I was thinking of what I could share today, and I remembered this writing newsletter I subscribe to. I thought I'd share Daphne Gray Grant's seven steps to becoming a better blogger. I found it quite useful, though I'm not quite there yet. Oh well, baby steps.
1) Post regularly. Some people say you need to post three times a week, others say daily. My original plan for my blog was to start posting five days a week. I've changed my mind since becoming an RSS-feed reader. (If you have no idea how to use an RSS-feed reader, be sure to check out this wonderful video-based tutorial by Colleen Wainwright.) I'm easily overwhelmed and I've unsubscribed from several bloggers who publish good information—just too much of it! As well, I'm mindful that it's better to start small and work your way up rather than start big and end with a whimper. My plan is to start by posting twice a week. I think once a week is the bare minimum.
[Me I know I'm guilty of this one. My plan was to post once a week at the very least. Sigh. I think part of the reason is that I'm not writing as much as I should be. I shall do better!]
2) Be brief. There is more information than there is time to read it. I have little time for bloggers who regularly go beyond 750 words (especially if they do it five days a week). Have they not heard of editing, I ask? More often, I think, bloggers should aim for a concise 350-500 words with an occasional foray into the land of 750. Better to push readers away from the table when they still want more rather than forcing them to be uncomfortably full.
[Hmmm. Some of my posts are over 750 words. But those are just the fiction posts, I promise.]
3) Have a point. Too many bloggers ramble on about nothing of import. Remember, your blog should have a purpose and each entry should support it. If only your friends and your mother are interested, you have a problem.
[This blog doesn't necessarily have one point, but I believe every post does have a point.]
4) Tell stories. When you read my newsletter you typically get lots of information about my husband, my kids and thinly veiled accounts of my clients. I'm not saying I'm fascinating. But I do know some people who are and I hope they help make my columns more interesting. Stories have a natural beginning, middle and ending—and they're designed so that listeners are eager to know what happens next. You can harness that enthusiasm to help impel readers through your writing.
[I concur, he he.]
5) Add a photo to each post. I know, this isn't a writing tip—it's a bit of graphic advice. But photos grab the eye, create mood and provide some relief from all the black bits of type floating on the page. Use Flickr to get some photos for yourself at no charge. (Just be sure to attribute the photographer.)
[Okay, this sure makes sense. I plead guilty to using some photos without attributing to the photographer. Bad Uche!]
6) Make your entry scannable. It's often been said that people don't READ the Internet; they scan it. You can make your blog more interesting and more engaging to readers with some boldface type, sub-headlines and by adding numbered lists (as I have in this newsletter) or bullets. Visual tricks aren't just for amusement—they work!
7) Put a darn good headline on the sucker. Headlines are almost always written last, usually in a hurry. Doesn't it seem strange to you that a blogger might spend 45 minutes or longer labouring over an entry and then devote only 15 seconds to dashing off a headline? It seems nonsensical to me (and yet I'm sometimes guilty of doing exactly that.) Be aware that a good headline might not only persuade someone to read your blog entry—a bad one can also convince them to ignore it. Ensure you headline says what the article is about (don't try to be too cute or coy) and try to work in a verb.
[Sound advice. I think some of my headlines could use a little pizzaz.]
Finally, (let's call this the bonus tip), read lots of blogs and find one you really like. Then imitate the heck out of it! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
- Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.