Thursday, May 27, 2010

Art of Writing (How to Write a Blog Post)

My actual keyboard doesn't look this nice.
Most likely due to the 88 posts I've written.

Real quick before I start, Dave could use some help. If you don't mind & have the time, go check out what he needs a hand with here.

Now, onto me post writing manifesto! Yes, I just wanted to use the word "manifesto," sue me.

There are a lot of blogs out there. From what I've seen, a good bulk of them seem average. It might be due to the lack of originality and writing very base posts, which leads to a lot of overlap with blogs already discussing the same areas. It's hard to compel people to visit your site if there's already another one - or many in this case - writing on the same topic.

I like to
think I'm not one of those generic blogs. This is my 89th post and almost 1 year running this blog, which has required fine tuning over the months. Mike Robertson and Tony Gentilcore wrote a post each on how to run blogs, but the posts themselves make the blog.

Here are things I've learned to make your posts,

1) Have a purpose
Have something worthwhile to convey to the reader. Not only that, but do it in a way that's entertaining, concise, and precise. Try to make it flow as smooth as possible.

And there's nothing wrong with short posts. In fact those are the ones most likely to be read.

2) Art of words
Stories are wonderful to illustrate points. So are analogies, metaphors, and examples to get your message across and break down information.

Likewise, use flavorful vocabulary to avoid repetition which gives the illusion of a post being longer than it is. Search Google with "
define: [word here]" to truly understand the multitude of meanings a word can have, even the ones you know, and use it to your advantage.

3) Capturing attention
Speaking of words, titles and the initial portion are what get people to continue reading. Make them exceptional to attract the reader to keep reading.

4) Creating posts
They need to be original (for the most part). Put the time* into making something worthy of reading. Write and save drafts if you can't find the time to finish it in one sitting. It shows when you write in a hurry because the quality of the post sucks.

For me, ideas come and go all the time. If it seems like it would make a nice post, write a note down reminding yourself to flesh it out more later. There are plenty of times I've lost great posts because I forgot to write them down. Now I keep a notepad file on my laptop to keep track of posts to do and ones I've completed. Hell, this post has given me the thought to do a future post on how to run a blog.

As for fleshing out a post, do a rough draft somewhere - notepad for myself - and jot down whatever comes to mind. Get a sense of what you're trying to do and have your writing flow naturally.

Click & enlarge to see
me working on this post.

5) The body

The longer a post is, the more interesting/entertaining or insightful it needs to be. People are reluctant to read long lengthy posts.

Piggy backing - or chicken backing since I don't eat pork - on the topic of length, formatting your post so it looks neat is ridiculously important. Big walls of text are the 2nd most unattractive thing you could do. (#1? A site with too much going on like tons of ads/links, no organization, ugly colors, etc.)

A large paragraph can be broken down into multiple lines to trick your reader into thinking it's less. I do it all the time. Seriously, just look at this gargantuan post.

Images and videos make a post less boring. And use the wide variety of tools your blogger's composer mode has available. Bullet points, block quoting, italics, bold, font sizing, number lists, so on and so forth. Above and beyond the buttons offered on blogspot, refer here to see what you can change in "Edit Html" mode.

6) Competency

Show you're not an idiot.

Make sure your grammar & spelling are correct and you have coherent sentences. Proofreading goes a
long way. (As I proofread this, I'm finding a crap load of errors.)

7) Be eclectic
To a certain extent. Rather, read other blogs to get an understanding of how your writing style contrasts and what, if necessary, you could do differently. Learn if you could change anything to improve your posts.

8) Who's reading?
Know your audience and write FOR THEM! (Well...actually I have no idea who visits here.)

You can't please everyone. Give your attention to the people who take the time to come read your material. Honestly, it's the least you could do. What can you offer them?

If your writing style is too dry or overly informative/geek-speak, you'll repel even the mightiest of nerds (and women if you're a guy). Write naturally as if you were speaking to someone, but don't write as if you're lecturing a person - you pompous jackass.

9) Ending
End on a good note. It's not terribly difficult to end your post with a simple sentence or two on what you were trying to get across to your reader.

*This post took forever.
Darn! One short of a full 10, oh well.

A lot of these points are similar to giving a good presentation. For those interested, check out this article from the Harvard Business Review, courtesy of Carter, and Boris's presentation post - full of other resources - for more details on writing and presenting. They're not about blogging, but they can be applied to it.

Be innovative and creative to distinguish yourself from others. And above all else, enjoy doing it. Put some music on while you write and don't think of it as a chore.

Otherwise, go do something else. If you didn't know, blogging's

But I do it, and it's awesome.

So does this baby.

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