Blogging Tips A-Z: W for Writing
Blog writing is a key skill for successful blogging that you can learn from scratch and improve on with practice. With 17 years experience writing for the Web under my belt I’m still improving daily.
Here’s a massive blog writing tips round up to improve your blog writing. It runs over 5,000 words long but it has everything you need to know to make sure your writing works wonders.
1. Work on your blog headlines
People will never read your blog posts if the headline is more fizzle than sizzle.
Even people who’ve subscribed to your blog by RSS feed or email will read the headline first to decide if they want to read the whole post. If your blog headline doesn’t immediately seem to help with their problem or arouse their curiosity they’ll never read on.
To make sure your blog posts get read learn how to write hypnotic headlines that people can’t resist clicking on.
Your blog headlines should immediately tell people what the blog post is about and give them a reason to read it so compelling, newspaper style blog headlines are what you need.
Use some proven headline formulas to get you started. These are classics:
- Ask a question – Questions are a good way to arouse readers’ curiosity, make them want to find out more and give them a need to read the full story. For example: Is starting a blog the hardest part? Are anti-wrinkle creams all they’re cracked up to be? Confused by affiliate marketing? Would you Travel 1,846 Miles for this Man? Do you know why networking’s crucial for blogging success?
- Ask Why – Try to solve a common or persistent problem your readers have. For example: Why you need to write killer headlines for your blog Why I got headhunted for a vacation Why do people love to travel? Why time management is dumb Why I’ll always back up my work from now on
- How to – Help your readers do something better, faster, in simple steps or with confidence. For example: How to work out what your dream is fast How to break the blogging rules with panache How to sleep soundly How to stay focused in 9 words How to use Twitter as a motivational tool
- Numbered lists – A popular staple because they’re fast to read and write. For example: 10 ways to get the life you want 3 keys to living your dream life 101 ways to feel happy 5 instructions for better writing 7 good reasons to go for a walk
- Best or worst – Make your readers curious and give them a handy reference they’ll keep coming back to. For example: Best and worst things about living in Australia Worst blogging mistakes and how to fix them Best blogs to go for blog writing tips Worst blog designs ever Best ways to network using social media
Advanced Headline Honing Techniques
Here are a few other headline techniques to experiment with:
- Court controversy with your headlines – Why time management is dumb.
- Experiment with rhyme – Don’t delay, subscribe today.
- Use alliteration – Best business blogs.
- Use buzz words like ‘killer’ or ‘awesome’ that will appeal to your readers – Killer ways to travel for less.
- Cite celebrities or popular culture – A surfer’s guide to success or In bed with Seth Godin.
Those are just a few ideas for writing hypnotic headlines, now you just need to practice. Lots. Remember that even top copy writers like Brian Clark, Roberta Rosenberg, and Sonia Simone have spent years practising and improving their writing skills.
Last Word on Blog Headline Writing Tips
- Focus on creating headlines that show you provide useful value to your readers.
- Get in the habit of scanning newspapers and magazines to see which headlines stand out. Make a note of great headlines and see how you can customise them to make them work on your blog.
- Plan your attention grabbing headlines first then write the post to fit them.
- Try to keep your blog titles short but if they have to be long don’t worry, just bear in mind that people may not see the whole headline so get the most important words in first.
- Make sure the font size for your headlines is big enough so people know they’re headlines. You’ve spent time creating headlines you can be proud of, now make sure people can read them.
- Have fun writing your blog headlines.
Remember you’ll get good at headline writing by practising and accepting that it’s never going to be perfect but can only get better with practice.
2. Create Killer Blog Content
Once upon a time there was a writer with a mission. She wanted to start a blog and get 1,000 subscribers after 12 months of blogging. After all, how hard could it be?
She had 14 years of experience designing and writing for the Web plus 200 friends on her personal email mailing list. She figured if she couldn’t do it no one could.
But she rushed into it and made every mistake in blogging history. First she didn’t plan her blog properly. Then, because it was just an experiment, she threw the design together in 30 minutes. Next she changed topics as often as Lady Gaga changes her image and finally she switched domain names three times.
It wasn’t just her who was confused, her readers were too so they didn’t bother subscribing and looked else where for their regular blog reading fix.
It was depressing. But, knowing that perseverance is the key to success, our fearless writer carried on blogging, scouring the Internet daily for advice, ever determined to work out why her writing was failing to convert casual readers into loyal subscribers.
