(originally published with TKO Graphix)
Of the elements critical to a successful blog, writing quality is among the most important. It shapes your content. Good writing isn’t noticeable and it doesn’t interfere with your message. It’s not extremely difficult, but it requires skill, and EVERYONE should write well. After all, writing and speaking skills are required for professional correspondence, as well as employment applications, reports, etc. Poor communication can have ridiculous consequences, and our acceptance of low standards, IM-speak, text-speak, etc., are contributing factors.
As for blogging, it seems some authors would care more about how they present their message. While aesthetics, great images, and good usability draw people into your posts, the content, and how well it’s communicated, keep them reading and coming back. As a web developer, I frequent design blogs for great content; however, it’s apparent too many authors still don’t understand the importance of GREAT communication, despite their immense design and coding skills.
We could all improve our writing skills, and the following are quick tips…
1. Write ‘til your heart’s content, no matter how badly structured your output. Then EDIT your piece; split writing and editing into two phases. Correct and reshape in the editing process, then have a trusted editor review. The editor should be honest, objective, and knowledgeable about writing styles and the medium.
2. There’s a lot of competition, so write with passion — but in the editing process, forget your ego, and listen to constructive criticism. There are LOTS of voices screaming for attention, and you have to give your audience a reason to stick around. You may have a brilliant post, but it’s best to assume no one is interested until you have a following.
3. Avoid using cheap-thrill attractions or outrageous titles to cover for lousy content. You’ll get called out if people care enough to comment. Create QUALITY content. Most of us—seasoned professional or newbie amateur—are so excited about what we create, we’re often unaware of our reader’s perception and the quality of our product.
4. Learn Punctuation. Inconsistent punctuation and runoff sentences poorly communicate the message, and can completely reshape your words in ways you do not intend—as in this infamous example of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss.
5. Cut The Fat. Wordiness is caused by thoughtlessness in how we write, and is echoed in our speech. Cutting the fat means writing directly, without filler words. Overused words like “that” are often unnecessary, and lines like, “as a matter of fact,” are always worthless. As a matter of fact, this phrase often addresses a subjective, non-factual statement, and is NOT a fact, which makes it a false statement. Useless words make a blog post longer, and they force the reader through more hurdles before getting to the point. Learn to speak and write concisely. Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style explains this well. ALSO, I like using contractions and reducing syllables for web copy (ex: use “hasn’t,” instead of “has not”). Make it simple.
I could go on, but if you wish to be an authority on your subject, you must take the delivery of your content seriously, and publishing great content shaped with poor grammar is very unprofessional.
Check out these resources, and make the writing disciplines a part of what you do every day.