This afternoon, I’d like to continue the series I started on blogging by sharing some of my best tips for improving your posts.
Writing for the Web….is different
First, understand that writing for the web is different than writing an essay for your college class or in your journal. It’s just not as easy on the eyes to read a computer screen. Plus, folks are usually more distracted when they are reading on a computer. With other links and sites a mouse-click away, you have to work hard to get and keep your readers’ attention.
Six Ways to Improve your Writing
1. Read your posts aloud. Want a simple way to catch the majority of any typos or stylistic problems? Read your post aloud before you hit “publish”! Although this sounds very simple, it works. I particularly do this for any “meaty” post I write, and it’s amazing what I’m able to catch. And don’t forget to run the spell check!
2. Use a 1-2 sentence lead in for a lengthy post. If you’re like me, you’re more apt to be “hooked” into a post if the intro is very short. Consider a post that starts out with a 5-6 sentence paragraph. Feels like work, doesn’t it? Ease your readers in. Make those initial sentences compelling too. Perhaps use an interesting quote, statistic, startling statement, or just cut to the chase and tell us what your post will be about. Remember, you can have all the great points in the world, but if you can’t get anyone’s attention, what does it matter?
3. “Omit useless words.” Sometimes people suppose that good writers use lots of big words, adjectives, and lengthy prose. Actually, the best writers use high impact words and eliminate the words and phrases that don’t contribute. Incidentally, this concept comes from Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, a writing manual you should all have in your libraries! Here’s what the authors have to say:
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines or a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
For instance, don’t use the phrase “he is a man who” and use the word “he.” Or opt for “because” instead of “the reason why is that.” I believe eliminating words and cleaning up sentences is one of the more difficult skills to hone in writing.
4. White space is your friend. Remember that visually it’s more difficult to read a longer post. Which doesn’t mean you should avoid long posts altogether. It just means figure out a way to break them up. I’m a big fan of lists and bullets. I also like bolding, italicizing, using block quotes, and other formatting that will help guide the eye through a post.
5. Use imagery. You can create excitement in your posts through the use of imagery. In a post I wrote recently, I said that celery was one of my favorite smells, but not not as much as the smell of the Pirates of the Carribbean ride at Disneyland. Some of you knew exactly what I was referring to, and it created interest in my post.
When you go to describe something, consider what kind of imagery you could use. The garbage smells bad? Well, what does it smell like? The flowers were beautiful? What did they remind you of? The more unusual the connection, the more memorable you stand to make it. In one of my creative writing classes in college, I recall a classmate writing a story that took place at a nursing home where the residents moved at a “Darwinian pace.” Imagine if she’d written that they moved at a “turtle’s pace”. Betcha I wouldn’t have remembered that!
I would just caution you to not be heavy-handed in your use of imagery. Otherwise it may feel a bit contrived. Reserve it for those moments in your post you want to create high impact.
6. Read other blogs. One of the best ways you can improve your own writing is to read other blogs. I spend a fair amount of time each week reading all kinds of blogs. I read blogs on blogging, home design, parenting blogs, frugal living blogs, and lately I’ve taken a liking to some of the humor blogs out there, too. Pay particular attention to the posts that get large amounts of comments. What did they do to connect with their readers?
Sometimes I hear from bloggers that aren’t confident in their writing ability or feel they lack some talent. I want to tell you this: it can be learned! You can improve. If you’re not sure where to start, I would strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Elements of Style. Read it cover to cover. And maybe twice. Begin to read other blogs, read your posts aloud, and if you’re up for it, ask a trusted friend to give you honest feedback on your style.
I have a final post I’d like to write for this February series, and it’s on Time Management. Ironically, I won’t have time to get to it until early March!
The other posts in this series, in case you missed them:
- Five questions you should ask before starting a blog
- Seven qualities of winning blogs
- Creating a mission statement and values for your blog
- Making inroads with other bloggers
- Growing your blog
- Be Nice (Blogger etiquette)
Photo credit Zsuzsanna Kilian