Monday, April 28, 2014

6 Writing Tips for Bloggers

Confession #1: I was that dork in school who liked to write papers. (Seriously.) I actually enjoyed the act of sitting down at a computer and crafting a document of words. Because to me, they weren't really class assignments. They were puzzles. Word puzzles, and I had to make them whole in a way that provided a perfectly logical explanation for whatever question had been posed to me by my teachers and professors.

Confession #2: If I could go back and do it all again, I'd take more writing classes. Because, really...I think I only took three during the four years I spent at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, IN. Writing for Advertising and Public Relations, Journalism, and Feature Writing. Favorite? Feature Writing, as evidenced by published work in a textbook my professor put together:

Why I couldn't recognize how much I loved these classes, I'll never know. But here I sit right now, writing a blog. And sometimes a freelancer. Before that, I worked as an advertising copywriter. So essentially, I picked up my diploma and started writing. And I haven't stopped.

The fact that I look back and recognize how much I would have loved more writing classes, well...I'll raise my nerd flag, sure. Because I guess I made myself a little writing career without them.

"Tara, this is great," you say to me, "but why are you telling me this?"

Because, dear friends, I want you to know that I speak from both the heart and experience when I offer up the following writing tips for bloggers.

1) Write with structure, but don't be afraid to let loose.
Blogs are somewhat conversational, more so than your average newspaper article. As such, they present an opportunity for the blog writer to be a bit free with their writing style. So let loose and really take the time to show your readers a bit of personality. But don't lose sight of structure, because that's when your readers get lost. It's true that conversations flow, but you'll notice the best conversations often revolve around a single subject. So make sure that every post you create has a purpose, and structure your writing accordingly—you want your readers to follow you from the first sentence to the last. Even if you're just providing a rundown of your day.

2) Be careful with creative methods of spelling and the overuse of slang words.
Sounds counter intuitive to the above, I know, but hear me out. Remember the whole "-izzle" trend? Kind of annoying, for shizzle. Amiright? And what about the use of words like "woot" to enhance excitement? Go back a sentence...see what I did with "am I right?" There is a place and time for creative misuse. But when bloggers do this too much, visions of road blocks dance through my head. It's just too hard to read.

3) Proofread every single post. EVERY SINGLE POST!
We are human, which means we are not perfect. Mistakes happen. But if they happen too frequently, then it really undermines your credibility. It really doesn't matter what platform you're using, there should be a "spellcheck" option. And all you have to do is click it to find the mistakes worth fixing. But it's not just about spelling. Look for missing words. Unfinished sentences, and even links that aren't working. Don't just write and post. Write, proofread and post.

4) Use commas and apostrophes correctly.
I think one of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of punctuation. Particularly when it comes to commas and apostrophes. Even when you're being conversational, you still need to use these things correctly. Especially commas. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is one of my favorite books (again with the nerd flag). From the back cover:

So, when you proofread the heck out of your post, check out all the dots and hash marks, too. Do planks, not plank's. And break up long sentences with commas because if you don't they get really long and your readers get lost in what you are trying to say so they just end up walking away because their head is spinning into a really bad headache and you don't want to be the blogger that dishes out headaches because that would be bad. (See what I did there?)

5) Break up big paragraphs.
Take a look at my first tip. Almost too long, but the use of a header saves me because it gives you (the reader) the option to read or move on to the next tip. But you've seen longer paragraphs in print, right? The printed piece is a much easier, totally different medium to read. But reading on a computer screen, well...that can be harder, so help your readers out. Use headers and bullets, or just break up those paragraphs that seem long and chunky.

6) Pick strong key words and phrases for search engines, but don't make it obvious.
If building a following or getting page hits is a huge goal, then you'll want to make use of key words and phrases that search engines will find. This will shoot you up in the list of results. And typically, these words/phrases should be near the top of your post. In the title, too. But your job as the writer is to mask these key words with creative writing. Because this just doesn't work:

"High intensity interval workouts are so much fun. You should totally try high intensity interval training if you want to get your heart rate up, because interval workouts make you work hard. Today, I have a high intensity interval workout for you. But check with your doctor if you've never done high intensity interval training because a high heart rate workout might not be right for you."

Say what?

"High intensity interval training is so much fun! To illustrate this point, I've put together a HIIT workout for you. But you'll want to check with your doctor first because a high heart rate workout might not be right for you."

Or something like that.
Much better, and still full of key words.

Now, I could go on and on about writing and writing tips (nerd flag, one last time). But I'll leave you with these six for right now. If you have specific questions about YOUR writing style, or anything grammar/writing/punctuation related, or even if you want me to write something for you, I am always available: tara (at) adailydoseoffit (dot) com.

Question: As a reader, what writing/editing mistakes bug you the most? As a writer and/or blogger, what tips can you offer up?


Heather (WTB) said...

I was the one who loved to write papers too - so much so that I ended up with a BA and MA in professional and technical writing! Great tips, especially breaking up the big paragraphs!

Patty said...

lol at the shizzle reference. Though I must admit sometimes I'm guilty of using words like woohoo! and yikes! lol. My main thing I DONT do is proofread every single post. Some days I'm in a rush but most of the time I just hate re-reading everything I just wrote! Will try to be better about this :)

Linz @ Itz Linz said...

proofread proofread proofread YES YES YES!! drives me nuts when i see silly mistakes! and learn the difference between your you're!! #endrant :)

laura said...

i really dislike writing for SEO, it can be so obvious and dry - but when done right you can still keep your own style. great tips!

adailydoseoffit said...

Thanks, Laura! I totally agree.

adailydoseoffit said...

The apostrophe...misuse of is like fingers on a chalkboard!

adailydoseoffit said...

I think there's a time, place and frequency for works like woohoo!, etc. But some people do it ALL THE TIME in a post and it gets distracting, don't you think?

adailydoseoffit said...

Thanks, Heather! Would love to have gone the route you did with my degree. Sigh, in another life, I suppose :-)

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