We all know that blogging is important. But whether it's used to educate peers or increase a website's SEO, writing for a blog can be effective only when it's done well. No matter your reason for blogging, you shouldn't take it lightly, nor should you put it on the back burner until you have a few spare minutes at the end of the day.
That doesn't mean you have to spend all of your time overhauling your blogging strategy. However, you should take the time to produce quality content as opposed to redundant, poorly written word garbage.
Whether you're setting up your first blog or looking to improve your current one, here are 10 tips to make your writing better than most other blogs'.
1. Take a crash course in grammar
This is the single most important piece of advice I can offer those inclined to share their thoughts via blogging: If you can afford it, enroll in a college class that specifically covers grammar rules or English usage. In my last semester at the Missouri School of Journalism, I took a magazine-editing course that took me back to fifth grade English. That was when I first learned about sentence structure, word choice, and parts of speech. It's amazing—and embarrassing—how much you can forget about a language that you daily speak and write in.
If you can't afford to take a class, get a copy of Working With Words and read it, cover to cover. Or, at the very least, watch "Schoolhouse Rock" on YouTube. Sure, the animation is lacking, but the catchy melodies will help you relearn forgotten grammar rules quickly. Of course, you can always choose to break the rules after you learn them, but you should never break them unintentionally.
2. Use a dictionary
If you're writing without a dictionary, chances are you're using words incorrectly without even knowing it. I visit the online dictionary I have bookmarked in my browser far more frequently than I visit any social media site. As for spelling, the red squiggly line in Word is your friend. Don't ignore it.
3. Don't plagiarize
That should go without saying, but the infinite reach of the Internet has diluted people's understanding of plagiarism. Just because you find information online doesn't mean it's free for you to take and paste on your blog.
I write a fair share of articles about surety bonds, and you wouldn't believe how many surety companies think they have the right to take excerpts from news articles and put them into their blogs without crediting the original source. Taking others' work, rearranging a few words, and adding your own byline does not constitute original writing. You could face legal action and fines if caught.
4. Don't make assumptions
It's no secret that the content on most blogs is highly subjective, but you should still base what you write on credible information. Don't perpetuate the pervasive misinformation that's already on the Web by simply posting opinions based on unverified Internet rumors. Back up your writing with accurate information from primary sources.
5. Write for your readers
Writing about things that interest you might be fun, but doing so could drive away uninterested readers. And don't use your blog to shamelessly promote yourself or your business, either. Instead, build a relationship with your readers so you can understand what their interests are. Without an audience that cares about your content, you'd have little reason to blog.
6. Don't use jargon
You're a lawyer? Cool. You want to share your perspective on the latest controversial legal case? Awesome. You expect me to know what an a priori assumption is and its implications on evidence submissions? I'm checking out.
If you absolutely have to use jargon in your blog, then define it whenever you use it. People don't want to go out of their way to look up words they're unfamiliar with. And if you don't define the jargon you use, chances are they'll never come back.
7. Develop a unique voice
Blogging is about more than posting information that draws traffic. Your content should offer thoughtful evaluations that are written in an interesting way. Reread some memorable blog posts you've read recently to determine what's appealing about different editorial voices. If you're writing a blog that's related to a business, make sure your editorial voice matches that organization's intended branding.
8. Summarize and condense your writing
Although blog posts should mimic traditional articles in accuracy and quality, the format you use when blogging can vary. Generally, people who read blogs prefer brevity. They scan, so make your content easily accessible. Summarizing information into bullet points and numbered lists attracts readers' eyes and allows them to digest the content quickly.
9. Read and reread before posting
Before you post an article, read the entire article aloud to avoid confusing constructions and unnatural transitions. If you're new to blogging, have a friend or colleague read your first few posts to ensure clarity and comprehension. Proofreading is especially crucial when you write as a guest author, because blog owners might refuse to publish your post if it lacks precision.
10. Write an interesting headline
Posting quality information that's written well is worthless if the headline is too boring to attract readers. Would you have read this article if the title had been "10 Tips to Writing Better"? I sure wouldn't have. With countless articles being published online every minute, you've got to offer readers something that says, "Hey, read me! I'm cool and interesting!"
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We've all wasted time reading sucky blogs. The next time you're tempted to rush through a blog post, think about how you feel after reading a fluffy, unoriginal, or poorly written article. Of course, nobody's perfect, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to reach your full potential. Blogging is a way for you to express yourself and share your perspective with a virtually limitless audience. Don't present yourself as a lazy schmuck who can't even take the time to proofread.
(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Attractive Blond.)