Words on a Page Writings about writing

How I write roundup posts and articles

A woman typing on a laptop

Over the last few months, I’ve been writing a number of roundup articles for Opensource.com. Writing those articles has been a great way to contribute to the site, to learn something new, and to share what I’ve learned with the readers of Opensource.com.

Writing roundup articles and posts can be a great way to quickly create something that can help your readers. Doing the job well, though, takes a bit more time and thought than slapping together a top 10 listicle.

Here’s a look at how I write roundup posts and articles. I hope this method can help you when you want to write them.

My approach

To be honest, my approach to writing roundup posts and articles is somewhat selfish. I start by asking myself one of the following four questions:

  • What do I want to learn?
  • What am I interested in?
  • What problem do I want to solve?
  • What do I want to share?

The latter last question doesn’t seem selfish, but it is. At least, it can be. Why? Because I’m taking control of what the someone is reading and am controlling the tempo of the conversation I’m having with them.

When I write a roundup post or article — for this blog, for my other blogs, and for Opensource.com — the subject matter links back to my own work and interests.

When, for example, I’m writing about software, I’m always looking for simpler alternatives to perform a task. Alternatives that have less overhead and fewer features than what most people use. That’s because I like tools that do a certain job and do it well, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

A quick case study: roundup articles for Opensource.com

As you might have guessed, the roundup articles that I write for Opensource.com focus on software. Specifically open source software. I try to find a mix of fairly well-known applications and ones that readers might not have heard of or used.

When I have a topic, like open source alternatives to Evernote, I do some research then I zoom in on three or four choices.

Why three or four when other writers and bloggers cover five, seven, or more choices? Sometimes, can only find three good examples of a class of application. Focusing on two is, to me anyway, is focusing on too few. Five or more is just too many, and can get repetitive.

I also know that I have a certain word count to work within, so can’t go into a lot of detail. Cutting down the number of applications that I focus on lets me add a bit more detail to what I’m writing.

Remember the selfishness I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? It rears its less-than-pretty head again when I’m writing. I tend to focus on the features that interest me or which I’ll use regularly. Those features might not interest others or be ones that they’ll use regularly. But, as I wrote earlier in this post, that’s just me controlling the conversation.

My goal, though, is write an article or post that interests readers. Or, at least, pique their interest enough to investigate what I’m writing about. From the feedback I’ve received so far, that seems to be the case.

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