I’ve always loved writing- I trained to do it as a profession and, when that didn’t quite work out as planned, I took a job teaching others how to write. Looking on Twitter and elsewhere, it seems that quite a few bloggers often lack confidence when it comes to their own work. As an obsessive writer, I thought it might be a good idea to put a few tips out there to help others when it comes to improving their own work. I don’t claim to be an expert, my readership is maybe not as big as some blogs (yet!), but I can give you a few pointers as to how to improve your blog posts!
1) Find a voice- Write in a way that feels comfortable to you. There is no point writing in a style that feels alien and uncomfortable. You won’t enjoy it and your posts will feel a little bit ‘off’ to readers.
2) Write about what interests you– This is often repeated and always true. You’re not getting paid to write your work, so don’t feel restrained when you are writing. Paid writers have to write about what they’re told to- at least in the beginning (I once spent two whole days working at the Halifax Courier ringing round the churches and schools to see if any events were happening that weekend. It was agony, but also a good learning curve!) If you write about what interests you- and hopefully you do this anyway, as you started your blog for one reason or another- you will enjoy the process much more!
3) Develop a ‘house style’- magazines and newspapers have what’s called a house style. This is a style of writing and layout that is consistent across the whole of the publication and means that, no matter who wrote an article, you can tell that it is part of the overall publication. Consider the language you use, the way you lay out your posts and keep it consistent. This way, you are much more able to promote your ‘brand’ in a way that people can identify with.
4) Spelling- if you want to be considered professional, this is an important one to consider and there is no way of getting around this. BUT! We live in a marvellous age where so many tools are at our disposal quickly and cheaply. I have a dictionary near my desk (yes, even as an English teacher, I sometimes need to use it!) and I use Ask Oxford too, particularly if I’m not sure how a word is used. If you’re not sure how a word is used, either check it out or don’t use it.
5) Grammar- Again, important if you want to be seen as a ‘professional’. Write in fluent, standard English, avoid text speak and try to use words like their/they’re/there properly (Ask Oxford is brilliant if you’re not sure!) Apostrophes are my big bugbear. Remember the golden rule: if you’re not sure, look it up. Those couple of minutes you spend looking up something could be what makes your blog look really put together.
6) Edit, edit, edit!- I am very self-critical. I tweak posts obsessively and I have been known to go back to posts that are months old and re-edit them. I make mistakes all the time, but I don’t get too hung up on them- I notice them, put them right and move on. My worst habit is repeating words in the same sentence or section. I really hate it, but I fix it as soon as I notice. I would be a TOTAL basketcase otherwise. As I’m typing this, I’m scanning the rest of the post for mistakes- how embarrassing would it be if I made an error?!
7) If you’re not happy, move on- I have loads of posts in draft form that I don’t think I’ll publish. I may come back and re-write them later, but at the moment, I’m not happy enough to put them out there. You need to think of your blog as a shop front. If you were a shopkeeper, would you sell bad food? Or something that was a bit substandard? Your blog is your product and what makes your reputation. If you’re caught as to whether something is good enough to publish, ask someone to read it first. If you’re too shy to do that, preview your work, read it aloud to yourself and see if you still hate it. If the answer is yes- bin it. If no- publish away!
Above all, enjoy your blog- it doesn’t matter if you’re not getting many readers yet, things do pick up! Just keep going and see what happens!
If you have any other suggestions, let me know- either in the comments or on Twitter: @wuthering_alice