Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A blog about blogging - 7 tips for a better blog

Writing a blog can be tedious and painful, but only if you are unprepared to write a focused piece on a specific topic.

The beauty of blogs is that they are meant to be short, narrow in scope and conversational. That should be easy, right?

So why isn’t it?

Because as a general rule, we sit down and just start writing – no outline, no idea of our main point, no end in sight. In short, no forethought.

With apologies to my high school English teachers who incessantly encouraged us “to just write,” and "start from the beginning," I respectfully disagree.

As a peace offering, though, here are my seven tips for easy and better blogging:

1.     NEVER – not even for a billion dollars – write about something you have no interest in.

The point of a blog is to be a snippet of advice from experts or an opinion from an advocate. You have to care about the subject to be able to write about it well. (I agree great writers can pull off good pieces on things they don’t really care about, but then it wouldn’t come easy and I doubt it would be up to their level of writing).

2.     Pick ONE aspect of the topic to write about.

If you love cooking, you can’t write one blog on cooking. But there are thousands of great ideas around very small but interesting aspects of cooking – 12 ways to make your favorite Italian meals healthier; 5 ways to eat out on a budget; The 4 best aisles at the grocery store for a healthy diet; 8 indulgences you should never turn down; 15 beers you must try before you die (any takers on that blog research?)

If you love sports, for example, pick one sport, then pick one part of it to complain about, then think of a creative way to demonstrate your disdain.

This is truly where Buzzfeed has cornered the market. Buzzfeed never does the same story yet it is doing stories on the same issues all the time.

The reason it works? Because each time it is a narrow focus with a creative angle on it, so it doesn’t seem the same.

3.     Write a one-sentence, straightforward lead that highlights the main point you want to make by the end.

Quit thinking you need to develop some background to give readers the big picture.

The opposite is true. Tell them what your piece is about so they can decide right away if they want to keep going.

4.     Do some research.

No one knows everything. And no blog is any good without links and references to other info out there.

Find out some cool facts even you didn’t know. That’s also a great way to write a more creative blog about the thing you love.

Instead of the more typical “4 things you should do before a beach vacation” you can write the Buzzfeed-esque approach, “13 things sunscreen can be used for besides blocking UVA .”

5.     Plan.

My CEO husband loves to say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s so cliché and so absolutely true.

Do not – I repeat – do not do what your English teachers told you and “just start writing.”

Stream-of-consciousness text is ruining society. Since so much communication is done electronically and on social media, you have to train your brain – and your fingers – to think of the end point first.

Then start writing.

6.     Edit.

This is my biggest pet peeve with blogs (OK, my second biggest. See No. 7.)

Never write something and then publish.

Obviously editing is good for checking punctuation, grammar, and my favorite, AP style.

But the main reason is that the first time you say something, you usually don’t say it in the most concise and coherent way. (For example, this is already the third version of this sentence.)

7.     Keep paragraphs short.

For the sake of all that’s good and right in this world, make paragraphs one sentence. Two if they are both short.


I guarantee you read this faster because I followed my own rule.