Antique LetterpressThe Idea

Do you get stuck for blog post ideas?   Or are you overwhelmed by all the ideas and don’t know where to start?

If you said yes to either or both of those then you need to read this and this and this.

But what to do next?  You have an idea for a blog post, but when you start to write, you lose track of your train of thought and end up with a rambling block of text that doesn’t get anywhere.  Does that sound familiar?

Don’t get me wrong, that sort of “stream of consciousness” writing has its place, particularly in personal blogging.  Some of my best posts on my first blog, Singular Insanity, were those that just poured out of my head onto the screen via the keyboard.  I call it inspiration.

Yet inspiration can be helped along by a bit of structure, some planning and good formatting.

The Headline

A lot of blogging gurus will tell you that you need to start with a great headline, or title.  I don’t necessarily agree with that.  Sometimes the title will only come to me once I’ve written my post, or when I’ve set out its bare bones.  But if you’re really clear about your topic, then go right ahead – write your killer headline.  Use questions like “How?”, “When?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “Who?” or “Are you?” to start your title.  Make it provocative and interesting, like “Are you making these 7 common mistakes on Facebook?”.

The Outline

Remember when you learnt to write stories and essays back at school?  The same principle applies here:  first create an outline – a set of dot points – of what you want to cover in your post.  Order them in a way that works for you and your train of thought for the article, then make sure you have an opening and a closing point for your post.

The Content

Go on and flesh out your content using the outline you created.  Keep your sentences and paragraphs short (2-4 sentences per paragraph, depending on length) – people will scan your post rather than reading every sentence, so make it easy for them.  Remember – only one idea per paragraph!

The Voice

When writing your blog check that you’re writing as you speak, in your own, not somebody else’s, voice.  It’s tempting to view writing as something “out there”, outside of ourselves, but in fact writing is the external manifestation of what’s going on in our heads.  We are giving voice to our ideas, so let’s do it the way we would talk about them to a friend.

If you struggle with finding your voice, try recording yourself as you speak about your chosen topic.  Listen to the recording and note how you structure your sentences, what common words you use and how you relate to your audience.  Your writing should not be formal and rigid, but flowing and relaxed, reflecting you as a person.

The Formatting

Use headings, subheadings and lists to break up your text. Again, people will visually scan your article or post, so structure and format your writing accordingly.

The Grammar

At the very least, use the built in spell checker that your blogging platform has.  Better yet, ask someone else to proofread your writing, especially if you’re just starting out.  It’s easy to mix up common words like “they’re”, “there” and “their” and your spell checker won’t help you with those.  Check where your apostrophes are, remember there is a difference between “it’s” and “its” and, when making plurals, you don’t need them at all.

The Conversation

The difference between writing and blogging is the conversation that blogging generates.  Bloggers and their readers engage with each other in the discussion that follows the blog post.  Encourage this by asking readers to discuss the ideas in your post, or ask them a direct question at the end.

You could also ask readers to share specific examples of how they’ve used the ideas in your post, or talk about times when the ideas didn’t work and how the readers dealt with it.  Try to reply to every comment and even send an email to those who comment, thanking them for their comment and letting them know you’ve responded.  Darren Rowse of Problogger discusses some effective strategies for building your blog community here.

 

Whether you’re just starting your blogging adventures, or have been doing it for a number of years, whether you’re blogging for business or for pleasure, these eight tips will help you write better blog posts.

Now it’s your turn, what’s the most important piece of advice you’ve ever received about blogging?