It is hard to comprehend that a new blog is created every 7.4 seconds. Nearly 3,000,000 posts are made public every day. Over 10,000 updates take place each hour. These statistics come from Technorati and prove that there is a heck of a lot of content in our world.
The Internet and social media democratized writing. Unfortunately, so much of it is poor. The content tends to be unoriginal, dumbed-down, misleading and misinformed. Other issues persist including the regurgitation of the same content and the writer lacking credibility. There seems to be a need to pump out more, for more’s sake, rather than providing real thought, real value.
These issues impact the profession of writing and the efficacy of blogging. For those with a formal education in writing the vast majority of blogs provoke cardiac arrest. The very basics of writing are missing; structure, spelling, tenses, storytelling, and grammar. Too many blogs fail to include a unique point-of-view and a motivating call-to-action.
It is fair to say that the very nature of blogs is sloppy. They are opinion pieces lacking interviews and research, they are short compared to articles and papers, the content is built around SEO keywords, the style is casual, and, as covered, good writing is optional. Every single blog post would benefit from proofreading and editing.
Writing is an art form. Blogging must correct the ‘quantity over quality’ mission it currently pursues. Here are ways to make that correction.
Have a Point
How many blogs have you read that left you wondering, what was that all about? Many come across like a meandering vacation story from your most boring uncle. Or they are a blatant sales pitch for a product or service. Whatever the case, the writer is not giving the reader credit for having an iota of intelligence.
A point-of-view is your catalyst for writing. It should be fresh, creative, insightful and supportable. It is a thesis statement that the writer proves or disproves. This makes it valuable and memorable. A strong point will get readers sharing and commenting. The strongest of points will change minds and behavior.
Don’t Overlook Structure
Your point-of-view will expand into an overall concept and this where most blogs fall apart. In order to effectively communicate your concept, you need to organize your thoughts. The goal is to break down your thinking into digestible bits and make them flow logically. Stronger writers will then apply storytelling flourishes to that flow. In the simplest construct you must set the stage for the discussion, make each point with a supporting explanation, and wrap it up with a call to action.
Generate Unique Content
There are few original ideas in the world today but there are always original ways to convey them. You will not stand out or engage by making the same point everyone else is making. You must establish a unique angle and approach. This is accomplished with unique content.
Say you want to pen a piece on ‘Millennials in the Workplace’. Much has been written on topic. There are studies, articles, books, rants and research. Challenge yourself to generate unique content that supports your point. You could interview ten Millennials or compare the research that exists. Anything for a fresh spin over well trod ground.
Ideal Blog Post Length
So many people ask me about length of posts. My answer is simple. If it is well written the length will not matter. Entertaining pieces that tell stories work extremely well. Perception also comes into play. Longer pieces are seen as more credible. Do not be fooled by the commonly accepted wisdom that people have short attention spans therefore shorter is better.
There is a “longreads” movement afoot. The masses may still enjoy goofy “top ten lists” and spoon-fed “how-to’s” but influential and valuable audiences prefer to go deep into a subject to form their own opinions. These are thought leaders not lemmings or regurgitators.
Review Spelling & Grammar
Most bloggers do not have the luxury of proofreaders and editors but that doesn’t mean you cannot clean it up yourself. Use the online spelling and grammar tools. Read Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and add The Economist’s Style Guide as a bookmark. This will help you catch glaring mistakes and accept the ones that do happen as a lesson.
One word of advice. Do not edit at the outset. Just get everything down. Get the content on the page. Then structure and organize it. Once you feel it is “done” proofread it at least twice. Ideally, have one or two people read it and be prepared for healthy critique. No one enjoys criticism but the exercise can prevent you from putting out something you are not proud of.
Define Your Goal
So you have written a piece. You are excited by it and want to express your opinion. That cannot be the end goal. Writing for the sake of writing is fun and will better your skills but when it comes to blogging you want people to do something with what you contend. My call-to-action for this piece is straightforward, I want you to focus on better writing so the content in our world is original, smart, engaging, entertaining and changes minds and behavior.
Every post needs a call to action. It does not have to be as lofty as what I have set out. Maybe you want people to sign up for your newsletter, read more of your blogs, visiting your entire website, purchase a product, or share the piece with their peers. Whatever it is, have it in mind from the moment you begin writing until the moment you post.
Good writing is meant to serve the reader, not the writer.
The less blogging is an indulgent act, the stronger the impact. Most blogs are self-serving. We will end up with more powerful blog by focusing on better writing with clear, strong purpose.
Jeff Swystun helps companies and brands grow their influence and value. His consultancy, Swystun Communications, focuses on the critical intersection of business and brand strategies. A prolific speaker and writer, he has spoken at over 100 conferences in over 25 countries, edited The Brand Glossary and Best Global Brands reports, and is quoted in over 250 publications including The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Fast Company,