You’ve got a blog, a theme, and a general idea of what you’d like to do with your little corner of the web. But how are your writing skills? Just because the Internet is a wide open playground (and no one is grading your work), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow some writing guidelines + continually look for ways to improve.
You work on your photography + SEO skills, why not work on your writing?
I partnered up with my best pal and fellow English major, Sabrina of giggleCHAMP, to bring you a few tips necessary for writing effectively on the web (first hint: it’s not the same as writing for print).
Think about flow + structure.
When browsing the web, people tend to skim more than actually read. Those are the hard facts, folks. So that huge block of single-spaced text you just wrote, pouring your heart out about a long lost love or your new passion project? The one you’re so proud to hit “publish” on? Yeah, nobody’s reading that. (Except your mom. Moms read everything. Hi, Mom!)
That doesn’t mean your story isn’t important, it just means you have to think about what your audience wants in terms of delivery. Think shorter paragraphs, bullet lists where appropriate, and images to break up long chunks of text. This makes for an easier scanning experience for your readers, and ensures more of your story gets absorbed.
Your blog isn’t your journal.
Remember what we said about people skimming more than reading? Applies here, too.
Even if your blog is very personal, some editing is necessary. Don’t use 25 words when 10 will get the job done. Don’t overuse and/or misuse cutesy anecdotes or language tricks (watch your alliteration, overuse of adjectives, effusive language, etc.)
Run-on sentences are fine for your diary, but keep them out of your posts whenever possible.
Detail is fine, but don’t go overboard. For example: when wanting to deliver information about a bad experience at a store, lengthy descriptions of holiday traffic, unrelated shopping stops, and details of your love of statement necklaces are unnecessary. Filler. Rambling. Your viewers aren’t sitting in the room listening to you tell the story; they’re not captive. They can click/scroll away at any moment. If the information isn’t pertinent to the message you’re trying to convey to your readers, cut it.
Nine out of 10 times, you don’t need “that.”
The word “that” is usually totally superfluous. You don’t need it. It doesn’t add value or clarity to your writing. (There are exceptions, of course.) While we use “that” all the time as part of everyday speech, it shouldn’t make its way to a final blog post. Examples:
- I love discovering new brands that I can’t live without.
- Last night I realized that we were out of cereal.
- You can get the dress that I wore in my last post at Nordstrom.
- I am always over-spending at Target, which means I end up walking out of the store with items that I don’t really need.
Take out the uses of “that” and what happens?
Nothing. Well, nothing bad.
The sentence still means the exact same thing, only it’s shorter and flows more easily. Boom! Effective.
Which brings us to our next point…
Proofreading is not an optional step.
Under no circumstance should you publish a blog post without re-reading it (with a set of fresh eyes!) and cleaning up the language, correcting typos, and double-checking links.
Read through a post again right before it goes live (if you schedule posts, maybe do a quick once-over the night before).
Remember there will be other people reading your post, so don’t leave it unfinished. Be consistent throughout. Did you spell twenty once and use 20 further down in the post? Did you hyphenate a word at the beginning, and drop the hyphen by the end? Check your posts for these types of things.
Proofreading conveys your intelligence and professionalism. This is not to say typos and mistakes don’t happen– they absolutely do, even to the pickiest former English majors. But proofreading catches most mistakes, and keeps those typos few and far between.
Don’t be sneaky.
Bottom line, if you’re writing a sponsored post, you need to let your readers know you have been compensated for your work. It’s sorta the law and stuff. But it also builds trust + transparency with your audience. It’s part of effective communicating.
So don’t trick people with your content. For example, starting a post about one topic, burying the lead the post is sponsored, and then slipping in at the very end so-and-so paid you to say X. You can marry real-life experiences with sponsored posts through a story, but make sure you’re honest (in the beginning of the post) about where + why this content is being generated.
Some questions think as you write:
- Is it clear? (What’s the point?)
- Focused? (Dude, stop rambling.)
- Are you using too many words? (Cut, trim, edit.)
- Is it written in your voice? (Your blog should have a voice + style; keep things consistent.)
- Finished? (Is everything you meant to include in the post? Are the links working?)
A final note.
Writing is a skill, which means it can be sharpened. You don’t have to be the world’s best writer at first; no one is perfect. But if you expect your blog to be taken seriously, you do have to work to improve.
Also- don’t capitalize the first letter of seasons. Spring is great, don’t get us wrong, but it’s not a proper noun. (It drives the editor in us crazy!)
Good luck honing those writing skills, guys! Reach out if you have any questions!
Ashley blogs at Le Stylo Rouge and is a co-founder of The Blogger Collective.