I’ve been writing online for nearly two decades and I’ve made my career as a professional freelance writer for more than half of that time. This is no “side hustle” for me and I don’t have another “day job” that I use to pay the bills. While there are certainly many writers who are more experienced and more talented than I am, I’d like to think that I’ve done reasonably well for myself.
When I look back at some of my earlier work, I can’t help but to cringe. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot over the years and I hope that my writing has improved correspondingly. To this end, I’d like to share a few simple tips as you work toward elevating your blog posts to the next level.
1. Write in a Natural Voice
The best voice that you can have on your blog is an authentic one. If you try to use too many big words just so you think you can sound smart, words that you wouldn’t normally use otherwise, you’re probably going to come off sounding either unnecessarily pretentious or atrociously ignorant.
Don’t do it.
Blogging is meant to be a little more on the casual side of things, for the most part, so just write the way that you speak. Choose your words carefully and edit rigorously, to be sure, but you want to ensure that your writing doesn’t sound overly contrived or artificial.
Depending on your niche, you may or may not want to avoid slang and nonstandard English, but it should still sound natural.
2. Leverage Formatting to Your Advantage
Canadian professor and philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said that “the medium is the message.” Understand the format that you are using and recognize how that will affect how your message is received (and perceived) by the public.
Writing a book (or an academic essay or a white paper) is different from writing a blog post. To this end, it’s important that you take the time to consider how a reader would approach your writing. Format your blog posts such that it is easy for someone to skim and get a sense of what you have to say.
Use those headers (H2, H3, etc.). Use bold and italic. Use bullet points and numbered lists. The easier it is for someone to read your content, the better. It may surprise you to hear that Internet audiences tend to have short attention spans!
3. Link Generously (With Discretion)
The most important thing is for you to provide value to your readers. Sometimes, this will mean “deep linking” to some of your older blog posts for reference, letting your readers know that they can find more information about a particular topic by reading an older blog post.
Linking to other sites is a good idea too and, again, deep links are generally preferable over links to homepages unless you really are referring to that website as a whole. I wouldn’t go and freely link to everything under the sun, but you shouldn’t be afraid about giving up some “link juice” if you are directing readers to a useful resource either.
4. Forget the Rules
While I believe that proper spelling and good grammar are great characteristics to have, they do not make for great writing on their own. I’ve been told that you shouldn’t end your sentences in a preposition, but it depends what situation you’re in. And sentence fragments are bad. So bad.
But when you break the rules strategically to achieve a certain effect, the result can be fantastic. Magical even. Like varying your sentence length, so things don’t get too monotonous. Know the rules, but don’t be afraid to break them.
And remember to have fun. Your readers can pick up on the enjoyment and passion that you put into your writing.