Monday, November 5, 2012

Blogging for writers - the perfect post

I blog on a mac - oh, the joy of no virus software

Is there such a thing as the perfect blog post?  If there is, then I'd venture it's a Platonic Form: perfect in conception but unreachable in reality. That shouldn't, of course, stop us from trying, and in a series of posts (at the request of a few followers) I thought I'd be brave enough to share some thoughts on what makes for good blogging.

I should start though, by acknowledging blogs take many forms. To some they're a variant of social networking, to others a type of promotion, even an income - many just want to share their stories with family or friends.  All these motivations are legitimate.

But my interest is in blogging as a writer; I care about the words, how best to shape them and present my thoughts to a reader. I'm interested in blogging as a means of serious publication, of writing for an audience as carefully as I would if in print. But in doing this I'm always aware that blogs are not books or magazines - we read them differently, with different expectations and in different physical places.

So it seems to me we've already touched on three essentials - the audience, the words, and the context in which they're read.  I'd suggest that regardless of content, it's an awareness of that triangle which makes for the basics of a good post.

Audience - your blog might be available to millions but you're not writing for just anyone. I always have a notional reader in mind, and that's not quite the same thing as my 'followers'. My reader is curious and intelligent more than they're male or female, they're definitely an adult, they read a fair bit and probably have a degree... You get the idea.  Many others will read the blog and enjoy it, but always I write for that imaginary person.

Words - words matter. It pains me to begin consecutive sentences with identical ones; paragraphs, the same. I have a sharp eye for repetition, I use an online thesaurus and I edit, edit, edit.  (The three sentences above have already received six  ten  a dozen changes)  And the rhythm matters too, particularly so when reading on screen - it need to flow and carry the reader along.

Context - blogs by their nature incorporate distractions: pictures, links, advertisements... In that sense they're similar to magazines. Except there's also the tabs on your browser, a ping for an email, a pop-up selling you insurance. Posts need to be short - or at least shortish. I suspect the ideal is  450 words - any more and you're working hard to hold your reader. That's not impossible (if you're still with me I'm nearing 500 ) but do keep length in mind, and separate your paragraphs, keeping them short. This one is now too long!

In closing, it's always good to link your last thoughts to the first. That's a technique of columnists and indeed of Plato and the old philosophers - who were apt to say, after a long dialogue, that the one thing they knew for certain, was that they knew nothing for certain at all.

I hope you'll take something from this post, but remember there's no correct way to blog - except of course, to enjoy it.


  1. You've offered good advice in the past which improved my posts considerably.
    I'll take these points on board too.
    Thank you.

  2. I don't think I have ever thought about my blog posts in the way you describe. Perhaps it shows, to my detriment. My purpose is simply to present the things that occupy me or attract my attention from day to day, for those who might be interested (mostly family, I suspect).

  3. Thanks for this, Mark. I well remember reading through all your posts on blogging when I first found your blog and learning a lot from them, so I shall bookmark this for future reference.

    By the standards outlined here, my blog is probably too wordy and the paragraphs too long, but that's a personal preference. I'm not fond of reading very short paragraphs, finding them too bitty and often disconnected, but that's probably just me. They say we write for ourselves as well as for a notional reader. :-)

    I know for sure that my average word length is above 450 words, but my post length varies widely. I do spend a lot of time trying to write well in the way you describe, because I love good writing in others and try to offer the same to my readers.

    I look forward to your future posts on the subject.

  4. Hmmm, interesting post Mark. I've not written a 'proper' blog post in yonks so can't actually remember the process I go through...I suspect that it's really not that in-depth!

    C x

  5. Your last point is the most important in my opinion. If you're not enjoying then there's no point doing it. From there you can consider form, language, audience, etc.

    I have one or two people in my head when I write my blogs, and I write to them, plus myself.

  6. I found your blog via the NaBloPoMo Blogroll on Blogher. I like what you have to say here. I agree that if you don't enjoy keeping a blog, then there is no point in continuing with it. Your indifference comes through in your writing. You can never hide that-- no matter how much you want to.

  7. I write as if I'm chatting away to a friend, so I must really go on and on in real life!

    Perhaps I need to write less and edit more...

    Good advice - not just for writers, but for anyone blogging who has the courage to make their blog a public one.

  8. Very interesting and timely for me as I've just started a blog. Although I write for a living, I have yet to find the right 'voice' for my blog as well as the correct balance between words and images.

  9. Wonderful advice, thank you.

    When I began blog..audience: my son who lived abroad.
    Words: didn't matter cause it was just mom talking to son.
    Context: just let him know how the garden was changing and keep him connected to home.

    Result...three years in, just barely over a hundred followers, I edit edit edit..
    Audience...well you know I don't know who my audience is to be truthful, but I keep writing to my son, that helps. Followers not always gardeners which surprises me.

    Okay..too long a comment :-)

  10. BTW...aiming for thirty posts this November? Hope so..same as last year. Looking forward to it!!!

  11. This is great advice for bloggers and you can always learn something new about writing online. Your sill as a writer certainly shows in this blog. Love it and will be back!