Tips for Writing Intercom Articles

So you want to write for Intercom. Excellent -- we look forward to hearing from you.

If you haven't already, please read our author's guidelines. They contain important information about formatting, style, and copyright for Intercom articles.

In addition, there are three questions you can ask yourself before you start writing that will save time in the writing and revising phases. Answering these questions also makes writing easier and more fun, because it keeps you from making frustrating false starts or detours.

Who is your audience?

If you answer "everyone in the world," then your subject isn't right for Intercom. Try a general interest magazine. Our copy is geared specifically for technical communicators and should address their unique needs and interests.

If you answer "all technical communicators," make sure your article has very broad appeal.

You may decide your audience is a subset of technical communicators, such as "technical communicators who use software package Z," or "technical communicators who manage a large team of other technical communicators," or "technical communicators who must produce documentation in three languages simultaneously." There are many such subsets, and they're all among Intercom's audience. Just be sure to identify this subset in the first few paragraphs of your article, so that readers can know whether they fit into the subset (and thus whether or not they should continue reading).

Be sure to stick to your subset. If you start out writing for managers on a particular issue and then start addressing the same issue from the point of view of employees midway through your article, you've lost your audience. Stick with the managers. You can always write another article for the benefit of the employees.

What do you hope your readers will do differently after reading your article?

Intercom's charter is to "provide practical examples and applications of technical communication that will promote its readers' professional development." Basically, this means that Intercom's feature articles should provide our readers with information that helps them do their jobs better or find better jobs. If your article isn't doing one of these two things, odds are it's not right for Intercom.

So, if your article illustrates a better technique for editing documents, then your answer to question 2 might be "Using my article, technical editors will be able to do their work more efficiently." If your article suggests ways to find work in technical marketing, your answer might be "My article will help Intercom's readers explore new options in the technical communication field."

Technical communication is a diverse, always evolving field, so no single article will provide the definitive approach or the final answer to a professional dilemma. But your article can, and should, provide new information or a new way to solve a problem. It's up to the reader to assess whether your article applies to his or her situation. Let's say your article introduces technology X. Maybe only 10 percent of Intercom's readers will actually use X. But the rest will be able to make an informed decision about whether X is right for their work--thanks to your article.

Why should they care?

You know who your audience is, and what you hope they'll do differently after reading your article. At some point early in your article you should explain to them, in one sentence, why they should care. In other words, point out the positive advantages of applying your article.

If this sounds like a thesis sentence, that's because it is. You're promising your audience that you've got useful information and that they should keep reading. The rest of the article is just living up to that promise.

After you answer these three questions, the next step is to write a 100-word summary of your article idea and send it here. We can tell you if another writer has already tackled your subject with the same approach, thus saving you time and effort. When you send your summary, let us know how you answer the three questions—this will flesh out your idea.