30 March 2009

Blogging Tips : Six Very Official Ways to Improve Your Writing

shannon.jpgLooking to improve your blog writing? Today Shannon Paul ( @shannonpaul) from Very Official Blog gives her very official tips on the topic.

I love blogs. Before I started blogging seriously, I read a lot of other blogs and was very engaged as a reader. I commented a lot and began honing my ability to craft a statement quickly in response the ideas presented in the post. I’m still very engaged with other blogs in this way. However, if I’m being totally honest, most blogs I encounter are downright unreadable.

Now, I’m not going to run down the usual list of rules and grammar, but rather a list of things I think make me a decent writer.

1. Stop Trying to Sound Intelligent

You already are smart so stop trying to sound smart. So many people craft elaborate sentences with bigger words than they would ever use in conversation. If you have to use a lot of flower language, jargon or adjectives, you’re trying too hard. Choose your big words wisely. Blogs are not publications, they are conversations. Good writing is simple, but it’s hardly simple to write simply. Unlike speech and other forms of non-verbal communication, writing is a wholly unnatural activity unnecessary to human development or evolution. Give yourself a break and know that good writing is a process that must be practiced to be mastered.

2. Give yourself permission to write garbage

Do what you need to do to get your thoughts out — lead with some insipid quote from Albert Einstein, use a definition or some other tired cliche to get the words flowing and then take great pleasure in hitting delete or crossing it out when the time is right. Learn to let go…

3. Be a Ruthless Editor

Even the best ideas don’t always serve the overarching goal of the piece — get it out of there and save it for later if it’s really that good. Nine times out of ten, words like that and which can be crossed out without altering the meaning of the sentence one bit. By hacking away the extra, you’re making it much easier on the reader. Stop thinking of writing as putting words down on a page… writing is editing.

4. Use MIGHTY verbs

My journalism teacher would scream and writhe in agony in the classroom when we used what he called, “plankton verbs”, also known as “bottom-of-the-food-chain verbs”. Plankton verbs include: is, was, are and were. He would go so far as to restrict us from ever using these in an article and I don’t recommend you take such drastic measures when you’re writing, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind. Writing that lacks strong verbs gets boring fast.

5. Read aloud before posting

Another easy trick is to read what you write out loud. Things may seem self-explanatory in our head, but these are your words. If you find yourself stumbling over the words you just wrote, chances are you’re demanding too much work from your readers. Pare your sentences down.

6. Do what works for you

Everyone has his or her own process. I know a lot has been written about writing killer headlines and choosing keywords, but good content is at the soul of any great blog. Killer headlines may get the click, but good content will get people to stay awhile and maybe even choose to come back without the assistance of future keyword shenanigans.

Your Turn

By sharing these tips I thought I could clarify some of my own writing process and help others along the way. Since writing remains at the core of generating content, how do you hone your skills in a way that helps you clarify your voice for an online audience?

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