How to write for a blog

Technorati tracks 44.4m blogs but there aren’t 44.4m good writers. Luckily, anyone can learn to write better and together we can raise the standard of blog writing.

These suggestions are based on my own blogging (I’m still learning) and five years’ experience as a professional writer. Your mileage may differ and would love to hear your comments and suggestions.

  • Write for the web. You know, the usual stuff: bullets, emphasis, scannability, no hype, subheads, short words, short paragraphs etc. When I’m scanning my RSS feeds, I know that I don’t read every post word for word so what is true for websites is doubly true, I think, for blog posts.
  • Link love. Cite authorities, highlight cool new voices, reveal your sources. When it comes to linking, the blog is like the web only more so.
  • Killer headlines. The headline is your invitation to the party. You’ve got to explain why the reader should come. My opinion is that smarty-pants headlines don’t work online or in RSS readers. I scan over 1,000 posts a day in my RSS reader. For me, factual, specific headlines are better. See: Man bites robotic dog.
  • Strong ledes. Okay, so they’ve opened your post, the lede (or opening sentence or two) is the thing that should hook them in and make them read on. Sketch out the subject matter, spark their curiosity. The lede needs to tie into the headline or you risk alienating the reader.
  • Be yourself. A good test is whether your posts sound like you when you read them out loud. With a zillion blogs to choose from, people aren’t looking for me-too corporate voices. They want real people.
  • Comments are part of your blog. This is true about incoming comments to your own posts and the comments you make on other people’s blogs. Try to apply the same effort to being part of the blog conversation as you do to standing on your podium.
  • Surprise and delight your readers. See my earlier post on this.
  • Write at the same time every day. I like to scan feeds and write posts before I start work.
  • Keep stubs. I nearly always have two or three unfinished posts on the go at once. That way I don’t have to face the dreaded blank sheet of paper.
  • Pre-post for holidays. You can set a publication day for posts so you can have something appear every day while you are away.
  • Have a couple of backups. Keep a couple of non-time-specific pieces in reserve for lazy or crazy days.
  • Alternate long posts with short ones. It’s easier and different kinds of post appeal to different people. Ironically, I find it harder to write short pieces than long ones.
  • Blogging when you’re busy. If anyone has any tips about maintaining momentum when you’re busy, I really want to hear them!

3 Responses to How to write for a blog

  1. Arian March 23, 2008 at 1:18 am #

    Hi Matthew,

    You’ve made a very useful list of the generic blogging principles one should put more focus on, great.

  2. JijiN3k0 November 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm #

    Hi there! Great tips! I think I’ve been using them in my short 3 days as a blogger. I really hope you can find the time to visit me! I live in Trinidad in the Caribbean so I’m hoping to show foreigners what life here is like. Thanks for the great articles!

    Jiji
    jijineko.blogspot.com

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