Here at Futures we try to make it easy for people setting out to blog – whether on our site, for an academic blog or via LinkedIn. We’ve run many workshops with beginner bloggers, given feedback on a lot of drafts, and picked up some tips along the way. Here are 7 things to avoid.
#1 Writing a blog post like a press release.
Readers don’t usually read a blog for a dispassionate view of the facts, or just the official policy on something. Often, your readers also want to know what someone they can relate to thinks and feels about a particular subject. The experiences of a real person in a particular community can be very compelling reading in of themselves – take for example this piece on living accessed by UTS student Patrisha Domingo. Even for more academic blogs, finding a way to let your personality flow into the piece can really engage the reader.
#2 Hiding your light.
Sometimes it feels like you need to find a unique and informed perspective on a subject to even be able to write about it. Well, you know who already has a unique perspective on your subject? You! You have a very particular combination of experiences, skills, memories, knowledge and information to bring to the topic that no one else does. As long as you’re up front about the perspective you’re coming from – and its limitations – people generally get that you’re not setting yourself up as the world authority.
#3 Forgetting about great sources of evidence.
This is the ‘informed’ part. You can feel freer to speculate on a blog than you might do elsewhere, but backing up what you say with what other people have written on the topic can take the pressure off you to be authoritative, as well as really enrich your post. Linking to academic blogs or open source journal articles is an obvious and effective tactic. Asking one of your colleagues for their take and quoting them can make your content much more engaging too. And don’t forget about referencing other posts published on the same blog or platform.
#4 Going on too long.
It can be tempting when you first start – especially if you get on a roll, or if you’re more used to other writing forms – to try and cram everything into your post. If your post is more than 1,000 words, try dividing into two posts. You can even throw in a cliffhanger at the end of part one to encourage people to read more (and keep yourself on track to publish it!). Writing shorter posts more frequently (snack posting?) can help build the writing habit.
#5 Burying your lead.
I love the story about the journalism teacher who illustrates this point by telling their class to write a story about all the school’s teachers attending a colloquium the following week. The students get bogged down in the detail of the event and overlook the big news their audience really want to hear: there’s no school next week! I often see early drafts that start with something like ‘on Tuesday 11 April event x was held in venue y’. Beginnings like this don’t just bury your lead, they also make your post seem very time and place-bound. Work out what you really want to say – and what your audience wants to know – and ‘front load’ your post.
#6 Not starting.
The worst mistake you can make with blogging is not to give it a go. Come along to one of our blogging workshops or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat and some moral support.
#7 Using even numbers for a listicle.
Apparently odd numbers make people click on your story. (Hey, it worked on you!)
Note: if you’re writing a blog post based on a research article, I’d suggest checking out this step-by-step guide from the LSE’s Patrick Dunleavy.