This is a guest post by Ali Luke.
Are you damaging your blog’s chances of success … without even realizing it?
Photo Credit: Anonymous Collective on Flickr
Lots of very good writers still get some blogging basics wrong. And if you know writing isn’t your strong point, avoiding these seven mistakes will make your posts dramatically better.
Mistake #1: Only Writing when Inspiration Strikes
Inspiration is a powerful force … but a fickle one. If you only write when you’re inspired, you’ll start to confuse your readers with three posts one week and no posts for the next month.
Avoid it: Learn to turn inspiration on when you need it. That could mean having a writing ritual where you always sit down with a coffee in your favorite mug at blogging time. It sounds a bit silly, but it can really work for getting you in the “write” mood.
Mistake #2: Not Having One Clear Point
Many bloggers get tripped up by knowing too much, rather than too little, about their topic. It’s easy to end up throwing everything into your post â€“ only to end up with a rambling, chaotic piece that goes off in five different directions and makes it tough for the reader to engage.
Avoid it: A little forward-planning will ensure your blog post does have a clear point (which can, of course, be split into sub-points). Coming up with a great, focused title can be a good way to pin down the point of your post.
Mistake #3: Having a Long-Winded Introduction
Introductions should grab the reader and move them swiftly into the main content of the post. If your introduction goes on for too long, you’ll lose the reader before you’ve even begun.
Avoid it: Cutting the first paragraph you wrote often works well to sharpen your introduction. If that isn’t going to work for yours, you can almost certainly trim down the rest â€“ for instance, you don’t need to spell out, blow by blow, what you’re going to cover in your post.
Mistake #4: Writing in Long, Dense Paragraphs
Reading on a screen is tougher than reading on paper, and if your post is made up of long, dense blocks of text, people will click away before reading a single word. If you’re used to writing academic material, you may find this a particular problem.
Avoid it: Write in short paragraphs, and use subheadings and bold text to break them up. (You might prefer to do this while editing rather than during the first draft of your post.) A good rule of thumb is to keep paragraphs to no more than three sentences.
Mistake #5: Being Too Formal
Most blog readers expect a friendly, chatty tone â€“ and they don’t want to read posts that sound like lectures. Complex vocabulary and technical jargon often put up a barrier between you and the reader, as do passive sentences. (“The ball was thrown” = passive; “I threw the ball” = active.)
Avoid it: When you edit, look out for overly-formal words. If you need to use jargon or acronyms, explain them. Keep sentences short, simple and direct â€“ you’re not trying to impress your high school English teacher here.
Mistake #6: Leaving Out the Call to Action
A “call to action” is a prompt like “Check out my new book here” or “Leave a comment below to tell me what you think.” It’s a powerful way to increase engagement and conversions â€“ but many bloggers end their posts without giving the reader any clues about where to go or what to do next.
Avoid it: With every post you write, ask yourself what you want the reader to do after reading it, and write a call to action. Bonus points if you can easily link it to the post itself. (E.g. “subscribe to my blog” works well if your post is part of a series â€“ readers won’t want to miss the next part.)
Mistake #7: Publishing Without Editing
If you breathe a sigh of relief as you finish your draft and hit “Publish” straight away, you’ve lost the opportunity to make your post as good as it could be. Publishing without editing results in posts that aren’t quite there â€“ with half-realized thoughts, or lots of spelling mistakes.
Avoid it: Let your post rest for at least a few hours before you read it through and make edits. Pay attention to the big picture (structure and flow) as well as the details (spelling, grammar and punctuation).
Have you spotted one of these mistakes on blogs that you read? Or is there a mistake that you need to watch out for in your own writing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…