Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Tips For Writing Tolerable Blogs

You shouldn’t read a book on writing best sellers by someone who never wrote one. By this rule, you should close this tab right now.

My qualification is knowing what irritates me about blogs and being more patient than most of your audience. If you manage to bore me, you bored most everyone else long before.

Word Count

When writing for your own amusement, you can write works as long as you like. When writing for others, you want to at least keep people’s attention. It’s better if you’re entertaining too.

You want them to come back. The first thing your audience will notice after the title is that you’re a wordy bastard.

  • If a post primarily links to something, keep it under 100 words. Consider combining link posts.
  • For updates about your life, use less than 500 words.
  • To advocate or explain a position, aim for 500 words or fewer, max out at 1000 words. If your post needs more than 1000 words after merciless pruning, make it a series.

Keep Paragraphs Short

Long paragraphs are hard to read, especially on screen. Paragraphs should be one to five sentences long. Don’t abuse the extremes. They’re special occasions like ice cream, cake, and getting trashed.

Sentence Structure

Learn to write a damned sentence. You can start a sentence with But or And, but don’t abuse the privilege. Keep your sentences the right length. Punctuate appropriately.

There’s no magical appropriate sentence length, but it’s safe to say that most 27 word sentences exceed the escalator’s safe weight limit.

The easiest way to keep in-sentence word count acceptable is to avoid using lots of clauses. If it can be two sentences, consider splitting it.

Dump the Fancy (Prose)

It’s tempting to show off your verbal prowess with fancy words. Don’t. You want to keep people engaged, not show off.

Use conversational language, but follow grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules.

Embrace the Fancy (Visuals)

Most people don’t read books. You want to keep the attention of most people. Use headings, subheadings, bullets, numbered lists, quote blocks, and appropriate graphics.

But don’t have autoplay media. If opening your post starts a video or a song automatically, you’ve earned a Hate Point with each member of your audience. People won’t let you rack up many Hate Points before they stop visiting.


Shorter is better. Don’t be fluffy.

If I write a follow up to this, I’ll show a Before and After with some bad text made better. It’s challenging as hell for me to avoid editing-in-process, but I’ll come up with something.

Bonus: This post follows the rules I mentioned. That doesn’t guarantee that you enjoyed it, just that you were more likely to finish it. Bring the gravy.

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