A friend of mine has just retired. She was an English teacher at a local university. She thought she might write a book when she retired and decided to find a group or two of authors to join. When she accessed a few of these sites, she began to read the blogs that were posted there. Then she found out that many struggling authors were paying their bills by writing blog posts as a freelance writer. From the articles she had already read, she thought this was an easy way to make some extra money and started looking for gigs in the industry. She submitted post after post which continued to be rejected. Finally, I explained to her that blog posts are unique “creatures”, requiring a very different style of writing and skills than those she had practiced all her life. Ultimately, she realized that she would have to take a content marketing course if she was going to write this blog. We all laughed at the English teacher returning to school for a writing class, but with the growing trend of free and paid online classes, she was able to quickly find a class, so immerse herself in it totally, and by no means was she writing successful articles.
The purpose of a blog
The purpose of a blog is to have posted content that others want to read and share. In fact, if the content is not being shared, there is no reason to have a blog. Articles are shared when they are written for the reader and not for the writer. And there are certain writing skills that all bloggers need to have in order for content to be considered. Even if you are not an English teacher or teacher, you can still struggle with the unique style of blog post writing for a host of other reasons. If you are, here’s a list of 10 writing skills you’ll need – some you might be pretty good at; others, you may need to develop more.
This was my friend’s biggest problem. She was so used to complex sentences, long paragraphs and scholarly style that she didn’t know how to simplify its content. One of her coursework assignments was to read The old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Anyone who wants to write blog posts should reread this book. This is the perfect example of simple, clear writing with good messages.
Each post must have a purpose. Of course, the ultimate goal is to engage the reader and make them want to share the content. But, reaching the ultimate goal means that there has to be a clear goal. You need to decide if you are going to educate your reader with a “how-to” article, or an answer to a question, or a solution to a problem. You may want to entertain your reader with a humorous story that relates to the company, product, or service. You may want to inspire the reader to get involved with a charity that you support. If you are familiar with academic writing then you understand that every essay or article must have a thesis. The purpose of a post is its thesis.
We cannot stress enough the importance of a title. Just ask any journalist who writes news articles or editorials. Reader’s engagement starts with this headline, and it needs to be eye-catching and intriguing. A lot of blog visitors will search for these titles. If nothing arouses interest, they browse to the end and then leave. No messages are read and no messages are shared – epic failure.
4. Tell stories
It’s a great way to engage readers early on or for an entire article. Whether you’re telling the story of a customer who found a unique use for a company’s product, someone who found inspiration watching a baby turtle on its journey to the ocean, or a risk taker who started a business and made it successful, people will read stories. This article started with a story and I hope you were interested enough to read it.
5. Reading level
It relates a bit to # 1 but it deserves individual treatment. Think of a 7e grader. What is his vocabulary level? What is the reading level of its textbooks? If you don’t remember your own youth, go to the library and find a college textbook and take a look at it. Do you have a parent with a college kid? See if you can read excerpts from his writings. And you can always use one of these free tools that will give you reading level. Just paste your message and let it tell you. You are looking for a reading level 12-13 years old.
You are not writing an academic article here. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore grammar and mechanics. If you are famous for shards and run-ons, you need to fix this; if you are using the wrong forms of verbs, you need to correct that. Some people who read your messages may have a perfect command of English and are put off by poor handwriting, spelling and punctuation. There are editing tools and services to use – find a free one and let it fix your mistakes.
If you’ve read enough other blog posts, you probably understand the “rules” format. Like an essay, an article should have an introduction, a body section, and a conclusion. All the similarities end there. The body of a blog post is divided into sections with bold headings. And in these sections, the paragraphs are really short. Lists are excellent, and they should be numbered or bulleted. This allows the reader to browse your post and decide if any of these captions are of interest. If so, it can only read parts of your post, and that’s okay. If the read parts result in the post being shared, your goal has been reached.
Above all, a blog post should be casual and informal. While you don’t want to overdo it, the current slang is fine; serious name-calling (very bad words) and offensive terminology (racial slurs, slurs, etc.) are not acceptable. When writing an article, use a tone that you would use if you were writing a letter to a good friend or relative.
One of the things you need to overcome is the attitude that a visual doesn’t write. In the blogosphere, yes. And content with great visuals is shared a lot more than those that don’t. Cool images, photos, infographics, interactive elements like polls and surveys, and videos make the content “eye-catching”. And usually you have to use color for these, unless something like a black and white photo is used for a specific effect.
10. Content curation
Some don’t consider this to be a writing skill, but it is. When you find great content elsewhere, you might want to use it. Obviously, you are not going to plagiarize. But, you can think of ways to make it even better and you rewrite it with that in mind. You can also find text-based content that you can use to create an infographic, slide presentation, or present it to your reader as a poll, poll, or quiz. These are popular and, if done right, are likely to be shared.
Blog writing is a unique form. And, like any form of writing, it takes a lot of practice. It also takes creativity, as you create headlines, tell stories, and solve reader problems. If you love to write, you can master the skill set. Use these 10 tips as a starting point.