Because geeks, nerds, and IT dorks are always the first on the tech bandwagon, the blogosphere is full of geek writing. A lot of this writing is great - but it's also self selecting, because articulate bloggers will naturally be more readable and, therefore, more popular. The balance of these less popular yet often just as interesting blogs can be hard to follow, diluting the points these fine individuals took the time to compile. That's sad, because sometimes it seems like poor writing has become the standard. If you want to be an effective blogger, you have to think about how you say it, not just what you want to say. This takes a moment of reflection often lost in the immediacy inherent in web publishing.
Becoming a good writer means taking responsibility for the complete process of creating and publishing comprehensible and enjoyable content. Unfortunately, current blog software can't make your post more clear, insightful, or articulate (though it can often catch spelling errors, but I find those rather endearing). But practice, self-observation, and thinking ahead can. If you want people to read you, stop tweaking your latest Ajax widget or CSS class and start tweaking your content!
The purpose of this article is to give you some ideas if you're willing to consider improving your content creation process. Notice I said "process": I'm not talking about raw talent, but rather instituting a workflow that forces you to reflect on your writing. A lot of my suggestion originated in stuff we learned back in 6th grade English - so don't think of this as the authority voice on writing, but rather a simple reminder. I'm certainly not gonna make you diagram sentences or anything.
I plan to address more technical web design topics in the future, at that indeterminate point where I know better what I'm doing. So here we go, and remember: these are not dogmatic directives, but simply things to consider. All or none may apply, and sometimes things I consider "bugs" are actually "features". Use your head and your heart, and take everything with a grain of salt. And don't sue me. Or flame me.
Keep posts relevant to the title. Hold on, let's back up: first of all, title your posts (many bloggers do not) and then stick to the topic. There's nothing wrong with tangents and rambling once in a while.
I started off blogging in 2004 with title-free posts, patterned after Wil's blog. While I enjoyed the freedom it gave me to post whatever I wanted, I eventually found it difficult to organize my old posts and fit them into the larger blogospheric discussions (my style has changed, and I acknowledge Wil's style serves him well). Since this has become a priority for me, and I'd like my writing to be read as much as possible, I've started to post as if I were writing an article. I don't always achieve perfect professionalism (nor do I want to) but it helps keep me focused and ensures I give each topic the most attention possible. If writing helps me work out my thoughts, posts help me organize them into effective, packaged ideas at the highest level.
Wait (preferably at least a day) before releasing posts. Nobody knows like me that when the Holy Spirit is with you, the flames' on your forehead, and you're generally on a roll, you feel you just have to get your opinion out there. Trust me - there's no hurry, and you can catch a lot of amateur diction, spelling, and continuity errors if you get out of your head first. It's always a bit embarrassing when I have to edit posts that have already been released, and I often find the urgency I once felt was ultimately unfounded.
Better yet, instead of waiting to publish, schedule your posts to be released at a future date (in WordPress just edit the timestamp). This commits you to a consistent release timetable and at the same time gives you a chance to review and fix stuff. This should also prompt you to think about ways of fitting blog business into your everyday activities (hopefully without taking center stage and stressing you out).
This is a somewhat related point, and not directly related to writing, but you should think about trying to decouple your writing schedule from your posting schedule. In other words, write when you feel like it, but release your posts on a regular schedule, such as one per day. By publishing according to a schedule, you make your site known for always being current.
This will likely result in an accumulation of posts in various states of completeness. That's exactly what you want: it's much easier to put the final touches on an unfinished post than to rack your brain thinking of something new and spontaneous to say. Plus, it's best for your visitors to have just a few new items to read per visit - otherwise, some new articles will be buried under relatively newer ones, and your readers may not take the time to scroll down. A consistent pace to publishing is key to having your blog visited regularly, and you can promote this by tailoring your writing/publishing process.
Try to make sure that when your writing is prompted or inspired by other items on the net, such as news articles or other bloggers, you always contribute some original points to it. Blogs are great for pointing your readers in the directions you find interesting. However, you don't want your site to simply be a middleman between the reader and the real content or you'll find yourself cut out eventually. I understand that sometimes you just want to mention a site and say "check this out" - I do it all the time - but keep it to a minimum in your posting habits.
Better yet, implement a linkblog in del.icio.us and use that to refer people to articles you enjoyed - you can even add short notes to the bookmarks! This way, you can tell people about stuff you like without being required to write a full post about it. Here's how to do it in WordPress.
Whenever possible, integrate floating images into your posts to give them a polished look. Just go to Google Image, which is essentially the clip art library of the web (within reason - think about fair use issues), and pick out some images that fit. It's so simple it's ridiculous, and floating the images within your article imparts both a sense of immediacy and aesthetic brownie points.
Composition is a big weakness for many bloggers. "Stream of consciousness" writing can sometimes be charming, but it's never as refreshing when you have to put the author's points together for yourself. Here's one good rule of thumb from 6th grade English class: each paragraph should make a single point, and that point should be a single sentence you build your paragraph around. It's almost like thinking of paragraphs as the "bullet points" of prose, with some connective sentences to weave them all together. Try to keep flow between paragraphs even by referencing points from past paragraphs. Again, leaving your post and coming back to read it again will do wonders for catching compositional errors.
Highlight key ideas with bold face or italics (how's that for self-reference?). Try to use this for key ideas of the post, since lazy readers will zero in on these ideas if they're skimming your article. I don't do this as much or as well as I'd like, given that I often write long posts. It may be advantageous to highlight points upon reviewing your post just before releasing it.
Link to other bloggers and stories profusely. The internet is about links, and the more you reach out to the blogosphere and media at large, the more likely it is that people will find you. Links are also how Google finds and tracks you page, so a greater number of links could translate into better Google visibility. Take the time to use the internet platform to your advantage, and use links to create coherence among the blogosphere on a given area of interest. This can only help you.
Use draft posts as sketchpads for future articles. This is a great way to accumulate posts. Simply start a post, name it with a topic you want to write about, and write up disorganized ideas for the post without worrying about composition. The point is to jot down ideas for a future post.
Often we can think of a post we'd like to write, but don't have the time or energy to fashion them into full fledged articles. That's fine: simply create a new post and write down your ideas. Then those ideas will persist in your blogging application as posts-in-potential, simply waiting on you to flesh them out. The more posts you start, the more posts you're likely to end up publishing.
Integrate social bookmarking services into your blogging workflow. This point is related to my browsing workflow article, but it's a distinct suggestion worth risking the broken record admonition. I tag articles I want to eventually use for original writing with "toblog". Then, I simply roll into del.icio.us, check out my items tagged "toblog", and have a list of topics pre-designated as bloggable from which to choose (I want to have a list or tag cloud of items from my "toblog" feed on my sidebar as a "coming soon" sort of thing). You can also approach it from the other route by reviewing your bookmarks' topic-oriented tags for which ones are blog-worthy. Use the plus operator to combine tag searches, effectively narrowing down your interest (toblog+paramilitary+police+biggov't+war_on_terror). This is a great way to leverage your browsing habits to enhance your blogging. By taking the time to tag interesting articles, you increase your reference materials, ideas, and actual time available to write, making it more likely you'll write well.
Finally, do what I do: tell other bloggers how to do their job in the most presumptuous and obnoxious way possible. Great for self-esteem.
I'd love to hear any other advice you have for bloggers. As we engage in these blogosphere-wide discussions, it's advantageous for everybody to express themselves as precisely and colorfully as possible. The more articulate we are as a movement, the more say we'll have in the societal conversation. So please, use the comments below to share your tips on blogging!Read this article