We edit and publish dozens of bylines every week on TechRadar Pro and over time, we've compile a list of what we believe are the easiest wins when it comes to improving the overall quality of submissions. We'd be keen to know more about your thoughts and would love to get some feedback from you.
1. Avoiding tenuous links to a buzzword
Lots of articles written about unglamorous topics try too hard to use more appealing, SEO-friendly buzzwords as a gateway to the main topic. This can work effectively but only if there's a clear and direct link between the 'buzzword' and the meat of the article. Too often there isn't, with themes like 'wearable technology' and 'BYOD' crowbarred into headlines and introductions despite being largely irrelevant to the the thrust of the piece. Unglamorous topics are useful to many readers and don't necessarily need to be sexed up.
2. Cutting out opening fluff
A 1-2 paragraph introduction may entertain wider themes before getting stuck into the heart of the article, but too often business tech features include 4-5 paras of fluff, cliches and platitudes before properly beginning. Classic offences are tired references to 'the increasingly mobile workforce', 'the explosion of smartphones and tablets', 'the rise of BYOD', 'the ubiquity of the cloud' and 'the need to modernise security'. Of course these examples can all be relevant, but features are better when they tackle the specifics of the themes form the off. Generic and obvious opening statements about 'changing landscapes' and the like can usually be cut.
3. Not overdoing rhetorical questions
A small style issue, but something that pops up too frequently in byline articles. One or two rhetorical questions are of course fine, but many authors over-egg the technique and end up patronising the reader. Constantly being asked, 'Is that really right for your business?", 'Have you considered the importance of that data?', 'Are you planning for these changes?' can turn readers off, as the audience is usually acquainted with the general issue already, and just wants the answers to the problems.
4. Bringing something new to the discourse
There needs to be a fresh idea or discovery driving each feature. A small degree of repetition is inevitable in tech discourse but if there's not something vaguely new being put on the table by the article, it shouldn't be written in the first place. Frequently, survey results are used as the piece of 'fresh news' leading into a wider discussion, but if the discussion is still something the audience has read a million times before, the survey results are redundant and irrelevant. Bylines can't be be repackaged versions of features already out there.
5. Narrowing the focus
Broader overviews tend to fall into the trap of adding noise to discussion rather than furthering it, and bylines are generally far stronger when they have a very specific focus. Most company representatives writing the bylines will have a niche area of expertise which should be capitalised on, not downplayed to give the article broader appeal. With so much analysis and discussion available online, new pieces need to hone in on very particular areas to differentiate from the pack and remain valuable to readers.