Blogging is a relatively new subset of the writing, and while thousands of people do it with little to no previous writing experience, gradually mastering your craft as a writer should be a goal of every blogger. While there is no one correct way to write, especially when it comes to blogging, there’s always room for improvement. Use these writing tips from well-known authors to improve your writing, presentation, and style.
1. Cut Down Adverbs
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain
Mark Twain is one of the most famous of the early American writers, thanks to his real, direct style, and friendly characters. He was also famous for his curse words, which can be seen in his advice. The moral? If you’re writing something, don’t use redundant words. For instance, you can substitute or omit the word ‘very’ in almost all situations. ‘It’s not very interesting’ means the exact same thing when you remove ‘very’, and ‘My desk is very neat’ could just as easily be replaced by ‘my desk is immaculate’. Most readers don’t mind the use of ‘very’, but you’ll quickly see your writing tightening up and improving if you avoid using it.
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” – Stephen King
Stephen King agrees with Mark Twain as well. Adverbs can get long, make it difficult to read a sentence, and can be confusing. Trim them down, either while you’re writing, or on the second draft, to produce clear, concise blog posts. What are adverbs? It’s any word that modifies a verb. Some common examples include gently, here, now, very, and in a sentence like “he quickly runs”, quickly is the adverb. Should you avoid them altogether? No. Just don’t get so caught up in describing what you are talking about that you lose what you’re talking about.
2. Write When You’re Inspired
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” – Saul Bellow
While you may want to edit a few times, no matter what Saul Bellow, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author says, he does have a point. That point is, if you write with passion, you’re writing something good. Write when you’re inspired whenever possible.
3. Develop Your Style
“Every great or even every very good writer makes the world over according to his own specifications. It’s akin to style, what I’m talking about, but it isn’t style alone. It is the writer’s particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There’s plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.” – Raymond Carver
“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.” – Franz Kafka
Having your own style is crucial to standing out on the web. Anyone can write. You have to do so in a way that makes readers remember you. Sometimes it takes a while to find your style but just keep writing, and try not to model your writing off of anyone.
4. Edit and Perfect Your Work
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
It’s easy to write something, publish it, and call it a day. Don’t do this. Edit, go over your work, check the reading level, remove redundant phrases, remove unnecessary adverbs, and make your work easy or even enjoyable to read. It may be more work, but it will mean a happier reader and a better blog.
5. Stay Focused on the Subject
“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” – G.K. Chesterton
This is especially important if you’re writing a business blog. Very few people want to read about you. If you’re telling the story, tell the story, don’t use the blog to advertise, or tell about your life problems, get to the point, and focus on what’s at hand.
6. Be Conversational
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it” – Elmore Leonard
This doesn’t always hold true, but blogging is a lot like having a conversation. If your writing is too refined, it could seem pretentious to your readers. Unless you’re writing for a professional company, try to retain some elements of conversational English, and keep it friendly.
“If you’re using dialogue, say it aloud as you write it, only then will it have the sound of speech” – John Steinbeck
Reading your text aloud is also a great way to catch errors, but most importantly, it helps to ensure that your speech is natural, rather than stilted or overly formal.
7. Be Interesting
“I try to leave out the parts that people skip” – Elmore Leonard
Always re-read your blog and make sure that it’s not boring at any point. If you are bored, then readers, who are likely in a hurry, will be too. How do you find boring spots? Give your article 10 minutes to an hour after you write it, come back, and re-read it with fresh eyes. If a paragraph is boring, either remove it or make it more interesting.
“I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from someone telling them a story and I don’t want them to get up until I’m finished” – James Patterson
How can you make your blog more interesting? Even if you’re writing about cooking, try to create an excitement factor, or add interest through humor, or draw appeal through great photography. If you can’t hold the reader’s attention, you’re wasting your time.
8. Use a Theme and a Blog Outline
“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it.” – Herman Melville
Everyone writes blogs. There are more than 450 million active English blogs. Don’t write about the mundane. Write your blog around something interesting, powerful, moving, or useful, and stick to the theme throughout.
“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it” – Edgar Allen Poe
Like Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe suggests starting with a theme and building around it. This is incredibly important for creating a well-structured blog that offers value to the reader.
“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” – William Faulkner
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King
William Faulkner and Stephen King both offer this advice, and it’s good no matter what kind of blog you’re writing. You have to know your subject matter, you have to read for inspiration, for ideas, for knowledge, and for style ideas. Even if you only read other blogs, keep reading.
10. Skip Pointless Punctuation
“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Semicolon rarely a place in the modern text, and surprisingly, Kurt Vonnegut’s advice holds even truer on the web, where semicolons are rarely useful, and almost always easy to replace with better sentence structure.
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Exclamation points are sometimes okay, you don’t have to lose them completely, just try to use them as little as possible. The more you use the exclamation point, the less value it holds.
11. Find Inspiration
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
Jack London found his inspiration in the gripping winters and gold mines of Alaska and Canada. You can probably find yours a little closer to home. But you do have to put yourself in a time and place where you can be inspired. For example, reading, taking classes, following RSS news, and so on.
12. Keep Writing
“Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.” – John Updike
You’re not always going to be inspired to write. Do it anyway. If you write down your ideas and keep track of them, and turn your blog into a disciplined habit rather than something you do when you feel like it, you will get better, and you’ll be more consistent.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical, and it’s also one of the most famous books of all time. While her words were about her poetry, the moral of the quote is that you can turn anything into a great post with a little creativity.
“Quantity produces quality, if you only write a few things, you’re doomed” – Ray Bradbury
No one wakes up one day a great writer or blogger. Like all things, it takes time. Give yourself that time, and practice. Post often, and learn from your mistakes.
Writing is an acquired skill, and with practice, anyone can be a great writer. When blogging, you have to write for your readers, which isn’t unlike writing for a newspaper or magazine. The moral of the advice that every great writer gives is to keep writing, don’t be redundant, and don’t be afraid to learn and improve.
This is a guest contribution by Mike Hanski, a seasoned writer who spends his weekdays writing for Bid4papers and developing content strategies for his freelance clients. In his free time, he reads (Sci-Fi classics), hikes, and works on mastering the guitar.