There was plenty of blog writing advice out there. She read that content is king, people love stories and writers need to have a voice so she wrote more, shared stories and bared her soul. It didn’t help.
Although she wrote her heart out and updated her blog three times a week after six months of blogging she still only had 43 subscribers. Failure loomed.
Finally in a last desperate bid to succeed she resorted to doing what she knew best:
- Write about a topic she knew inside out.
- Give her readers information they were craving.
- Be confident and share from the heart.
She stopped thinking so much about her goals and started thinking more about her readers’ goals. It worked. Slowly her subscriber numbers crept up and she got 1,000 subscribers just in time to meet her self-imposed deadline.
Writing blog posts that get more readers
1. Focus on giving your readers value
Work out why your readers have come to your blog and give them your best information every time. Make your blogs posts clear, useful and actionable. Read the bit about focusing on giving your readers value again and make it your blogging mantra or write it down and stick it on the wall somewhere so you focus on it every time you write.
2. Just write as if you were speaking to your best friend
Use the kind of simple language you use in every day life, don’t confuse people with jargon or too many long words.
3. Give your readers clear instructions
They’re blog readers not mind readers. If you have tips break them down into easy steps. If you have advice make sure they can understand it. If you want readers to subscribe ask them to. If you’d like them to share your posts on Twitter or Facebook suggest it to them and make it easy for them. If you want them to leave a comment tell them or leave them with a question to answer at the end of your post.
4. Keep it simple
Telling a story helps but to begin with just make sure your blog post has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s the information that people want more than anything, a story’s just the icing on the cake.
Writing Static Blog Content That Gets More Readers
Writing useful blog posts that clearly give your readers value is key but to convert new readers into subscribers you also need to pay attention to the static content on your blog too, especially the about page.
Your about page is the single most important page on your blog. Most new readers who visit a blog and are thinking of subscribing will check the about page first before signing up. It’s your big chance to convert blog visitors from casual readers into eager subscribers.
Abracadabra Your About Page
Make sure people who hit your about page can instantly read these four things without having to scroll down:
1. The benefits of reading or subscribing to your blog.
Remember your readers want to know that you can add value to their lives. They’re not interested in your amazing social life or your exotic travel stories. They might get interested in those one day, but right now they’re after one thing: cold hard information and the solution to their nagging problem. If you’ve got the goods make sure blog readers know it right away by telling them what information they can find on your blog.
2. Your credibility
Readers don’t want to invest precious time listening to any old charlatan who sets up a blog and calls themselves a guru. They want to know you have a proven track record of success. Qualifications and experience will go down well too, but don’t talk about yourself in the third person – use the word ‘I’ and write if you were talking to a friend.
3. Social Proof
Anyone can say they’re successful so back that up with social proof. It’s a brilliant way to let people know you’re the real deal without talking yourself up. Slipping in name of companies you’ve worked with, testimonials from happy customers or other third party accolades is the perfect way to back up your claims.
4. Calls to action
Don’t forget to seal the deal. Hopefully they’ll like what you read and if they do you want to make sure the don’t slip off without subscribing and forget all about you. Time for another call to action telling them why they should subscribe and including the two words that make people click more than any others: free and now.
You probably guessed that writer whose blogging journey got off to a slow start was me. I finally bought the Get In the Hot Spot domain name and eventually set up Successful Blogging to meet demand for my blogging tips.
Today my blogs have thousands of subscribers because I’m giving my readers the information they need – if you want to grow your blog you should do that for your readers too.
3. Blog Post Editing
We bloggers don’t have the luxury of an editor to go over our writing, suggest improvements and point out typos or spelling mistakes. We have to do that ourselves. Knowing how hard it is to edit your own writing how can we make sure our blog posts are high quality?
Blog post editing may take as long as or longer than writing the post. I may spend one or two hours writing a blog post then, four to eight hours perfecting it. Even then typos can and do slip in.
I don’t think the odd typo or missing comma matters too much, but if you have multiple typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors on one blog post, or your whole blog is stuffed with typos, it is off-putting.
Don’t be a perfectionist – your writing may never be perfect – but do make sure it’s as good as it can be in the time available. If necessary post fewer high quality blog posts rather than a lot of poor quality posts. Your readers should be able to expect and look forward to good quality writing on your blog every time.
