Blog Writing: For Best Results, Use Real English

Posted by Whitney Lee

February 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Picture it: You, at your desk, writing the Next Great Blog Post. You’re on a roll. You’ve used every adverb you know, connected every prepositional phrase you can find, and you’ve barely reached the end of your first paragraph. The burden of a writer is so heavy, but so glorious. Except—chances are good that about 97 percent of what you’ve just written is crap. You might’ve managed to stick a thesis in there, but you’ve yet to get around to supporting it.

Paper ClipsIf you’re trying to be a writer (pinky finger extended from the handle of your 19th century teacup), you’re trying too hard. It’s only going to end with muddled writing that fails to get your point across. You can self-diagnose as a writer by your insistence on using at least five metaphors in each blog, your love of fancy writing and your hatred of Hemingway. Think what you will of Ernest Hemingway as a person, but the man always had a point, and he made it without any of Shakespeare’s ado.

Take a page—or a paragraph—from Hemingway’s book, and tighten up your blogging. Your readers will appreciate being able to quickly gather information from your posts without wading through confusing verbiage.

Make Your Point, Quickly

You know you have a point—so go ahead and tell your readers! Don’t do the lame 5-point essay format, but also don’t hide your message under layers of obscure language. Your meaning should be clear by the end of your first couple paragraphs if they’re short, and your first paragraph if they’re chunkier.

Ignore Your Insecurities

Don’t worry about sounding like the smartest person in the room. My favorite Einstein quote talks about how you can either explain something simply, or you don’t understand what you’re talking about at all. Your readers don’t need to know that you have a Word-of-the-Day calendar on your desk. They do need to know whatever industry knowledge you’re trying to pass on.

Go Light on Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases are so tricky. They’re fun, they add a lot of meaning to your writing and they’re effective when they’re used properly. But they can so easily be abused. If you’re mentally diagramming your sentence to make sure you’ve closed all your phrases—don’t. Just don’t. Rewrite your sentence with clarity as a main goal.

Write Toward a Goal

Stream of consciousness writing is hella fun. In my nerdy opinion, it’s the best way to spend 15 minutes. But it has no place on your corporate or industry-based blog. Free-writing exercises are a great place to get a start for a post, but long, winding narratives that end on a weak point aren’t substitutes for actual blog posts. Stop wasting your readers’ time and give your posts some structure. If all else fails, do outlines before you sit down to write.

Aim to Be Interesting

You don’t need to be bland to be clear. You can still sprinkle your writing with interesting phrases and words. The best way to do this subtly is by spacing them out. Your readers need to be carried along, then surprised, then carried along again. They shouldn’t have to stop at the end of every sentence to make sure they understood what you were going for. The trap of “fancy” language is that we all too often use it incorrectly ourselves.

Write Once, Cut Twice

Go ahead and write at a natural pace. Words almost always flow best unchecked. When you’re satisfied with what you have on the paper, go back and cut it. Then cut it again. Take out any exhausted turns-of-phrases, confusing sentences and phrases that just don’t make sense. Change phrases to use parallel structure to help readers through your piece. You should end up with an easy-to-read post that covers everything you wanted to say.

You might not suddenly grow a beard of epic proportions and start hunting big game after this (actually—please don’t), but you will probably grow your readership. Blogs were practically designed for function over verbiage. Just say what you mean, or you’re going to hurt yourself and your readership.

For help getting your blog posts optimized, download this blog optimization guide in PDF or Kindle format.


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