The (Very Short) Ultimate Guide to Blogging

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of writing guides out there. But in my opinion, none surpass the simple, direct advice of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B.White.

This classic serves up much good advice, especially in the last 20 pages in a section titled “An Approach to Style.” Nowhere have I seen more helpful advice in so few words and with such precision.

If (for shame) you don’t already have this reference in your library, I will leave it to you to explore it in depth. But I would like to provide you with eight important writing tips as they apply to blogging.

  1. Put the reader first. The purpose of writing is clear, sometimes persuasive, communication. It is not about you or your clever ideas. If you write to impress, you will distract the reader from the content. Good writing is like a store window. It should be clean and clear, providing an unobstructed view of the contents within.
  2. Organize your thoughts. You don’t need a detailed outline for your blog post, but you do need to know what you want to say before you say it. Simply jot down the important points you want to make and arrange them in the order you want to make them. Eliminate any ideas that are not directly related to these points.
  3. Use short paragraphs. Look at any newspaper and notice how short the paragraphs are. That’s done to make reading easier since our brains take in information better when ideas are broken into small chunks. In ordinary writing, each paragraph develops one idea and includes many sentences. But in blogging, the style is less formal and paragraphs may be as short as a single sentence or even a single word.
  4. Use short sentences. You should keep sentences short for the same reason: they’re easier to read and understand. Each sentence should have one simple thought. More than that creates complexity and invites confusion.
  5. Use simple words. Since your purpose is to communicate and not impress, simple words work better than big ones. Write “get” instead of “procure.” Write “use” rather than “utilize.” Use the longer words only if your meaning is so precise there is no simpler word to use.
  6. Be specific. Get to the point. Say what you mean. Use specific nouns.
  7. Write in a conversational style. There is a road sign often posted near construction sites that always irritates me. It reads, “Maintain present lane.” Why so formal? A more conversational style would be better: “Stay in your lane” or “Do not change lanes.” If you write as if you’re wearing a top hat and spats, you distance yourself from the reader and muddle the message.
  8. Be clear. This may be the most important rule of all. Without clarity, your writing fails on every level. You achieve clarity when you accurately communicate the meaning in your head to the head of your reader. That’s difficult. Look at your writing with an objective eye. Consider what might be misunderstood and rewrite it. Find what is irrelevant and delete it. Notice what is missing and insert it.

When writing fails, it’s probably because you don’t have something to say, are too concerned with affecting a style, or both.

Follow the suggestions here, and you will avoid these problems and many others..


32 thoughts on “The (Very Short) Ultimate Guide to Blogging

  1. I learned the power and persuasion of short paragraphs when I became a columnist for the newspaper. My first published article was memorable only in that it had these long blocks of writing, which looked terrible in print. I learned how and when to use the enter key more often, and I’ve translated that to blogs too. It gets your reader from point A to B with greater ease. And, yes, Elements of Style is the best. One copy is not good enough, keep one in the car, at work, in the bathroom. Make it your best friend.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. I have an issue with most of these tips, though. They’re not really for a literary style of writing but more of an information-driven one, right? The tips are practical and useful, but not really conducive to art.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Cristian, your points are good for other bloggers (writers) to consider. Your tip about being careful with paragraph length is crucial to keeping a reader’s interest. I try to limit paragraph length to four sentences when writing a longer article. As you noted, the journalistic form of writing works as well with a blog and a newspaper.

    Liked by 2 people

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