My point here is not to make you paranoid that your blog posts aren’t good enough or have mistakes. The point is that good writing takes time but you can do it if you invest time and keep practising. Try not to see the editing as a process, see it as a fun part of polishing your post so that it’s even better.
How to Edit a Blog Post
1. Put it aside for a while
Write your blog post, then put it aside for a day before editing and checking it. Or at least put it aside for an hour or two so you can read it with a fresh eye and see the errors more clearly. This means you probably can’t write a blog post and publish it on the same day. Unless you’re a trained and experienced writer like Molly Kelash who blogs at Seriously, and worked for Voice of America for years.
2. Check it makes sense
Reread your post with your readers in mind then edit it for meaning. We’ve already talked about how every blog post should have a beginning, a middle and an end. It sounds obvious but make sure your blog post does have a natural progression and a story behind it. Give your post an introduction, a middle and a conclusion or summary, even if that’s not what they’re called in the post.
Double check the beginning and the end. The beginning is crucial to draw the reader in and make them want to find out more. The end is a great place to reward your reader for sticking around. If you can, end your blog post with a bang, or relate the ending back to a point you made at the beginning to tie things up neatly and give a sense of closure.
Check the message is clear. Keep things simple and try to distill the purpose of your blog post down to one sentence with one message your readers can easily digest and take away. When you reread your post make sure that message is clear and not muddied by irrelevant information.
3. Be Pernickety
No one likes nit picking and fussiness, but you have to edit your blog post for grammar. If you’re not sure about grammatical points look them up online. Here are some of the main things that cause problems and a few suggestions:
- use every day language when you write your blog posts. A blog is not a business report. It’s a conversation. Make your writing sound natural;
- use contractions just like you would if you were talking to someone. Forget writing I will, you are or she would – make it I’ll, you’re and she’d;
- apostrophes have two uses: – for contractions to show letters are missing like in the examples above, where I will became I’ll; and – for possessives like the blogger’s posts which indicates one blogger, or the bloggers’ posts, which shows there are more than one blogger;
- homonyms – words with the same sound but a different meaning. Spell checkers are great but they miss words that are spelled right but used in the wrong context like you’re/your, it’s/its or their/they’re/there. You have to check the right word is used in the right place yourself;
- be consistent – if you make a mistake, make the same mistake every time because that way people might think it’s just your writing style.
4. Give it the Chop
Removing unnecessary words makes the reading experience faster and smoother and Molly says the first three rules she learned in the newsroom were: “Omit needless words; omit needless words; omit needless words.”
You need to edit your blog post for style by taking away as much of it as you can without affecting the meaning. Reread it to see if you’ve used five words where one or two would have been enough. Make sure there are no common words repeated and no fluff that’s just in there for the sake of it.
Here are some words and phrases I chopped out of this post:
- Despite all that;
- If I’m honest;
- I think;
- If this isn’t possible;
- The other thing is that;
- For some reason;
- It’s fair to say.
Now I usually catch myself before I write these annoying and meaningless words. You will too.
5. Read it out loud
Print your blog post out and read it aloud. Whispering will do but reading out loud and from paper will help you notice errors you’d miss on screen or with a silent read. Apparently top editors read backwards to force themselves to pay attention, but hopefully you don’t need to take it that far.
Don’t panic if this sounds like a lot to take on, but writing the post is just the first step for successful blogging. Editing is what makes your blog posts shine even more. I hope these tips leave you feeling empowered to turn your rough first drafts into golden nuggets. Just remember, a good editor is worth their weight in gold, and with a little practice that will be you.
4. Blog Formatting and Layout
Writing for the Internet is different than writing for print. Newspapers follow set rules for the formatting and lay out their stories to make them easy to read and bloggers need to follow some too. Blog writing and formatting content for the Web is more complex than writing for print because how we read on a computer screen is different to how we read in print and more challenging.
Blog Rules are Based on Two Things:
- People skim read when they read things on screen
- A website or blog is missing the usual cues that let us know how long an article is. Pick up a book or cast your eye over a newspaper article, and you’ll instantly be able to gauge how long it is and how long it will take to read. Online the only way to find that out is to scroll down to the end of the blog post and that’s what most people do.
While they’re at readers, they’ll also try to scan read the post. A long body of text is scary. Even if the headline appeals to them, with no other clues about the content, people will be reluctant to start reading. By helping people scan your blog posts with good layout and telling them more about what information they’ll find in it you can entice them to read the post in full.
