Writing for a blog or a website is different than writing a creative short story, or technical writing, or even a magazine article. There are some easy rules to follow to get your website or blog visitor to stick around and read what you wrote and not leave after a few seconds.
Avoid the Dreaded Wall of Words
You’ve probably seen a few websites like this. I’ve even seen it in forums and on FaceBook, the off-putting, eye-exhausting slab of words with no breaks and run on sentences that, by the time you’ve come to the end, you have lost the original thread of the post. What was that guy writing about to begin with? He lost me.
Or, even worse, you gave up a quarter of the way through it and just went off on your merry way to look at something else. Who has time to squint at a screen trying to sort through all the words, losing your place, and getting bored.
Paragraphs are your friend. Break it up and allow people to read your words in easy, bite-sized portions. Hand them a slice of cake at a time, not the whole dang cake all at once.
Be Personable – You’re Not Writing an Essay for Freshman English
When you’re writing for your blog you want to be opinionated, relate personal stories, and explain your point of view. When you write a piece for a formal publication you have to be objective and keep your personal opinions to yourself, for the most part anyway. That’s a key difference between writing for a blog and writing for a publication. The blog is all YOU.
Put some of your personality into the mix. Even if you’re reviewing a blender you will have a subjective take on it. Try not to be too careful and dry, but don’t go over the top and be obnoxious, either. There is a balance that you’ll arrive at when you find your writing voice. And you’ll find your writing voice when you write a lot; and the more you write, the faster you’ll find it.
Blogging has a casual tone, a conversational style that articles and essays do not have. Unless you’re writing a blog aimed at an audience of English teachers, you don’t have to sweat the small, perfectionist stuff. Really, you don’t.
Save Your Big Words for Your Thesis
You don’t want to display your huge vocabulary, either, as proud of it as you may be. Keep it simple and straightforward and communicate with the reader. Try and make them feel like you’re talking directly to them.
Although sometimes there is a word that is just perfect and nothing else can replace it, in that case you just go ahead and use it. If someone has to look it up, well, they learned something new that day.
But, in general, the simpler the language the better. I’m not talking about third-grade level, but just keep it approachable and casual. Most of your readers aren’t looking for “teachy” material to read. Unless you are trying to teach someone something or are writing a technical blog that will have specific technical words, then you’re just going to have to use the big words.
Do You Have Writer’s Block?
Sometimes, even when a person truly enjoys writing, they’ll sit down and just stare at the blank screen, not knowing how to start or what to say. That happens to everyone and is perfectly normal.
There is an exercise that’s been around forever and is amazingly helpful. Maybe you’ve heard of it before but never put it to use, but it’s called “free writing.” Kind of a flow of consciousness writing that gets your mind loosened up and ready to work.
It’s a simple concept but it can have a profound effect on your writing. Just write. Set a time limit, 10 or 15 minutes to start, and just write about anything. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, any of that. Just write what comes into your head and let it flow.
Sometimes if you have a specific topic you wanted to write about to begin with but were blocked, you’ll even start writing about that. But don’t try to. Just write and write and write until your time is up.
It is literally freeing to let your mind go where it will and have the thoughts flow from your brain to your keyboard to your screen. I have a bad case of ADD and have all my life, but this is one exercise that ironically helps me to focus when other methods don’t. I just pound out the words as I think of things, life, emotions, goals – you name it, I’ll write about it.
Just try it a couple of times. I think you’ll find that it’s well worth the time and effort and that it opens all kinds of doors to your writing brain. What do you have to lose?
A Couple of Recommendations
There are two books that I just love and recommend when it comes to writing.
The first is “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content,” by Ann Handley. This book is specifically aimed at content writers for online publications, blogs, websites, etc. This was a Wall Street Journal bestseller, and for good reason. Straightforward, easy to grasp, and sprinkled with humor, Ann Handley will walk you through the skills you need to write readable content on your blog or website. This is a book every blogger or website content writer needs to have on their bookshelf, for sure.
The second, which was originally written years ago but has been updated many times and is still relevant, is “On Writing Well,” by William Zissner. It’s a classic and has stood the test of time with regard to excellent and practical advice for all writers.
Reading both of these books and doing the free writing exercise will sharpen your writing skills, without a doubt.
How to Be a Better Writer
I’m going to fall back on a couple of quotes from writers here, simply because they put it so concisely and simply.
Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: Read a lot and write a lot.”
And, of course, “To write, one must write.” Which seems obvious, but how many people say they want to write a book one day but can never bring themselves to actually start writing? They miss the one thing they need to do, and that is to start writing.
The same concept applies with blogging: Just start writing. Start now, and don’t stop. Write about what you’re passionate about, write about what worries you, write about what gives you peace. But write about something, anything. That’s the only way you will be a writer, whether it’s writing blogs, content for websites, or beginning that book you have locked away inside of you.
Do you have some thoughts on writing blogs? Please share them with me below. And, as always, thank you for reading my post.