Ever feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to remember when setting out to write a blog post? You’ve got to make it interesting, professional, eye-catching, original, unique, etc. There’s lots of advice out there about the things you can do to get more traffic and engagement. And then there’s advice about things to avoid—like click-bait headlines and churning out quantity instead of quality content, or offering well-intentioned blogging advice that is executed inaccurately (like when you include a call to action to sign up for your newsletter or e-course but you’ve inadvertently supplied them the exact same information on your blog). With so much advice out there, it’s hard to keep the must-do’s straight from the don’t-do’s.
In a previous article, we talked about some of the worst blogging practices. Today we’re going to dig a bit deeper and focus on presentation—on the actual writing and editing of the content; specifically, the writing and editing practices that tend to turn readers away, even to where they’re reading no further than your headline. Consider this your quick-reference checklist of what to avoid when writing and editing your blog.
1. Don’t Use Bad Grammar
Sound a bit obvious? Well, sometimes the advice of “write like you talk” is taken too far, where the writing becomes a confusing stream of consciousness—lacking in direction and transition—that pretty much misses the point. Although your first draft can be more of a stream of thought, lacking proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, your final published version should be copyedited at the very least. Throwing out a piece of unorganized content is not only unprofessional (unless you’re William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf, who had literary and aesthetic reasons for doing so), if you don’t have a clear, well-presented message, you’ll quickly turn readers away (and losing followers sends a clear message that you need to get your writing in shape!).
If you know you’re not a grammar guru, get Grammarly or a similar app to help make sure you’re using the proper mechanics. Grammarly also checks your spelling, even catching mistakes your word processor might miss.
2. Don’t Change Your Writing Voice
What’s a writing voice, you ask? To put it simply, it’s the way you write—your style and personality as showcased by the way you employ language and word choice. This is different than tone, where you’d use a more subdued tone in addressing serious issues and a lighter tone with a humorous post. (Side note—switching tone within a short blog post isn’t recommended.)
You don’t want to change your voice from post to post because when you do, you lose your writing trademark, so to speak. Additionally, too many voices—especially in one post—will make you sound unsure of your subject, and that’s not a good thing when you’re trying to prove your authority!
3. Don’t Be Text Heavy
Readers are looking for something they can scan in seconds and read in minutes, so don’t write in big blocks of text that visually overwhelm the reader. Your post will be passed over like that (*snap*). There just isn’t enough time in a day to read everything out there, and readers are far more likely to look at a succinct online article than a wordy post.
To clarify—you can write a longer article, but you should break up the blocks of text with visuals such as:
- Comic strips
- Whatever other visual you can think of that relates to your topic
Additionally, it’s easier for readers to scan your post when you use numbered lists, bullets, and subheadings. And instead of including lengthy quotes and references, insert hyperlinks to outside sources and older content. It’s important to include just the words that relate to what you're linking (never use an entire paragraph or even a whole sentence). A best practice is to limit the number of words in the hyperlink to four to five (I’ve recently learned this lesson as I was a super-long linker). And FYI, phrases like “click here” and “read more” are viewed as spammy by readers and search engines alike.
4. Don’t Write Poorly
Easier said than done, right? Well, here’s the first key to good writing: pick a topic that interests both you and your readers. If you write about something that doesn’t keep your attention, how will it keep your readers’ attention? Think of your writing as a type of storytelling—because it is! This post itself is a story about how to avoid writing bad blog posts.
Here are a few story-structure tips to help you make sure you keep readers engaged:
- Come up with a catchy headline.
- Follow that with an intriguing introduction that hooks the reader.
- Talk to your readers—blogs are meant to be social.
- Contractions are cool in blogs! They’re more casual and personal.
- Use active instead of passive voice, and use action verbs instead of state-of-being verbs.
- Don’t write in third person too often as it feels stiff and academic.
- Don’t use clichés. Readers will likely skip them if they’ve already seen them.
Still not convinced you can be a good writer? The only way to get better is to practice, so write—and write a lot! And don’t worry if your blog posts aren’t perfect. You can always fix a mistake even after it’s published, and, as we said above, the more you write, the better you’ll get. After you’ve written a few posts, compare earlier posts to your most recent ones. You’ll probably notice a difference in the quality of writing.
5. Don’t Skip the Editing
Once you’ve finished writing—you’ve covered the topic adequately, you’ve reached your word count, etc.—you probably just want to be done. But don't hit Publish yet. You still need to edit your post. Don’t write and edit in the same breath, so to speak. Give it a break and then come back and view it through an editing lens rather than a writing one. Again, you don't have to be a pro to catch mistakes. In addition to proofreading apps like Grammarly, you can enlist the help of a coworker or use a good editing checklist. Lastly, don’t forget that part of editing is to check the formatting of your post. Always look at your preview to make sure that text isn’t cut off in nonsensical places, the images aren’t placed awkwardly, and that, overall, your post has an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
See, it’s not so bad! What are some of your don’t-do’s? Let us know in the comments below!