This is my first guest post here at Blogging Tips. I am excited about being a part of this blog because I have been a reader for a long time and I have always appreciated the high quality content offered here. Hopefully you will find my contributions helpful and feel inclined to interact with my articles.
My name is Sara Christensen. I spend the 9 to 5 part of a typical day as a techie for a not-for profit and the rest of my waking hours as a techie for myself. You can find everything you need to know about me from the About link at Pajama Professional so I am not going to ramble on about Sadie, my retired show cat.
I thought for a long time about how to approach this guest spot. I know that many people don’t take blogging very seriously, but I consider it a serious business and I want to be able to take pride in any article published under my byline. I look at it no differently than if I were writing a column for Newsweek or Time. It is a real job and I plan to treat it as such.
Generally, a regular column in a newspaper or magazine has a theme. While Blogging Tips already has a theme, I have decided that I want to narrow my guest posts even further and focus primarily on the craft of writing. I have a BA in English and was thisclose to a Journalism minor so I think my knowledge could be useful to others.
Different means of publication call for different writing styles. There are some things about writing for a blog that make it different from any other type of writing. So, for my inaugural post here at Blogging Tips I would like to share Six Ways Blogging Differs From Other Types of Writing.
1. This is Not The Times
Like an article for a newspaper, a blog post must have a strong lead. The trick is to make your lead hook readers without being too stiff and newsy. For a newspaper lead I might write: “Microsoft CEO Bill Gates announced today that he will be retiring in June of 2008.”
If I used that lead in an article on my blog, readers would be heading elsewhere for more interesting content. Breaking news on your blog is great, but that doesn’t mean your posts have to sound like news. If readers want news, they will head to CNN.com. They are at your blog because they want your original viewpoint. The fastest way to lose readers is to start regurgitating news content in a really boring fashion.
2. Personality = Popularity
If you want to succeed as a blogger, you have to be likable. Or hate-able. Or both. Just try your very best not to get caught somewhere in between. Be memorable. Find your voice. I will be discussing methods by which you can find your voice in one of my upcoming guest posts.
The thing to remember is, popular blogs become popular because of the blogger. A good blogger shows personality even when he/she is writing about an impersonal topic. Regular readers start to feel like they know the blogger personally. Once this happens, readers form attachments and loyalties that are achievable only in a venue like blogging that highlights a writer’s personality.
Just as you need a solid personality to be a good blogger, you also need solid opinions. Your opinions should be well-expressed and researched. You can absolutely base your opinions on emotions if that’s the way you want to go. But if you want to be taken seriously, you need to back those feelings up with facts.
People who read blogs like their facts with a healthy dose of originality. Don’t ever be afraid to share your opinions, even if they are different from everyone else’s. The issue on which you disagree wtih the five most popular bloggers could be the issue that brings the best linkbait post you’ve ever written. Each interesting, original opinion you have is an opportunity. Seize it.
4. Cut the Fluff
With a blog, you’re generally not writing to a certain word count or number of inches. This is significant because it means you can use all the words you need to say what you want to say. Then you can stop. There is no reason to write a blog post with filler and fluff. When I say fluff, I do not mean a nice literary intro, a related experience or a relevant quote. I mean extra words and off-topic ramblings.
Sometimes it can be tricky to decide what is fluff and what isn’t. You might think a point is relevant because of your experience, but its inclusion might not make sense to anyone else. I will write more about techniques for cutting the fluff in an upcoming post. For now, a good tactic for telling if your post is fluff-free is to read it aloud. If you feel yourself start to zone out at some point, go back and figure out why. If you are unable to follow your own writing then you have no hope of keeping the interest of other readers.
5. Think Audience
Write to your readers. Most blog visitors read at approximately a sixth-grade level. A flashy vocabulary and a lot of technical jargon do not make you look smart, they make you annoying and hard to read. They make you a lonely blogger. If you stick to writing “correctly” but conversationally you’ll do just fine.
Depending on your niche, you may need to consider other factors when addressing your readers. For example: if you are writing a blog aimed at Conservative Christians, it wouldn’t be appropriate to throw around a bunch of profanity. If you are not comfortable writing in a style that appeals to the readers you are attempting to attract, you might want to rethink your niche.
Most bloggers choose to write what they know and/or love. This is an especially great guideline for a new blogger as it is much easier to find your voice if you have knowledge of or passion for your material. A new blogger who chooses to write about a certain topic just because he/she thinks it will be profitable or popular is not very likely to succeed.
6. Watch Your Language
You have to know the rules in order to break them. Maybe you think this doesn’t apply to blogging, but it very much does. There’s a huge difference between comfortable, casual writing and ignorant, lazy writing. And readers can tell the difference very quickly. And, just as quickly, they will go read a blog that doesn’t feature unintelligible run-on sentences and include the word “irregardless.”
It is perfectly acceptable – even advisable – to write a bit like how you speak, infusing your posts with literary personality. However, this does not mean you should pepper your posts with misplaced commas, misspelled words and misused nouns. Yes, studying grammar and English language usage can be really boring. But if you want to be a good blogger, you need to study the craft.
Blogging is a means by which nearly anyone can instantly become published. You do not need an editor, an agent or a publishing house. All that is required is a PC, some free software and whatever words you can pull from the alphabet soup in your brain. Anyone can write a blog. The challenge is writing a good blog, or even a great blog.
In the world of blogging, there are a lot of blogs to choose from on any topic imaginable. For this reason, it’s often more about how you write than what you write. I plan to use my space here as a Blogging Tips guest blogger to share tips, tricks and tools to become a better writer and, by extension, a better blogger. In next week’s post I will use my superstar writing skills to make grammar an interesting subject.
And, yes, I really do have a retired show cat named Sadie.