It’s harder to read things on screen than on print
Screen legibility is improving along with resolution and screen size but there are still some simple rules you need to know to help people read your blog more easily. If you want to make sure people enjoy reading your blog, tell their friends about it and subscribe then you need to make sure the very act of reading your blog is easy.
No matter how great your blog content and writing is, if it’s not easy to read people won’t enjoy it and won’t come back for more. I recommend you stick to these blog rules.
Rules of Blog Formatting and Layout
1. Format every blog post
Careful formatting will make your blog posts easier for people to scan. Write your posts with the page layout in mind or edit them to make sure they’re well formatted for scan reading.
2. Constrain column width
Keep the blog post column width about 80 characters or less (including spaces) and your readers will thank you for it. Check out these before and after screen shots of Under the Mango Tree. I advised Stacyann to update her blog to make it easier to read and changing the column width for the main body of text was one of the first things we sorted out. Wide columns of text are an instant turn off and very hard to read. The difference is incredible and it’s such a simple change.
3. Use Headers and Sub-headers
Headers and sub-headers will break up long blog posts, help people scan read your blog and convince them to read the whole post. Read How to Write Hypnotic Headlines to read more about the importance of headlines and headers for blog writing.
4. Use lists
Numbered lists or bullet pointed lists help people scan blog posts fast and find the information they’re looking for quickly.
5. Use punctuation
Use full stops, commas, dashes and colons to break up each paragraph into smaller pieces of information that make sense quickly. No one wants to read the same sentence several times to try to make sense of it. If you’re not confident about punctuation keep sentences short. As you practice writing and start to improve you can experiment and lengthen your sentences, chucking in a long one here and there to keep things interesting for readers, and make sure they’re really paying attention. Long sentences are fine but check that every sentence makes sense and the meaning is clear.
6. Short paragraphs
Because reading is harder online it’s best to break text into manageable chunks. Paragraphs should be much shorter online than on paper with two to six sentences per paragraph a good guideline for blog posts.
7. Font type
Sans serif fonts (without the squiggly bits) are generally supposed to be easier to read on screen, in particular Verdana. Get In the Hot Spot uses the serif font Georgia (with squiggly bits) which is also designed for easy reading on screen.
8. Font size
Big is better. Teeny tiny writing is hard to read online, even for people with 20/20 vision like me. Make it bigger. Check out some of your favourite blogs, compare the font size they use and decide what works best for your readers. If they’re older they might prefer even bigger text than the average blog reader.
9. Be bold
Don’t overuse bold text or it loses its effectiveness but do use bold text to make a splash and highlight important sentences that will catch people’s attention and draw them into, or on with, the blog post.
10. Go easy with italics
Italics are hard to read in print. Couple that with on screen reading already being challenging and banish italics from your blog writing. I hate them. If you can avoid italics please do.
11. Capital letters
Use capitals for proper nouns and at the beginning of sentences but avoid writing all in capitals because it’s harder to read. PLUS USING CAPITAL LETTERS CONSTANT IS THE ONLINE EQUIVALENT OF BEING SHOUTED AT. Sorry, just wanted to get the point across.
12. White space
Readers need somewhere to rest the eye and good blog layout leaves plenty of blank space. Make sure your blog isn’t too busy or distracting and gives readers somewhere to rest their eye from time to time.
13. Background color
Most blogs and websites get the contrast between text color and background color right, but make sure your blog background doesn’t make the text hard to read. It makes me sad that a white background with black text has become the default for most blogs. Bright yellow text on a black background is easiest to read but that’s quite a confrontational look. Dark text on a light background has a wider appeal but consider using another light color for the background as white gives off a harsh glare. There are plenty of choices which look good and are still easy to read but without the glare of white: try light grey, minty green or pale yellow.
14. Use images
Good use of images will draw readers in to your blog posts. Sometimes I read a post purely because I like the image. Ideally your images will add to your blog or emphasise your message. Even if they can’t do that use them to break up text, draw your readers eye down the page and reward them for reading and spending time on your blog. Some blogs like Viperchill turn their headers and sub-headers into images which makes the text look more attractive and helps people scan read.
15. Be consistent
You don’t know how readers found your blog. You can’t be sure if they arrived straight at your latest post, on your about page or via an archived post. You can’t know which order people will read your blog in so every post you write needs to tell the same story about you, your message, your blog and your values.
