Writing Blog Posts

June 5th, 2014

Over the past month, I helped to coordinate a blog series on mental health awareness. As part of this coordination, I edited a number of the blog posts before we went live with them. After this intensive editing experience, I have three tips I’d like to share with folks who are interested in blogging to make their posts more effective and reader-friendly.

First, make sure to hone the focus of your post. If you can’t cover the topic adequately in three to five paragraphs, it’s probably too broad. In addition, avoid going on tangents. If an additional topic has you that excited, it’s probably a good focus for another post. Much like a good English paper (I know, I know, you thought you’d never have to remember this stuff again – but there was a reason they made us learn this in the first place), I should be able to determine what your topic is within the first paragraph – and it should make me want to come back for more.

But not too much more. Tip two is to keep your blog posts short – no more than three to five paragraphs. I know there are some folks that would say the occasional long blog post is okay – but that should be NO MORE THAN the occasional blog post. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you read a blog post longer than five paragraphs? There’s a reason the abbreviation “TL;DR” exists. People may scan your longer posts to glean the main points, but if you want to ensure readability, the shorter the better. (Aside: If you can learn to make your point in your posts through brevity, you are going to be very successful with business communications, too).

Finally, when all else fails, find a good editor. This is especially important if you are writing on a topic about which you are passionate. It can be hard to be concise when you really enjoy or get into writing about something personal or a topic that makes you excited. It’s also much easier to go off on tangents. Find someone who can help you focus and isn’t afraid to chop content when you’ve gone overboard.

Keep in mind that just as not everyone was made to get an “A” in English, not everyone is made to be a star blogger. But with a little bit of practice, bloggers can hone their skills and develop a solid writing style. Happy blogging!

  • I appreciate you sharing these tips but I’m going to push back a bit especially against your recommendation to (almost) always keep posts short. I appreciate brevity and conciseness but there seems to be an underlying assumption that blog posts are only for discussions of simple issues and I disagree.

    When writing a blog post, my goal isn’t to oversimplify an issue, get more hits on my webpage, or “become a star blogger.” I write to lay out my thoughts on an issue and the evidence and reasoning behind those thoughts. Although there are many people who don’t care to (often, always, or ever) read longer posts about complex issues, those people aren’t my audience when I write about complex issues or arguments that take time to build. I write to meet my goals and audience. If I can do that in a few paragraphs then that’s great but if I need to write more then I write more.

    A better recommendation may be to write as much as necessary but no more.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Kevin. I appreciate your thoughts, as always. I would like to point out that I mentioned in the intro that this post was for people wanting to make their posts reader-friendly. Obviously, that is not your main goal with your blog – you are sharing research and looking for a different type of audience. I would still argue that for most blogs, keeping posts short is important if they are trying to build readership. People are more likely to read a shorter blog by someone they don’t know than a long blog.

      Again, I think it’s a difference in audience and goal – not necessarily that either of us has the right answer here.