The art of blog writing can be very different from any other form. If you’re an author, making a blog post work can be counterintuitive.
The blog reader is a different beast; the complex vocabulary and slow burn of plot that carries a reader through a book can turn people off a blog post quickly. You can still inject the prose with your stylistic flare, but the format of a post is more akin to a resume crossed with news brief.
It might not be practical or affordable to contract an editor for every blog post, especially if you post frequently. It might be a good idea to get a professional edit two or three times, just to see where your weaknesses lie, though!
Here are a few tips to optimize your posts on your own for online readers.
Screen Readers Need Breaks!
Just like a resume, a blog post needs plenty of “white space” on the page to balance out the text. This is partly because blog readers are notorious skimmers, but also because reading on a screen can be hard on the eyes. It’s important to make sure there is plenty of contrast to help the reader along. This goes hand in hand with making sure that the template you chose on your blogging platform (or your website, if you got one designed) is responsive to mobile. Responsiveness has that technical element, but your writing needs to be mobile responsive too.
Frequent paragraph breaks are a favor to mobile readers. As smaller screens scale down, they have to deal with increasingly long walls of text. Breaks will help them make sense of the flow of the article on a smaller screen.
Pictures are also a great way to break up a post, like little rest points or punctuation marks in the flow of the blog. Just be careful how you format them. Text wrapping might look great at 1920×1080, but it doesn’t scale down well.
Headings, Subheadings, and Meta Descriptions
It’s worth taking extra time to make sure you’re setting the right expectation. There is too much nuance that goes into titles to recount here, but here’s some great further reading. Generally, you want to let a reader know at a glance exactly what they’ll get out of their read. There is a ton of competition for the attention of readers, so content saturation happens quickly among many topics. In short, it’s important to respect the reader’s time.
The most important part of the title is how descriptive you can be about your post in 8-12 words. Don’t try and trick readers with “viral” titles; just be upfront about what they’re getting out the post.
Most content management systems these days let you input a “meta description” — always make this part of your editing process! It’s a 160-ish character summary that is displayed by search engines. Take the opportunity to briefly describe your text. Try not to just summarize, but talk about what a reader will learn or take away!
Subheadings are an important internal resource for readers. Remember, online readers are skimmers, so do the resume thing: try and catch their attention with a subhead so that they stick with your content.
Learn How to Self-Edit
Chances are you won’t always be able to run a post by someone before it goes live. A lot of writers have trouble with self-editing, so here are a few quick tips:
- Always sleep on it! An important part of the editing process is seeing your piece with fresh eyes. So once it’s written, put a post down and forget about it until the next morning. You’ll notice so much more tomorrow.
- The good news, if you’re not very good at self editing, is that there are apps and extensions for that. Don’t rely on them 100 percent, of course, but the best writing and editing tools will even identify needlessly complex sentences, passive voice, and give you a sense of your work’s readability on a grade level.
- Use a style guide and make note of your common mistakes. Try to develop a consistent writing style. You can make up your own personal rules, but it’s always best to start with a style guide and make your choices about where to deviate afterward.
- Cut words viciously. It is perfectly acceptable to write a long blog post if the topic demands one. If, however, you find yourself straying into new territory over the course of a post, cut it and set it aside as an idea for a new post.
There you have it! I hope this helps you get your blog all spick-and-span for the new year.
About the Author:
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Find her on Twitter; comment or tweet her at @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.