Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's Time to Talk About Writing Blog Posts

Let's answer some questions I've been asked about writing blog posts.

Which comes first - the title or the post?  Actually, it doesn't matter.  Sometimes I have a great title in mind inspired by something I've seen or read.  And sometimes my beginning title isn't so great but a better one comes to me as I'm actually writing the post.  The key is to create a title that will encourage readers to visit your blog and read your post. 

What about the actual post?  Are there rules to follow?  Again, not really - and what rules there are can be bent a little if it makes your post more engaging.  This is not your high school composition class.  This is you sharing your thoughts, your knowledge, and your passion with others.  That allows for a bit more flexibility.

Should my blog post be structured in a particular manner?  There is no definitive structure for a blog post.  It is a good idea to let your readers know what the post is about as soon as possible.  I try to establish that in the first paragraph or so.  If you aren't writing educational or factual posts, then that isn't as important.  But you do need to capture your readers' attention as quickly as possible.

The end of your post is just as important as the beginning.  Don't leave your readers hanging.  Don't leave them wondering if there should be more.  When you are finished with what you have to say, summarize or draw some conclusion, but leave no doubt that your are finished. 

How long should my post be?  Truthfully - as long as it needs to be to say what you want to say.  You will notice that some of my posts are longer than others.  As long as you aren't rambling about things that have no bearing on your topic, that is usually not a problem  That being said, the average blog post is generally between 250 and 400 words.  Any shorter, and you probably not going to get as much bang for your buck.  Any longer, and unless you are providing lots of good, useful information, your reader may get bored and stop reading.  That doesn't mean you can't occasionally go shorter or longer.  Again, good content is the most important factor in blogging.

Sometimes I feel like I am writing a lot of fluff just to have "filler" for what would otherwise be an extremely short post?  How do I avoid this?  You don't always have to.  Sometimes, you just need to have some fluff.  Remember, your readers come from diverse backgrounds.  What makes sense to one person may completely confuse another.  If adding some filler helps make your post more cohesive and understandable, go for it.  Especially in instructional posts, more detail is often better.  No one is going to become a regular reader of your blog if they can't get what they need from it.

So when do we leave the filler out?  Just as we don't want to leave out important details or clarification for the sake of shortening our post, we don't need to make the same point three or four times just to make it longer.  If you have already made your point, you're done.  Move on.  Likewise, if you're telling a story, there is no need for elaborate, flowery narratives or extraneous details if they don't add to the story or don't clarify what you are saying. 

Like everything else in business, there are guidelines for how to write blog posts for maximum effectiveness.  But the bottom line is this - write what you know, write what you are passionate about, provide useful, interesting content, and everything else is negotiable.

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