Can you get better at blogging?
Tip one: Use the spell checkr in your word processor.
It would have highlighted the misspelling in the line above: “checkr” as opposed to “checker.”
That quick review requires almost no skill, but it will improve your work significantly.
Yes, writing is an art, and you can spend a lifetime developing your skills.
But you can use this list of do’s and don’ts for better blogging right now.
Better Blogging Now: Do This!
First, the simple things you should do to write better blogs.
When you’re starting out, keep everything simple.
Come up with a single concise idea and write about it directly. Get to the point, and don’t get lost in the weeds. Say what you need to say quickly and post. As you get better at blogging, you can write more complex pieces.
For now, write short, direct blogs that remove the opportunity to fiddle, overthink and delay.
Get to the Point
Modern readers tune out fast. You don’t need to craft lengthy intros.
“The dictionary defines writing as ‘the activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text.’ In this blog, we’ll teach you how to … .”
Forget the high-school essays you wrote and jump right in:
“Here’s how to write better.”
Build Around a Great Line
Think of some of your favorite songs. Many of them likely have one thing in common: a great line.
We’ll let Paul Simon explain. This was taken from a 2011 interview on Americansongwriter.com:
“There’s a significant part of writing songs that I have no logical explanation for. It just seems to be something that comes from me. And I sort of recognize it, as opposed to shaping it. ‘Oh, that’s a good idea, that’s a good line. I wonder where I can use that.’”
Take a lesson from a master: Write down great lines when you think of them, then build blogs around them.
Use a Spell Checker
As stated in the intro, the built-in features of most word processors will correct many mistakes.
These programs won’t catch all errors—“their” versus “there,” for example—but they will prevent you from spelling “blog” as “bloggg.” When you’re done writing, use the spelling and grammar tool in your word processor.
Re-Read Before Publishing
It’s amazing how many people get to the end of a blog and just hit “publish.” Give it one more read first, with a fresh mind.
This is not the time to fiddle with the piece. You’re just looking for obvious errors—errors your word processor might have missed.
Here’s one no software tool can help you with: “Our five-week program starts Oct. 1 and ends Oct. 28.” That would be a four-week program, and you’ll spot the error only if you re-read your work—or have someone else do it for you (see below).
Have Someone Else Read Your Work
Great editors are rarely heard from, but they have a great effect on a writer’s work.
Ask someone to read your blog and give you feedback. Whom should you ask? Anyone who likes to read. Or, if you know someone who’s good at writing, ask him or her to take a look.
If you’re nervous about your work or tend to fiddle with it, this advice is even more important. Whenever you start to delay and tinker needlessly, ask for a second opinion. If the person says, “It’s done,” fire away.
Use Subheadings and Paragraph Breaks
Most people look at long, dense blocks of text with fear. Make things easy on people by improving the readability of your blog.
Break things into paragraphs and regularly sprinkle in headings and subheadings. Doing so will make the blog easier on the eye. When your section nears 300 words, chuck in a subheading.
This is increasingly important as more and more readers move to mobile and skim. Subheads are the things that can make skimmers slow down and help them find what they’re looking for.
Remember when Bart Simpson stopped playing the guitar?
“I wasn’t good at it right away, so I quit,” he explained.
You need to do the opposite: Keep writing and practicing. You’ll get better.
Business mentor Todd Herman offered a quote that can replace Bart’s:
“All the answers lie on the field of play.”
That means you learn by doing. So write!
You’ll learn by reading the work of great bloggers.
Here’s the output of Chris Cooper: Two-Brain Business. Chris has written four books, and he’s been blogging for more than a decade.
We recommend you head to Google and enter an area of personal interest and the words “best blogs.” You’ll get a host of sites you can visit. Bookmark the ones that really appeal to you and check in regularly. Ask yourself why these sites appeal to you, then use that info to inform your own production.
Better Blogging: Don’t Do This
And now the things to avoid if you’re after better blogging.
Don’t Try to Sound a Certain Way
Often, people who aren’t natural writers try to craft overly intricate sentences to obscure a lack of confidence. Don’t.
Write simply and directly. And don’t try to emulate your favorite writers. Be yourself.
Don’t Use Words You Don’t Understand
Related to the point above, people often use large or obscure words to try and elevate their writing. It usually doesn’t work. And it definitely doesn’t work if you don’t know exactly what the word means.
For example: The word “reactionary” does not describe someone who behaves a certain way because of a certain event. That’s reactive. “Reactionary” is a political term that describes people or policies that oppose change or favor a return to previous conditions.
Use simple words you understand.
Another example: Almost every pro athlete uses the word “myself” wrong because he or she fears looking stupid by using “me” or “I” at the wrong time.
“He passed the ball to myself, and I was able to score.”
That athlete is using a word he or she doesn’t understand. If you don’t know what a word means, you have two options: Google it or choose another word.
Avoid Overly Long Sentences
There’s nothing wrong with properly constructed long sentences. But they’re harder to create.
And modern audiences on mobile platforms don’t want complexity. They want brevity and ease of reading.
Don’t Worry About Length
In the beginning, we recommend you write shorter pieces. But shorter isn’t always better. And longer isn’t always better.
But great is always great.
When something feels “done,” it is. Don’t think you need to write more or less to hit some arbitrary target. Yes, search engines often favor longer pieces, but quality is more important than a long, pointless, meandering, poorly written article.
Don’t Write Outside Your Expertise
It can be very hard to write about something you don’t know. Professional writers are experts at investigating any topic and then writing about it. But you should stick to your area of expertise.
For example, if you’re an expert running coach, write about running. Not nutrition—until you learn more about nutrition. Then write about food and running.
But at first, stick to the things you know very well.
Stick with one idea per blog.
The subject of this one is better blogging. That’s it. Everything here relates to that point. In editing, I removed a line that suggested you add photos to your blog to break up the text. But that doesn’t tell you anything about writing, so I deleted it.
Don’t Feel Intimidated
Starting a blog can feel overwhelming, but everything gets easier.
If you regularly write short, concise blogs in your own voice, you’ll start to feel more confident in your skills. That confidence will help you build momentum, and after a while you’ll have no problem writing.
Don’t Edit Forever
You should carefully review your work before publishing. But don’t fiddle with something that doesn’t need fixing. At some point, you just need to put a period on the end of the last sentence and hit “publish.”
If you find yourself editing, editing and editing some more, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re being overly meticulous. Or ask someone else to read the blog and tell you if it’s ready to go. See Have Someone Else Read Your Work above.
Don’t Force It
Sometimes, words just don’t come easily. Pushing through difficulty is necessary if you have a deadline, but if you don’t, come back to the article later.
This advice shouldn’t be interpreted as permission to give up on something that challenges you.
But if you’re struggling badly, do something else and come back to the idea. If you struggle again, consider leaving that article for a while and attacking something that feels easier.
Don’t Give Up
Writing, like anything else, is full of good days and bad days.
And something you write will always be the worst thing you’ve ever published.
But on the other hand, something else will be the best thing you’ve ever written—and you’ll create lots of stuff in between. Blogging only works if you do it often, so don’t give up because of one challenging post, a lack of immediate response or any other factor.
Play the long game and keep on writing.
Better Blogging: Another Resource
These simple steps will help you get better at blogging—but we haven’t covered everything.
If you’d like to see how a blog is built using many of the ideas in this article, click the button below. We’ll walk you through the construction of a basic blog and teach you how to create an article of your own from a template.
Mike Warkentin is the co-founder of Two-Brain Media. He’s been publishing articles since the ’90s on various platforms.