Vol.IX No.XI Pg.2
January 1973

Writing An Article

Robert F. Turner

Frequently someone (usually a younger preacher) asks, How do you go about writing an article? How I do it may be poor grist for the mill; but I can recommend these directions by the well-known Joseph Pulitzer: Put it before them briefly, so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

Nothing worthwhile comes out of a writer until something worthwhile has gone in. Unless you do a lot of independent thinking, or read a large amount of the material of others and make it your own; you should limit yourself to an article every five years, In this you can skim the cream of experience and come up with something readable. But regular writing is hard work, requires great amounts of time, and develops ulcers.

In regular writing we must assume the author is a fairly capable student, and then we can say that his first great obstacle is the subject, and by that I really mean the aim or object of the writing. What will it be this time? The article is NOT the end; it is but the means to an end. In an effort to reach a wide public we must produce some light articles; some of considerable depth; some must be written with traditional

wording, some in current vernacular. But to all, it must be something that is needed. Religious articles have a serious purpose, whatever their form.

Then comes the road work, where the men are separated from the boys. Your subject must be researched— from Scriptures, word studies, commentaries, books or articles by others. The one-in-five-years article maybe written from the top of the head, but steady writing requires steady study. In its absence a writer is reduced to reaction to the lead of others (and this is nearly always negative reaction), or a dreary diet of cute little nothings and uninformed opinions.

Apt illustrations are found in most good articles. Read C. S. Lewis as a master in this field. And while you are there, observe the directness of his statements, and their conversational quality. This generation is long past the formal literary style of A. Campbell, or even the sermonizing of fifty years ago. Of what value to the general public is a wonderful lengthy article that is never read? Save it for a book.

And when you learn to write as Mr. Pulitzer suggests, will you teach me?