When I first started blogging over eight years ago, I thought creating content was a piece of cake. Well, it turns out I was making the same mistakes, over and over again.
Why? Because even if you are aware of what makes a fantastic blog post, it’s all too easy to forget them as you write your article. That’s why I have a list of questions I ask myself after I write, rewrite, and edit my article. When I think it’s time to click on the publish button, I take a look at the following questions:
1. Did You Follow The 24–48 Rule?
I hate this question more than any other on this list. And I hate this rule.
The 24–48 rule is simple. When I think I’ve finished working on an article, I wait for at least 24 hours.
Why 24? Why 48?
Because, in most cases, you can’t afford to wait longer than that:
- If you publish an article every week, 2 days is a lot, and odds are you’re not prolific enough to produce more content within this time-frame.
- If you publish daily (or more often than that), then you certainly can’t afford to wait more than 48 hours.
The idea is to spend just enough time to step outside the writer’s mindset and into a reader’s mindset.
After I wait for at least 24 hours, I read my article again. I give myself a bit of time, so I distance myself from my work.
I write under the spell of inspiration most times, so I think I’ve written something brilliant into existence. A few weeks later, when I read my article again, I’m often disappointed. Returning to an article after a while means that you can be objective about it, notice its flaws more easily.
2. Do You Deliver on the Promises You Make in the Headline?
Even though I am well aware that most readers hate clickbait, sometimes it’s all too easy to get carried away and add a sensationalist claim in your headline. This question keeps me honest.
Does my content match the claims I’ve made in the headline?
3. Is Your Article Relatable?
What is the essence that I want my readers to internalize by reading this post? Did I write with passion about the things that matter to me? Odds are, that’s something someone else can relate to.
The articles that add value are not fairytales. They are true stories. And I ask myself this question to remind myself how important it is to write from experience, to share those insights in my articles. I read my article and ask myself, “Do I teach? Do I preach? Am I trying to be a saint?”
4. Is Your Perspective on This Topic Different From Others in Your Niche?
The goal is to add to the conversation that goes on in the community. The best way to do this is to make sure I don’t repeat what others have said. Oftentimes, when there are no new insights that I can offer, I focus on writing about my own experiences.
5. Does the Writing Flow in a Way That Makes Sense?
Itry to write in such a way that readers understand what my article is all about. I try not to meander, or change the subject, or use pretty words that mean nothing.
6. Does the Length of Your Piece Reflect the Necessary Depth of the Subject?
If I’m looking to get rid of a nasty habit or addiction, I want all the help I can get, so I won’t settle for 500 words and seven “deceptively” simple tips that are not in the least bit helpful.
Sometimes I write 2,000 words that are just about a simple life hack or productivity strategy, and I realize it’s just me falling in love with the act of writing. That’s why I ask myself this question. Did I give my readers everything they need to take clear and actionable steps? Did I give them more? Did I give them less?
7. Is It Absolutely Obvious What Kind of Value You’re Adding to Your Readers’ Lives?
Do you help your readers solve a problem? Do you share the required steps? Does your headline accurately describe what people are about to read? Do your subheads define what your readers will be learning? Does it all look enticing enough for someone to want to read your article?
All of these questions help me make sure that I was clear enough about my article that I wrote exactly what I had in mind to write. Nothing more, nothing less.
8. Is This Article Yours?
It sounds like such a silly question, but sometimes an article doesn’t truly belong to us. Maybe the topic does not inspire us, maybe we don’t have a real emotional connection with the ideas we’re sharing. Most times, I’m trying to write like someone else. And when I go over my article, I can always tell.
9. Is Your Writing Clear and Concise Enough?
Have you explained your subject in a way that everyone will understand? Is your language overly flowery or is it easy to comprehend? Do you attempt to connect with your readers by asking questions?
Brevity is not about writing like Hemingway. It’s about making sure each sentence builds upon the previous one. There’s got to be a point, there’s got to be an insight, an idea, an element that moves the action forward or provides an emotional undertone.
10. Have You Checked Thoroughly for Typos?
Yeah, kind of. I often skip this question by telling myself that no one’s perfect. And, well, the fact that I often skip this step proves that no one’s perfect.
11. Is the Blog Post Properly Formatted?
This last step is all about the way the article looks on a page. Is there variety in the way paragraphs and sentences are distributed? Short and long paragraphs, short and long sentences. Punctuation marks. Bullet lists. Bold, italics, underlines. I squint at my article from afar. I read it on my phone. I check to see if all my subheads are the same font size and if they follow the same rule regarding capitalization and punctuation. Those things matter. A lot.
Bonus Question: Should I Wait a Little More Time Before Publishing?
Would coming back to my article in a few days’ time help me come up with new ideas that can improve it? Even after all the revisions, I do after answering the previous questions, sometimes the answer is “Yes, I should wait a bit more before I publish my article.” Sometimes I get the feeling there’s more to say, or that I could try a different angle, share most of my experiences.
I ask myself these questions because, to be honest, I need to be reminded of what needs to be done, why, and in what order. This is why a set of questions to ask yourself before publishing an article comes in handy. It’s a roadmap. It shows you where you need to be, and how to get there.