How to Write a Blog That Gets Read
There is a fairly simple and easily-learned technique to writing a blog that people will want to read. We asked an anonymous successful blogger, who is widely read, how it is done.
I’m going to try to explain, purely from my own experience, how to write articles, blogs, features or short pieces that people will want to read.
Writing is like having a one-way conversation. Just as when you try to engage in conversation, you have to be aware of what the other participant wants: In the case of an article, the reader will probably first want to know in advance if it is going to be worth reading.
You must start by explaining very succinctly what you want to say and why the reader should persist in reading. The reader will give you a narrow window of attention: Don’t miss it. You must be relaxed about letting go of readers who aren’t interested in what you are going to write, but do your best to intrigue and amuse the readers who might be tempted to read on if you succeed in getting the initial sentences right. Because of this, the first paragraph you write is by far the most important. By the end of the first paragraph, the reader should have a very good idea what will come from reading the article, what the benefit is. Although you can, as a literary device, maintain a certain air of mystery, it is easy to overdo this. If you want to attract a wide readership, don’t lapse into dialect, swear, or deliberately set out to be disgusting. When you’re chatting with your peer-group this may seem a good bonding technique, but on a blog, or in an article, it invariably looks ridiculous. You should, by contrast, go out of your way to write clearly and inoffensively. The same is true with the unique argot of any closed group. Business or technical jargon seems fine when used at work, but when written down, and read by people from widely different cultures, it can seem bizarre.
It will seem incredible to many that emoticons are not part of international English: they are a prop to casual written discussion, but any prose must be of sufficient quality to convey the emotion you require.
Don’t leave words out of sentences. A large proportion of the literate world uses English as a way of learning, but it is, for them, as a second language. The same may be true of you. To make it as easy as possible for the readers who are in this predicament, write as unambiguously as possible. People who are native English speakers become strangely telegraphic in casual communication, as if ‘TXTing’, but this habit makes it more difficult for anyone outside your cultural bubble.
In your writing, the reader must believe that you have taken care. If you give information presented as fact, for example, you need to give a supporting reference. You need to show that you’ve revised or corrected your work, and provided any relevant images or diagrams. Any ‘aside’ that boasts of the casualness of your writing like ‘I haven’t the time to explain …blah …’ is a big turn-off. Why should they put in the effort to read it?
You need special care with technical writing, unless you are communicating only with your immediate peers. Whereas those of your colleagues with the same or better technical knowledge will tolerate the occasional phrase that explains a term, or an aside for the layman, the layman will despise being bamboozled with jargon. It therefore makes sense to make your article suitable for as wide a range of reader as possible. Acronyms need to be avoided if possible, and if unavoidable, they need to be written in full the first time you use them. Where possible, refer to good introductory material on the topic wherever possible. Be considerate to people who are less familiar with the topic.
Be clear in your writing but never dull. Never be afraid of striking up an attitude, or showing emotion, but do it with subtlety. Be conservative with your material. You need as few ideas or messages as possible, but they have to be as good as you can possibly make them. Never confuse quantity and quality. Although metaphor, simile and adjective needs to be appropriate, it should never be clichéd. Occasionally, you need to prod the reader into full wakefulness with an unusual word or phrase. A final rule in writing a compelling article is to occasionally break a rule. The best articles show a certain tension and risk, as if watching a high-wire act. Will the writer somehow drop off?
To wrap up, an article, the final paragraphs should enable the article, like an airplane, to land gracefully. It helps to recap the main points you’ve made, and maybe plant an idea that leads the reader on to find out more about the topic you’re discussing.
Basically, most pieces of writing, like conversation, should be conducted with courtesy, a consideration for the reader. It should be ego-free. Hard-and-fast rules boil down to this simple truth. If you start by being clear about the sort of reader you wish to write for, putting yourself in their shoes and imagining what is going through their minds when they come across your article, it is difficult to go wrong: Otherwise, writing an article or blog is the hardest of all skills.