. The information in the article must be supported with evidence. Sources and studies must be quoted. Refrain from the generic like "Experts say" or "Many people think.", etc.
2. Don't write to word counts, except in the introductions which must contain 50-75 words. It does not mean that word count should not be taken into consideration but there should be no overwriting or fluffy writing done. Write economically and lean. Don’t use words which do not add value or repeat the same thing. For example, never write "You will need to connect the wires for the car to start." Instead: "Connect the wires ..." You don't "Check to see if the light is on;" you "Check if the light is on." Avoid wordy, extraneous phrases, such as "Be sure to rewind the clock." Go right to the verb instead: "Rewind the clock."
3. Start most sentences with actionable words. The prose must be dynamic and must engage the reader. Instead of writing "You should climb the stairs two steps at a time," write "Climb the stairs two steps at a time."
4. Write actively. Passive voice is flat, uninteresting and slows down the pace of the article. According to studies in neurolinguistics, the mind accesses only those information more easily which are put together in active voice. So it's "the waiter poured the wine," not "the wine was poured by the waiter."
5. Avoid complex sentence structures that readers find difficult to absorb at a glance. Any sentence which requires the reader to read twice is a complex sentence.
6. Avoid writing in first person at all costs
7. Provide detail. Never write "Connect the two boards." Instead, tell us where and how: "Mark a vertical line across the two boards at a point 1 inch from each end. Drill three holes, 1 inch apart, along these lines with a quarter-inch drill bit. Connect the boards. Use a Phillips screwdriver to screw six 9c bolts into each of the holes on two planks ..."
8. Particularize. Ensure that the options are particular to the title. If you're writing about something in a particular locale articles, all the steps in the article must be particular to the location. If you can substitute other locales with the same instruction, your article is too generic to pass.
For example, an explanation of how to find an apartment in Los Angeles should include searches on WestsideRentals.com and the "Los Angeles Times;" whereas the same article about Atlanta might include the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" and the Atlanta Apartment Association. Articles must localize. In our apartment search example, you would recommend different apartments in specific neighborhoods based on budget, safety, access to public transit or proximity to a college. You would note local apartment search customs, such as offering "key money" to landlords or paying for your own credit report, and you would detail any rules that restrict the size of your security deposits.
If you're writing an article like "Fun Things to Do in Dallas, Texas on a Rainy Day," the options included must qualify as fun (a subjective choice, but your content must make the case for including your suggestion) and must be particular to Dallas. As a first choice, the suggestions should include things you can do or events you can attend in the rain. Activities or events you can perform or attend indoors would qualify as second preferences, since you can do most things indoors in any weather.
9. Avoid the obvious. Don't send readers on random Internet searches. Likewise, don't tell them to ask friends for references, make a budget, check the Yellow Pages, go to flea markets or anything else they obviously can figure out on their own.
10. Avoid repetition. Trust the power of your prose to communicate. Repeating a point doesn't add emphasis; it only frustrates your readers. Do not repeat information within the sections or make the same point again for emphasis. Rely on clear, strong writing to provide the emphasis the subject needs.
11. Unearth the unusual. Avoid the most obvious choices and clichés. Recently a writer submitted an article on things to do New York City with the usual, generic suggestions: Visit the Empire State Building ... Tour the Metropolitan Museum ... Go to the Statue of Liberty ... Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. We'd continue with our other suggestions, but we're already falling asleep. Who needs another article that sends readers to those sites? After a rewrite request demanded suggestions most readers wouldn't think of on their own, the writer scrapped the mundane and included a jazz brunch at the Garage Restaurant, watching an indie film at the Anthology Film Archives, rock climbing at the Chelsea Piers and attending an afternoon of performance art at P.S. 122. That's an article that imparts full value to readers and gives them a chance to learn something new. Research deeply and include options readers won't readily find on their own.
If you must include the clichés, find something unusual within the obvious. If you send readers to Times Square, highlight the urban cowboy who sings in his underwear in the middle of Broadway, rather than directing them to a Disney store.
12. Avoid empty adjectives. Don't tell us something is "fun," "easy," "great," "terrific" or "fantastic." Absent in context and explanation, those words don't mean anything. Choose your adjectives with precision. Telling us that a collection at the Museum of Modern Art is "great" doesn't reveal anything. But we'll learn something if you describe the collection as "comprehensive," "limited" or "expanding." Instead of describing an activity or task as "fun," think about what makes it so and describe that. Don't make unsupportable claims about product performance. The Zone Diet isn't a "great" or "effective" way to lose weight. It's a "method for losing weight." And finally, don't employ the adjective "unique," the most misused word in the English language.
13. Refrain from hyperbole. Don't make claims you can't support with documented evidence. Avoid frequent use of the usually hyperbolic exclamation points, the mark of an amateur writer.
14. Never, ever send the reader elsewhere to obtain the information your article should provide; 75 percent of our rejections are articles that are poorly researched or contain information that is generic or too obvious to have value.