Welcome to part four of my series for new bloggers. So you’ve got everything in place and are ready for what can be the hardest part. Namely writing blog posts.
Starting a blog is exciting but putting yourself out there can be a daunting prospect. As a result, you can end up staring at an empty screen not knowing how to start. I’m no exception to this. Despite starting life as a journalist, it felt really awkward writing my first post.
Beforehand, I had been writing for other publications but this was completely different. By blogging, I was representing myself and nobody else. I was bullied at school and still take things personally even today, so I felt incredibly nervous about it all.
I went ahead and published it though and that’s when I started learning the art of writing blog posts. Over the last seven years, my writing has evolved. Here are some things I’ve picked up to help you get started.
Start as you mean to go on
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, you don’t have long to grab people’s attention. So, in the same way that your blog needs to be visually appealing, the first paragraph has to compel readers to stay.
The whole point of your post needs to be there. Deal with the who, what, where, when, why and how right at the start. You can – and should – go into further detail later on, but you need to set out the proverbial stall first.
Keep it concise
I cringe when I look back at some of my early posts. My sentences and paragraphs are ridiculously long. It’s much easier to read copy that’s to the point and doesn’t ramble. Particularly when it’s going to be read on a screen.
That’s not to say that you should omit details or asides. You just need to make sure your sentences are concise. As a rule of thumb, try not to exceed 20 words a sentence.
Similarly, paragraphs should be three or four sentences at the most. Use a live preview of your post to see how the text looks and identify places where it can be broken up if necessary.
Check your spellings and grammar
Spelling and grammatical errors don’t reflect well on anyone so make sure you eliminate them before hitting publish. It’s easy to miss typos and the like once you’ve become used to the copy on screen.
To combat this, I always read my posts aloud to myself and ask my wife to read them too. I also use a specific WordPress plugin that checks content for readability. By means of an alternative that can be used on any platform, Grammarly is a useful free tool.
Install it as an extension in Chrome and sign up for a free account. Once you’ve done this, it will go through your copy to flag up potential errors and make suggestions for improvements.
Check your facts
It’s vital that you get your facts straight too. Even if you mention something in passing, getting it right is a must. With the answers available in seconds via the power of Google, there’s never any excuse for getting information wrong.
This is important on a credibility level as well as a slightly scary legal one. You could end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit if you accidentally defame a person or organisation. This is only in extreme cases, of course, but it’s important to keep it in mind while writing blog posts.
Find your voice
Your blogging ‘voice’ is perhaps your most important asset. I’ve intentionally put it last here though as you won’t nail it overnight. It’s something that will evolve over time. The style and tone of your copy need to reflect you, so try to write things as you would say them in person.
Don’t write things exactly as you would say them, however. Speech is often clunky as we think while we talk. Aim for a polished version of how you would articulate your story if you were describing it to a friend. Again, read it aloud and you’ll soon get a feel for what works.
That’s it for writing blog posts. Well, sort of. Next time, I’ll discuss another consideration when I address SEO.