The Blogger’s Style Guide: How to Write Stellar Blog Posts
At its most basic level, blogging is remarkably simple. After all, just about anyone can blog if they put their mind to it. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection.
However, there is a big difference between the act of blogging and writing something that is truly worthy of consumption. If you are serious about becoming a blogger then you should be keen to improve your craft.
That’s where the list below comes in: fifty of the most important tips I can give you about the art of blogging. I have gathered them over a period of 2 1/2 years or so, during which time I have written more than a thousand blog posts for over a hundred blogs.
Don’t forget to check out the comments section too, where you can share your own tips and read tips shared by others. Enjoy!
The Blogger’s Style Guide
- Grab yourself a copy of The Elements of Style and The Yahoo! Style Guide. They will teach you 90% of what you need to know.
- Let your personality shine through — you’re writing a blog post, not a text book.
- Stuck for topic ideas? Consider the following: common questions, breaking news and current events, pain points, desires, and personal experience.
- Still struggling? Set aside a non-time sensitive block to brainstorm ideas. Try to come up with ideas in batches — not one by one as they’re needed.
- Write with your audience in mind — who are you writing for and what are their motivations for reading?
- Create a headline that touches on one or more of the following: urgency, speed, ease, desirability, intrigue, controversy, outlandishness.
- Write a draft headline when you start a post but don’t finalize it until the end — the writing process will probably inspire you.
- Pick a headline/sub-header formatting style and stick to it. I recommend title case — in my opinion, it looks the most professional.
- Keep headlines and sub-headers short and snappy — treat them as an exercise in word economy.
- Include search-friendly keywords within your headline if doing so does not interfere with its readability.
- Don’t use the <h1></h1> tags within your post (they’ll be used for the header) and nest your sub-headers as appropriate (i.e. <h2></h2>, <h3></h3>, etc).
- As Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” Get your thoughts down first and worry about how to package and present your post afterwards.
- Start every blog post with a short introduction (100-150 words as a rule of thumb) that clearly states what can be expected from reading the post.
- End every blog post with a conclusion that highlights the key point(s) made in the post and gives the reader a clear call to action (e.g. “Share your thoughts in the comments section below.”).
- Break up your content regularly with sub-headers (every 3-5 paragraphs or so).
- Make sure that your sub-headers are consistently phrased (see point six here).
- Write using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Keep it simple!
- Pare out all unnecessary words during the editing process. The fewer words you use, the better. As Strunk and White put it, unnecessary words should be omitted “for the same reasons that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
- Use bold to highlight key phrases (but use sparingly!).
- Use italics to add emphasis to a particular word.
- Use exclamation marks sparingly (and only ever use one (e.g. not “I am so excited!!!!”).
- Never use ALL CAPS (it seems like you’re shouting) and do not underline anything (it will look like a link).
- Always use apostrophes correctly — both in terms of indicating possession (e.g. “Tom’s blog”) and when abbreviating words (e.g. “you’re”).
- Don’t screw comma usage up. The simplest way to prevent this is to speak your writing aloud, as it is written, to determine whether the flow of the words are natural.
- Never use ampersands (&) in place of “and” (unless it’s called for, such as in a company name like Johnson & Johnson).
- Use hyphens (-) to create compound words and double hyphens (–) to create a break in a sentence.
- Do not use double hyphens as a replacement for commas — they are very different.
- Semicolons should only be used to separate two statements within a single sentence that are grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction (e.g. “I like KFC burgers; they’re really tasty.”). An easy test is to ask yourself if the two phrases could be separated by a period (i.e. “I like KFC burgers. They’re really tasty.”). If they could, use a semicolon.
- When creating links, it is only necessary to include title text if a further explanation of where the link directs to is necessary.
- Links that are supplementary to the post (e.g. a link to a longer definition of a particular word) should be set to open in new windows. Links that are intended to move the reader through to a separate part of the site (e.g. the next blog post in a series) should be set to open in the same window.
- Use lists whenever possible. They’re attractive to readers and make the text far easier to digest.
- Include plenty of graphical elements to break up the relative monotony of your text when possible: photographs, screenshots, blockquotes, tables, charts, and so on.
- Images should either be full width or half width (or slightly less) and aligned to the right.
- Images should never be aligned to the left — moving the left margin makes the reading process less comfortable.
- Make sure that your images aren’t too big (as a rule of thumb, they should be under 100kb and preferably far smaller).
- Only use Creative Commons images. My favorite resources are Compfight, Google Advanced Image Search, Stock.XCHNG and Icon Finder.
- Always credit image authors — I recommend doing so at the bottom of your post in the following format: “Image Credit(s): Author Name“
- Save images with descriptive file names (e.g. “red-car.jpg”).
- Use descriptive alt text for images (e.g. “Red car”).
- Don’t include an image for the sake of including an image. It should be in some way relevant to the post.
- Never use poor quality images.
- Always proof read your posts — ideally by speaking them aloud (you’re far more likely to notice mistakes this way).
- If you are able to, leave a post to “mature” overnight and come back to it the next day. You’re likely to want to make some further changes.
- Don’t use your spell check as a crutch and never assume it is always right (it isn’t).
- Always check the definition of any word you’re not sure about.
- Use a thesaurus to expand your vocabulary.
- If you can afford to, only write about topics that interest you. Doing otherwise will quickly make you jaded.
- Read a lot and write lot — doing so is the best way to become a better writer.
- Blogging should be an enjoyable pastime; don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it.
- Check out the comments section below for even more tips.
That’s it folks! The fifty most important tips for blogging that I could think of.
Now it’s your turn. I want the list on this page to ultimately be far more than fifty, and that’s where you come in. I don’t care if you’re brand new to blogging or an pro — share your own blogging tips with us in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Kristina B