We continue our January series on blogging with some of the nitty–gritty of writing great posts. Have questions or more ideas? Let us know in the comments!
Flash back to middle school when you learned grammar rules, wrote sentence structure trees, and were grilled on the correct use of there/their/they’re. As a good blogger – and a good writer – it’s time to brush away the cobwebs and become your own grammar police.
Readers have a tiny bit of grace for spelling errors and grammar mistakes, but don’t ask them to excuse those often. You will lose readers as quickly as we dump correct apostrophes on twitter.
Here are some absolute musts for a good post:
- Become best friends with a good dictionary app.
- Use correct punctuation. Commas, apostrophes and semi–colons are your best friends. Use them.
- Please please please use paragraphs. A giant block of text will get people navigating away from your page in half of a hot second.
- Limit run–on sentences. Break it up. A general rule is to alternate short and long sentences for a smooth read.
- READ. BACK. THROUGH. YOUR. POST. A writer is only as good as their editor, and as a blogger, you are that editor. Take it seriously.
Check list for a great post: dictionary, punctuation, paragraphs, short sentences, editing, editing… did we mention editing?
Jon wrote about the importance of images in his Best Practices post, so I won’t spend too much time on why to use them. Just understand how important they are. Here are some tips how to use visuals.
Harness the power of alt tags. When you upload an image in your blogging platform, you should easily find a field called “alt text” or “alternative text.”
Why is Alt Text important, you ask? Because this is how searches find your site. When someone searches “blogging for writers,” for example, they may find this Megaphone Society series because the post and images are well–tagged.
An extra freebie: tag your posts well for the same reason.
On my blog, Piloting Paper Airplanes, I primarily write about running and fitness. I consistently get visitors from searches like “running motivation” because I have tagged my posts and graphics that way.
An added bonus is that the default text for a graphics pinned to Pinterest comes from the Alt Text for that image. I tag all of my blog images with “Piloting Paper Airplanes” and all Megaphone Society images with “Megaphone Society.” That way, if a user re–pins a graphic, the blog name automatically appears in Pinterest.
A word of caution: don’t steal another’s visual property.
As much as possible, use your own photos or create your own graphics. Some great royalty–free resources are Stock Exchange and Flickr Creative Commons. When you do use another’s image, be sure to link back to the original source when uploading the image.
The graphics we find for the Monday Motivation posts are a good example of a correct way to use another’s work. In the world of sites like Pinterest, those kind of graphics are created to share and should link back to the source.
Just like graphics, always cite your sources.
Many blog posts may not require sources. When you write about how you made great progress on your book yesterday, or about the hilarious thing your child did last night, you probably won’t be citing other articles.
But when you do read an excellent post, and want to write about it on your own, include links back. It’s basic blogging etiquette to do so. When you use an exact quote from another article, you must link back and make it an obvious quote.
For example: “Sometimes when you are going through rough times you need to hang on to every ounce of spiritual uplifting that you can find, and savoring the good moments is an easy way to be uplifted,” wrote Casey Voight on her blog. See what I did there? I’ve quoted her directly by name and I’ve put a link back to her post.
Not doing this is plagiarism, so make it a habit.
Selfishly, including more links in your posts improves your search ranking. So read blogs, find sources, then quote and link to them in your posts. Linking to your own posts also improves your search-ability When I include links like this, I do Megaphone Society a big favor:
Be wary of over–linking; readers can tell if you’re a Mega Linker just for search purposes. But regularly sourcing and including links is a key habit to develop.