16. Tell a story
Speaking of stories, every blog post needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Think of it as an introduction, the main information and conclusion if you prefer. Even if you don’t give use those sub-headings because, hopefully, you’ve come up with hotter ones, do follow the convention to avoid confusing your readers.
5. Secrets of Brilliant Blog Writing
I won’t be winning the Pulitzer prize for literature any time soon but I like to think what I lack in writing skills I make up for in enthusiasm and determination.
Those qualities have helped me travel to some of the most exotic and far flung places in the world and they’ll take you far too. More than anything, I want you to know that even if your writing’s not great today, you do have the potential to become a brilliant writer over time.
I started my first blog in 2006 to overcome my fear of being read. I know it sounds odd but I was used to writing web copy anonymously (I’ve been a professional web copy writer for 15 years) and was scared of putting my name to my writing and claiming it as my own.
It seems ridiculous today but back then the fear was very real. So real I only wrote one blog post in 2006, and when I finally picked up blogging again in 2009 that fear was still there.
These days I’m not scared of putting my name to my writing and I’ve become a confident writer. Well, as confident as any writer will ever be. I’ve experienced having my writing rejected and learned how to bounce back from rejection. That’s probably one of the greatest skill you’ll need to succeed in writing or life.
Rejection’s a natural part of the process of becoming a successful writer and these days I’m happy to send my writing anywhere. If someone rejects it I send it to someone else who might appreciate it more.
All the things I previously feared about writing like rejection, ridicule and judgement don’t rule me any more.
My writing may not appeal to everyone but it’s more likely to be a reflection of their interests and taste than a personal reflection on my writing.
If I publish something with a typo it’s just a typo, not the end of the world. If someone disagrees with me that’s okay, it doesn’t make me a bad person.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to improve my writing skills since I started blogging. I hope you’ll get stuck in and do them too. My writing might not be brilliant yet but it’s getting better and I enjoy the writing process more too. You can’t get better than that.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. All those successful bloggers and brilliant writers weren’t born that way. They got good by writing regularly and we need to as well. If you really want to improve your writing you’ll have to put in the time too. Write for at least an hour a day five days a week. If you want to be a writer hopefully you enjoy writing anyway so make writing practice a highlight of your day.
2. Have Fun
Write about things that please and interest you. Write about them in a tone that flows naturally and stop worrying about what other people think. I recommend practising your writing but I’m not saying you need to publish it all. But do write about those secret things, the things you aren’t ready to share with the world. Do write about the funny things that happened to you today even if you don’t think anyone else will be amused. Put your inner critic in time out. Just write and enjoy the process.
3. Bin Your Agenda
Have you heard of writer’s block? But builders don’t get blocked and unable to lay another brick. Teachers don’t run out of things to teach. I can’t think of any other job where people make excuses for not doing their work. If you’re having trouble writing forget everything else I told you in the Blog Writing Magic series and just write what comes into your head. You can worry later about if you can make a blog post out of it, if anyone would want to read it or what your colleagues will think when they find out about your quirks and quibbles. Just write.
4. Give Fear the Finger
Actors get stage fright and I bet writer’s block is caused mainly by fear. Writing is scary. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with other people is a worry. Especially when you don’t know who’ll be reading, and let’s face it, anyone could be reading your blog, even that old school teacher who told you you’d never make anything of yourself. Putting your neck on the line by teaching other people what you know is scary.
But don’t be scared into submission. Just write anything, every day and see what comes of it. Then create compelling blog writing with hypnotic headlines, edit your blog post, format it, be brave and publish it to see what other people think. You’ll write killer blog content and some stuff that never gets published but your writing will improve.
5. Share Your Voice
I live in Australia and we enjoy freedom of speech. I hope you do too. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s stop censoring ourselves by listening to that little voice in our heads which tells us our work and ideas aren’t good enough. They are. Please share your unique voice through your blog because your story needs to be told and we want to hear it.
Start Your Blog Writing Practice Now
It’s perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of to think your writing isn’t much good. Now get over it and get writing. Write about anything. Write about what you see, hear or touch. Write about how you live, work or play. Write about the people you see around you. Just write.
I’m more enthusiastic about writing and blogging every day and I’m determined to help you succeed. Tell me what scares or worries you most about blog writing and let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help you enjoy writing your blog with more confidence.