Home » The Saturday Series » All About Blogging » All About Blogging: Ten Tips To Be a Better Writer

All About Blogging: Ten Tips To Be a Better Writer

Owned, Ottawa, Sep­tem­ber 2011

How hard can writ­ing be? You just have to type what you’re think­ing, right?

Well, it doesn’t quite work like that, even if your spon­ta­neous thoughts and obser­va­tions can be a good start­ing point.

When you’re writ­ing for an audi­ence, a few basic tips apply.

Write with pas­sion — Pre­sum­ably, you are blog­ging because you have some­thing to share: your life, your pas­sion, a story or a skill. If you are pas­sion­ate about it, it will show. Don’t force your­self to write about some­thing you are not com­fort­able with or not inter­ested in because read­ers will feel it. Blog­ging shouldn’t be a chore. This is not school, you don’t have to write a min­i­mum num­ber of words on a set topic. For instance, I can’t do book reviews for the life of me. I spent my high school years dis­sect­ing Vic­tor Hugo’s Cas­ti­ga­tions (the title of the col­lec­tion of poems says it all, trust me!) and while I’m still an avid reader, I turned down book review offers because it’s just not my thing. No one will enjoy read­ing a tedious review!

Build some con­text — Blogs cre­ate their own lit­tle uni­verse, with occa­sional men­tions of fam­ily mem­bers or par­tic­u­lar life events. If your blog is mostly for friends and fam­ily, that’s fine because they know you. But if you want to build a big­ger read­er­ship, you want to make sure peo­ple know what you are talk­ing about. This is why About Me and About this Blog pages, where you present your uni­verse, are impor­tant. Don’t hes­i­tate to link to pre­vi­ous related arti­cles to add con­text and infor­ma­tion. Finally, go easy on pri­vate jokes only two or three peo­ple can under­stand, oth­er­wise it feels like you are inten­tion­ally snub­bing your readers.

Stop that con­stant navel-gazing — Some peo­ple live amaz­ing lives and can write about them­selves with­out bor­ing the audi­ence to death. But 99% of us are just reg­u­lar folks are frankly, a detailed account of your life isn’t very inter­est­ing unless you are an excep­tion­ally good writer. I know Justin Beiber “wrote” his auto­bi­og­ra­phy at the ten­der age of 13 but most of us aren’t quite ready for that yet.

Don’t take your­self too seri­ously — Relax, it’s just a blog! Some read­ers will dis­agree with you, some will troll you, some will ignore your efforts to have the best blog ever… who cares? Don’t take your­self too seri­ously and accept that you are one blog­ger out of mil­lions. Have fun and please, don’t start drag­ging read­ers into your blog­ging drama.

Use spell-check — On the prac­ti­cal side of writ­ing, I really encour­age you to use spell-check. Every­body makes typos, but when they pile up, arti­cles can be a real pain to deci­pher. I tend to write my posts in Word, which catches most gram­mat­i­cal errors and typos, and I’ve seen a huge improve­ment com­pared to when I used to write directly in the Word­Press text editor.

Use online tools — There are tons of free online tools to improve your writ­ing. For instance, non-native Eng­lish speak­ers will find Wor­dRef­er­ence very use­ful (and if you have a ques­tion, their forum is awe­some!). I also use Syn­onyms, Visu­words (an online visual dic­tio­nary) and Wikipedia (for place names, his­tor­i­cal events etc.).

Typog­ra­phy mat­ters — Arrang­ing text and select­ing fonts isn’t only aes­thetic, it has func­tional goals. For instance, it’s hard to read a mes­sage when there are no caps after a period, or where there are a lot of dupli­cate white­space. Some plu­g­ins such as WP Typog­ra­phy offer intel­li­gent char­ac­ter replace­ment and styling for amper­sands, quotes, acronyms etc. The font fam­ily you choose also affect read­ers’ expe­ri­ence: Courier or hand­writ­ing fonts may feel “funky” and orig­i­nal but they are hard to read and shouldn’t be used for long text.

… And so do edit­ing and review­ing — Ide­ally, every­one needs another set of eyes to catch gram­mat­i­cal and spelling mis­takes. Most of us don’t have a lux­ury of a ded­i­cated proof­reader at home, but you can always set your text aside for a while and proof it again with fresh eyes. You’d be sur­prised to see the num­ber of typos and mis­takes you will catch!

Limit the length of your arti­cles — I per­son­ally believe that arti­cles under 200 words will be bet­ter on plat­forms such as Twit­ter or Face­book, and arti­cle over 1,000 are just too long to keep read­ers’ atten­tion (to give you an idea, most press releases are around 500 words). I’m the type of per­son who likes to write a lot but I learn to check the word count and to do some seri­ous edit­ing if I was close to my self-imposed 600–700 words limit.

Don’t for­get that writ­ing is sub­jec­tive — In maths, 1+1=2 (or so I’ve been told). But writ­ing isn’t an exact sci­ence. Two per­sons can relate the same event very dif­fer­ently. Yes, gram­mar mat­ters but there is no per­fect way to write. Develop your voice and be proud of your achievements!

17 comments

  1. Don’t take your­self too seri­ously…” That’s a great tip and one I try to fol­low. Every once in a while, though, I do get a bit per­sonal and seri­ous. For that, I blame my sym­pa­thetic and sup­port­ive readers!

  2. Great advice, I really like the one about don’t take your­self too seri­ously as well, as I find those blogs are annoy­ing to read and I don’t usu­ally go back to them. I also like your tip about writ­ing with pas­sion, it’s what makes great writ­ing stand out.

  3. Love your advice, as usual, but I can’t stop think­ing how far my blog is from being a good blog. At the same time, I don’t mind not hav­ing a great blog as I don’t feel like writ­ing as I did in jour­nal­ism classes and over-think my copy. Plus I’m not that good of a writer in French.

    I guess I just like doing what I do and I’m thank­ful that it brings me some readers :)

    • I like your blog! I don’t see any­thing wrong with it. I guess it shows advice don’t always apply. We all have an goal we aim for but any­thing in between works too!

  4. Some­times I read my archives and cringe when I see a typo or gram­mat­i­cal error. I’m pretty anal about stuff like that! I’m for­ever revis­ing posts within the first day or so after posting.

    • I try not to make edits after I pub­lish the post oth­er­wise I know it will never end! But I’d love to take the time to review some of my older posts, my Eng­lish has got­ten much bet­ter now and I’m sure I left some mis­takes I wouldn’t make now.

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