The “Bones” of a Good Better Human Story
A Sample Structure for the Empathic Tutorial
Better Humans is a publication that’s dedicated to trusted, evidence-based advice in the wide realm of self-improvement. Our Style Guide and Write for Us pages give you an idea of what we are looking for and how to submit articles to our publication. This document is intended as an aid to writers to understand what an empathic tutorial looks like.
One of the biggest problems with most of the proposals we receive is that they are for the wrong type of article. Many of these articles are essays, personal memoir, or expanded lists (“listicles”) of advice or tips. That’s not what we we publish at Better Humans.
The classic Better Humans article takes the form of a how-to article:
- It shows the reader how to do something specific. Readers are looking for results.
- It is not simply advice on what a reader “should” do. It’s a how-to for specifically how to do something.
- It is evidence-based—by completing the how-to portion of the article, the reader can expect to get the stated results. This evidence is part of the article, often part of the introduction.
- The writer is an expert on the topic. Most often, this means that they have done the steps outlined themselves and gotten the result the reader expects to get. In some cases, a coach or researcher might qualify as an expert, but they should have experience helping others make the changes touted.
We’ve probably never rejected an article that meets all of these requirements.
The rest of this document presents a possible outline form for the written content of a Better Humans article. (A good article also contains images, links, and other content—all of that is outlined in our Style Guide and Write for Us pages. Seriously, read those.)
A Sample Article Structure
The introduction should:
- Plainly state what the reader can expect to accomplish—who they will become—by following the instructions given in the article.
- Make the case for why you are an expert at making this change. What is the your personal connection to the topic? Why should the reader trust what you say?
- Explain why this how-to will really work. This is the evidence. Often this includes links to primary research papers. Explain why the reader will want to make this change (unless it is obvious) and why your article is going to have the perfect advice for doing it.
- Give the reader an idea of what is to follow: how much effort and time will be required of them?
The Empathic Tutorial
This is the “meat” of the article: the empathic how-to.
By empathic, we mean that the reader is treated with kindness and an understanding of the challenges they will face. You should also help them overcome these challenges.
An good in-depth Better Humans article will generally have sections, with a list of action steps to complete in each section. These action steps need to be specific, and remember, they must who the reader how to accomplish the action step, not simply enumerate what to do.
Here are some examples of advice that lacks the “how” completely, or key elements. (This is what you do NOT want to do!):
- “Be sure to get diverse opinions from everyone on the team.”
- “Make time every day to practice.”
- “Remember, no eating after 8pm!”
In the first example. a good tutorial would give the reader specific meeting facilitation techniques that help guarantee diverse input. The second is almost nonsensical…of course, things that require practice require you to make time in the day for it. That advice helps no one. Instead, help your reader overcome the typical threats to daily practice. Likewise, the third example (“no eating after 8pm”) lacks any real help to someone who might find this difficult.
Here are some tips to getting this right:
- Enumerate the steps the reader take.
- Link to the tools that you use and recommend (but be careful: affiliate links and calls to action are not allowed).
- Show empathy by anticipating problems they’ll encounter and tell them how you solved the same problems.
- Encourage the reader with inspiration and real solutions.
Along the way, you might include links to additional supporting research and your own experience.
Think of yourself as a trusted friend of the reader, and include the details that you might share with such a friend over coffee. “I found that weighing myself in the evening worked better because it fit right in with the rest of my evening journaling and my morning weights tend to fluctuate more.” Or “I tried this with an app as well as with just paper and pen; I finally settled on using the app because I liked how easy it was to include photos with my entries.” Or “Most people prefer adjustable dumbbells so they can change the weights over time, but I found it hard to change the weights quickly and securely. Fixed dumbbells work better for me because they’re cheap, simple, and I’m not tempted to stop a workout early because I have to change weights.”
Troubleshooting and Problem Solving
We mention anticipating problems above; some articles might warrant a section on overcoming problems of it’s own. If so, it would typically come after the tutorial.
Your conclusion can be brief and concise, perhaps simply to reiterate why the technique works and why it will work for the reader. A particularly powerful conclusion, however, will tell the story of what this change meant in your own life and how you were transformed by it.
Recommended Reading (rarely)
Most Better Humans articles don’t require a recommended reading list. Instead, recommended reading will be linked to directly in the article where relevant. If you want to provide a list, however, it comes here.
But remember: no calls to action. This should not be a list of links to other articles you’ve written, or link to your services, etc.
Examples of what we’re looking for
These articles follow our empathic tutorial format well—they are for readers who want to do something specific that the author is expert on, they give step-by-step instructions on how to do it, and help for overcoming anticipated problems.
- How to Achieve the Best Grades Possible With Minimal Stress
- How To Chart A New Course For Your Life With 3 Simple Diagrams
- How to Be a Better Neighbor to Homeless People
- Your Slow, Fat Marathon
There are lots of other examples in our archives.
More on submitting good articles
We’ve written a lot about content and style in our Style Guide and Write for Us pages. We can’t emphasize enough that you should read those carefully to ensure that Better Humans is the publication you want to write for.
We hope that it is!