13 Ideas for Writing Better than the Next Guy

One thing is for certain, blog writing is no easy thing. If it were, more people would be better at it, period!

Your blog post may be intended to share something, to persuade people to do something, or to call attention to something. Ideally, lots and lots of people will find your post awesome and link to it, creating an exponential amount of visibility for your blog. But that won’t happen if you can’t pull it together. You’ll have to go beyond just writing something awesome. It has to be written in an awesome way.

The good news is that this goes beyond grammar.

Write with a specific reader in mind

Avoid trying to write to different types of readers. For example, this post is written for people who’d like some tips on improving their blog writing. I’m not going to use phrases like, “However, if you’re doing great in writing but need help with marketing…” because (1) I’ll lose the focus of the intended audience and (2) that phrase will be an unsupported, straggling idea that doesn’t fit with the rest of the post.

Write in the first person

There’s no reason to write in the third person when blogging. A blog is written by a single person with a unique voice, and even blogs that represent a team should be written in first person, exchanging “We” for “I.”

Don’t give it all away in the headline

Which is more compelling?

The Key to Better Baking is Using an Egg Timer

or

What’s the Key to Better Baking?

The second is far more compelling. It gives you an opportunity to fully support and enhance the idea, and sell people on the use of an egg timer. With good writing, disbelievers can become believers. However, if a person strongly disagrees with an idea presented in a headline, disbelieving visitors may not read the post at all, and if they do, they will already have a negative attitude toward what you’re saying.

Open with a relevant situation/problem

This idea is embedded in classic advertising theory. Catch a reader’s attention by opening with a problem. Traditionally, this is done in the headline, and you can use the same principle to write your headlines on your blog.

The first few paragraphs are also important and need to add a little more about the situation, but they don’t need to be very long. A few sentences that set a good stage for the main idea will be sufficient.

Call attention to the important ideas

Drive important ideas home by pulling them out (e.g., using pull quotes) or otherwise drawing attention to them. Use block quotes, bold emphasis, and don’t be afraid to repeat them. Another way to draw attention to ideas is to use the important ideas as section headers.

Use the Rule of Thirds

There are three parts to every piece of good writing that make up its frame: the situation/intro, the main section, and the summary/conclusion. Try to stick to this structure when writing. Most people do this naturally, but it’s easy to forget or neglect a part. For example, I’m not so great at summaries! I hate writing them. Whatever you hate will definitely be weakest. Just do your best to make sure that you set up the situation, put the meat of your post in the middle, and then wrap it up somehow (even a single sentence is better than nothing).

Don’t “cluster link”

Unless your links are fully disguised, meaning that they are not noticeable unless you hover over them, don’t cluster link. Cluster linking is putting three or more links all together in a sentence or paragraph. It is incredibly distracting, especially if you are linking phrases and not individual words.

If you want to use multiple links all at once, try using bullet points to separate them. Or, just brace yourself for the irritation it will likely cause readers.

Avoid using passive voice

Passive: The book was left on the table by Brian.

Active: Brian left the book on the table.

The first sentence has only two additional words, but changing the sentence to active voice makes a big difference. This is especially important when you’re selling something. I am a big abuser in this area, and still have horrible memories of my Advanced Grammar & Usage professor’s marks all over my papers.

Sometimes, writing in the passive voice can help explain a situation, but usually it just bloats an otherwise straightforward idea:

Passive: Physicians have been hit with reimbursement reductions that have caused reductions in compensation.

Active: Reimbursement reductions have impacted physician compensation.

I wouldn’t stress over this too much, unless you are writing to call someone to action. If you’re writing a post inviting people to join your contest or visit a certain site, go back over your copy and check for this silent killer.

Always include sharing options

Don’t create black holes in your blog. I’ve come across this so many times! No wonder why people say blogging doesn’t “work” for them. If you don’t give someone an easy way to share your content, don’t expect them to bend over backward to share.

Install sharing plugins, or just grab button codes from your favorite social sharing sites like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Don’t use cliche endings just to get comments

Avoid using cheesy endings. I know cheesy is a very relative term, but that’s the best word I can come up with. You don’t have to end every post with a question or tell people that they should comment, even though that works sometimes. Vocal people are going to see the Reply box as an opportunity to voice their opinions, and on the flip-side, your question isn’t going to make the difference in someone commenting or not. It will only help to direct the comment.

I use endings like that every so often, but if the post doesn’t warrant it, I don’t. You should not need to pull teeth for comments. The content is either comment worthy or not, and comments aren’t everything.

Take advantage of opportunities for opt-ins

Think about ways that you can incorporate opt-in forms and giveaways into your blog posts. Try this: If your post is particularly helpful and you think it will become a resource for people, turn it into a PDF and create an opt-in form for the PDF. Include the opt-in form at the end of the post with a simple call to action: Enter your name and email address below to download [post title] as a PDF and save it to your computer.

One image is enough

I’m a firm believer that one image in a post is enough for most posts. If you must include tons of images, don’t do so for the sake of “interest.” Do it if it’s truly a necessity. Otherwise, use just one, near the beginning or the end.

Stay on point

Try to stay on point the entire way through the post. I do this by writing all of my section titles out first (and then changing them as necessary later). Otherwise, I would surely get off topic and probably end up writing something that isn’t anything like what I planned.

It’s the Little Things

Very few things separate your blog’s content from the other hundred or so blogs that talk about the same thing. One of the similarities I’ve noticed in posts that are shared over and over is that they are complete, self-standing posts that are written very well. People will share your content if it rocks.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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