How to write an online blog…for those petrified of writing

How to write an online blog…for those petrified of writing

How to write an online blog…for those petrified of writing

How to write an online blog…for those petrified of writing

“Just do it!”

Writing an online blog shouldn’t be like running a 4-minute mile, so why set yourself impossible goals? Just think of a blog as a gentle jog (see, it even rhymes!)

This is the first in a series of articles designed to help the ‘writing unfit’ become more athletic with their online submissions.

In this first blog, you’ll learn:

  • The 5-minute planning exercise
  • How to find your voice
  • Time-saving tips

Beach walking

How does online writing differ from ‘normal’ writing?

OK, just stop for a second….wait there. Woah!

Let’s back up and analyse that opening paragraph, a real-life case of, “Physician, heal thyself!”.

Is it?

  • Provocative – not in a nasty way, but does it make you think? Do the quote and the running metaphor help to create a mental image?
  • Interesting – as a reader, are you interested in blog writing? If not, then you don’t have to read any further than the first couple of lines. If you are though, then you should feel confident in reading on…..
  • Informative – this is a snapshot summary of what you can expect to learn in the blog, to help you decide whether it’s worth reading further [note: replicating these sub-headings also makes it easy for the reader to find the specific point of interest]
  • Easy to read – bullet points are great for scanning and creating white space which is vital when writing online. We’ll discuss this later in ‘Time-saving tips’
  • For opening paragraph tips, click here.

1. Planning tips

Why does online writing differ from ‘normal’ writing?

A brief introduction is required first; namely, why are so many people, who have written all their lives, so unsure of themselves when writing online?

Possible reasons:

  • It’s a new format – the old ‘Introduction / Main Body / Conclusion’ format doesn’t work so well
  • Everybody is time-poor – both the writer and the reader. There is so much (too much?) writing out there, with modern-day readers so overloaded with online information (and hence time-poor) that why should they read your blog?
  • It’s more ‘salesy’ – except that it’s not. There’s a big difference between grabbing the reader’s attention in the 1st paragraph and selling your products & services….a massive difference!

The 5-minute planning exercise

Think of this exercise like an exam question – you’ve only got a few minutes to plan what you’re going to say, so you need to THINK HARD for a SHORT PERIOD of time!

  • What is the question? Unlike in an exam, you’re not being asked a specific question or marked upon how well you answer it….instead, your readers will be your examiner – eek! So, you need to be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR about what you’re writing, or what question you’re trying to answer on their behalf.

-Write a keyword or/and phrase at the top of your piece of paper and keep referring back to it. Be brutal. If it’s an interesting but non-relevant point, save it for another blog.

– Don’t be afraid to restate your question in your blog – be clear about what it is you are trying to answer.

-Note: you’ll probably find that in writing one blog, you gather enough information/ideas for three or four other ones….that’s what I did when setting out to write this online writing blog, which became the first in a series of four

-For more background on ‘The 5 W’s and How?’  click here.

5 Ws

  • Start with sub-headings – do NOT start writing anything out properly at this point…resist the temptation!

Sub-headings should answer your question [see above], they should be key points which build up your argument to your final answer [see below]

-Re-craft sub-headings to make them into stand-alone, snappy, eye-catching phrases – these are what will draw the readers’ eye.

Re-use your sub-headings in your Introductory Summary [as I’ve done this with this blog]

  • What is your final answer? This is the point of your blog, your angle, your slant, your authority, the differentiating factor which makes your blog different and worth reading from the other thousands/millions of blogs out there?

-Use the sub-headings [see above] to build up to your answer

Now flip it, and place your answer at the top of your blog….ideally, straight after your question

-Make sure that your answer and your question are in sync

You now should have what is known as an ‘Inverted pyramid structure’, with a broad question/answer at the top, drilling down into levels of detail/explanation underneath.

Feel free to be visual – I always use Mind Maps myself, with arrows, doodlings, and quotes all over my initial plans.

However, the initial plan should take you no more than 5 minutes, and unlike an exam question, you can always leave it for a while and go back to it later.

OK, so now you know how to structure your blog, what’s next……

2. How to find your voice

blah blah blah
I’m amazed by the number of people who, when asked, tell me: “I don’t read anybody else’s writing…particularly not competitors of mine!”

To which I would reply: “Why ever not? How will you know your USP otherwise?”

This is not cheating! I repeat, it is not cheating! You are not looking over somebody’s shoulder in an exam to see what they are writing; you are merely giving your readers a unique point of view. If you’re uncomfortable, just think of this as market research.

Here are a few ways to help you ‘find’ your writing voice:

  • Keep articles by newspaper/magazine columnists you like – this will help you develop a style, and remind you what ‘good’ writing reads like. [see ‘Write like you’re having a conversation’ below]
  • Analyse competitors’ blogs – how often do they blog? Do they have specialist subjects which overlap with yours? What do they do well….or badly?
  • Think of your blog from your suppliers’/customers’ angle – how could your writing help them, be reposted or linked to them?

Write like you’re having a conversation

Remember, you don’t have to be grammatically correct.

By which I mean, you do have to be grammatically correct (make sure you spell correctly and for goodness sake have apostrophes in the right place), but you don’t have to be overly grammatically correct. For example, for those who say never start a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘Because’….why not?…Because that’s how we talk in practice!

Which brings me onto my final point…..

3. Time-saving tips

Most of this stuff is pretty self-evident, but it’s useful to have a checklist in front of you, just to remind yourself if you start to ‘go on’ a bit…as we are all prone to do!

Try to use:

  • Use the 2nd person singular; i.e. ‘you’ – see article #3 Online Grammar….when I get round to writing it!
  • Keep sentences & paragraphs short – if in doubt, break ‘em up!
  • Use bullet points or numbered lists – the eye is particularly drawn to online lists, owing to the ‘white’ space around the text (which as website designers will tell you, is often more important than the text itself!)
  • Sub-headings will help you – make ‘em snappy, use them to provide structure to your blog [see point 1.Planning Tips] and to keep your argument on track.
  • Easy words – if in doubt, use shorter ones!
  • Steer clear of jargon as much as possible – this will depend on your audience, but the wider the readership you want to reach, the less technical you will have to be. Use links to FAQ’s and (*) explanations wherever possible

So there you have it – a short, simple guide to help you to get started with writing your blogs.

Like anything, practice makes perfect; online writing will soon become second nature, and you’ll be running rings round your competitors.

The most important point though, is to ‘Just do it!’ – far better to be 50% right in practice, than 100% correct in theory!







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