One of my former professors recently asked me for a small favor. Her first-year students are writing up blog posts after attending a plain language presentation, and she asked if I could provide some tips for how to write a great blog post, in light of the work I’ve done with this blog. Of course, I said I’d be happy to oblige.
Of course, that meant I actually had to come up with some actual tips! After some careful consideration, I think there are a few key elements I’ve found that make a blog posting successful.
First, it’s all about the mind set. I don’t think many people necessarily know what they want to say, or think of themselves as “bloggers.” So, the primary step is to have the right attitude. My blog post titled, “I’m not a writer. Wait…you say…I AM?” outlines this concept. As I said in that post, I never thought of myself as a writer until very recently, and in some instances, I still don’t. It’s all about the attitude and the right mind-set of having to write.
Second, I would simply say to write from the heart, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Use the blog post as if it’s a one-sided conversation with someone else out there on the Internet. You might not know who your audience is, but that audience is out there! I would know–this blog just passed the 9100 all-time hits mark at this writing, and it’s still counting towards that 10,000 hits mark! (Remember, this blog started out as a combination of a grad school project and a whim a year ago. I never expected anyone to read it at all!) It’s important to have an opinion when writing these posts. If you thought that the presentation was boring, you should say so, and say why. If you liked it, then say so, and why. People are attracted to blogs because of the opinions of the writer. It applies in social media too, if you think about it. Why do we follow certain people on Twitter, Facebook or Google+? Because there is something about the point of view of a particular person or group that you find interesting, entertaining, or informative. The same thing applies to blogs, which is really a long-form extension of Tweeting, if you ask me. ;-)
Third, make sure that if you don’t have all the facts, admit to not having all the facts. It’s okay if you aren’t the world’s foremost authority on a topic, but supply support or backup for what you do know when you can. For example, if there’s a link to a recording of the presentation you saw, include it in the blog post, so other people can listen, then read your interpretation. If possible, include a small image (like the one I have above) that helps to visually set the tone as well. I rarely leave out an image, and if I do, it’s because it’s related to curated content that doesn’t have an appropriate image to post.
Fourth, even though you have an opinion and you’ve presented your facts, don’t write unprofessionally. What I mean by that is don’t use profanity or be offensive, and make sure your grammar and formatting is as correct as you can make it. Your blog is just like a portfolio or the clothes you wear. It is a reflection of you, and you want to present yourself in the best light possible, even if you are speaking about something controversial. I know I’ve written about controversial topics in the past, but I would try to provide my point of view as clearly as possible, with as much supporting evidence as I could provide. You don’t need to be über formal, but you have to respect your reader’s intelligence. If you do this, he or she will respect you in return, even if the reader has an opposing point of view, and will continue to visit your blog.
Lastly, edit, edit, edit! Even as I’ve written this post, I’ve reviewed it, and proofread, and re-written several sections multiple times. It’s like any other writing process. Nobody nails the perfect post on the first try. There have even been times where I’ve written the post, saved the draft, and walked away for a while to come back with new insight or a fresh eye to tweak it some more.
I think this covers the basics of how to write a great blog post. Be yourself, present yourself in the best light as you write your words, and have fun with it! This is what has worked for me, and hopefully it can work for you, too. You might be surprised by the response you get as a result.
(Good luck, PTC 601 students!)