Close
Close

How to Write Better Posts, Every Time

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Read more posts like this one at her blog, Skelliewag.org, or subscribe to her RSS feed.

Whether you blog about internet marketing, parenthood, karate or ballpoint pens, there are certain things you can do to make each post better. This week, I want to share several strategies you can use to make your posts more gripping — regardless of their length or topic.

A simple rule for every post

Omit any sentences or paragraphs in your post that don’t fall under the following two categories:

1. Words that persuade visitors to read the article.

2. Words that visitors will want to read.

Your posts should, ideally, flow from one category to the other. The aim of your introduction is to hook visitors in: to give them a reason to read on. The rest of your post should be dedicated to delivering on your earlier promises.

A common mistake I see bloggers make is to forget persuasion: to start with a long anecdote or rambling detail without a hook. If visitors can’t see what they stand to gain from reading your content, they’ll skip it. While their visit will add +1 to your site stats, it won’t grow your blog.

A useful habit — When settling down to write the first paragraph of your post, don’t launch into the content straight away. Instead, dedicate the first paragraph to words that will persuade the visitor to read. While you could achieve this with an intriguing anecdote, a controversial statement, or a knock-out opening sentence, the “tell them what you’re going to tell them” approach has worked well for me. It won’t win the Pulitzer Prize, but being able to say “this article will do this, this and this” is easy and effective. Sometimes the most simple and obvious option is the best one.

Deliver on your promises

Your introduction will have raised certain expectations about what your post is going to deliver. Resist the temptation to provide extensive background detail or otherwise include too much preamble to the real value in your post. Once your introduction is finished, get started with a bang.

A useful habit — Start with your best point first. A reader who was gripped by your introduction may soon lose interest if your content doesn’t make an immediate impact.

Remember to link out

Once you’ve finished your post, go over it and try to spot opportunities to link out to other websites and blogs. It will add more depth and value to what you write. Even top bloggers will follow up a trackback with an interesting title, so linking out can be beneficial from a ‘getting noticed’ perspective, too.

Help longer posts get read

If your post is longish, sign-post your logic with sub-headings. Ideally, a visitor who reads your sub-headings alone should be able to come away with a rough sketch of the ideas in your article.

Readers are excellent at extracting ideas in a minimum amount of time. Even if a reader isn’t interested in your first idea, they might see a sub-heading further into your article that sign-posts an idea or topic they have a lot of interest in. Sub-headings don’t encourage scanning — they encourage reading. If you saw a sub-heading you had intense interest in, it would be silly to pass it by and move on to the next thing. Sub-headings represent extra doorways into your post.

A dog balancing a cup on his head.
Photo by SuperFantastic

Add visual interest

By adding images, color and formatting to your post, you’re making them more enjoyable to read. A text-only post might excite our mind but if it bores our eyes too much, it will never be as effective as it could have been. Emphasizing key sentences in bold is a simple yet powerful way to make your posts more gripping.

A useful habit — Make a pact with yourself to add at least one image to each post you write, even if the post is short (and even if the image is very small). By adding align=”left” or align=”right” to the HTML tags for your image, you can push your image to the left or right of surrounding text. You can use stock photography, take your own photos or, my favorite option, find and use great Flickr images.

Put the ‘I’ in Write

Unless you’re a personal blogger, it’s hard to be unique. Most of us blog in crowded niches and most topics have been covered before (in some form or another). The only unique part of the equation is you. By blogging conversationally, sharing aspects of your personality and presenting ideas in your own way, you’ll differentiate your content with every post.

A useful habit — If you’re writing about news in your niche, ask yourself the following questions: does this affect me or someone I know? What do I think the implications of the news will be?

If you’re sharing advice or tips, ask yourself the following questions: how has this advice helped me, personally? What made me decide to start using these tips or methods? What kind of mistakes was I making beforehand?

When writing any type of post, ask yourself: could I work my own experiences into this, in a relevant way?

Points to review

  • Start your posts with words that help persuade visitors to read them.
  • Once you’ve done that, start delivering on the value you’ve promised.
  • Go over finished posts and add relevant links.
  • Add sub-headings to provide multiple entry points into your posts.
  • Add at least one image or graphic to every post you write.
  • Inject your personality and experiences into your posts to help differentiate your content.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. Dana says:

    Posts like these are getting tedious. They give the same advice over and over.

    As for the introduction, I hardly ever read them. They are just fluff. The title says what it is about, I just want to get into the content. Have you done polls on this or is this just how you personally read blog posts?

  2. Greg says:

    And remember: good posts take time :)

  3. Fantastic article, definitely an inspirational article to remember each step— everyone of them is an excellent method to produce quality content.

  4. Tess says:

    What a fabulous illustration this post is of you practicing what you preach!

  5. Good points, I particularly like the idea that your first (small) paragraph should tell the readers what they will find in the article.
    Also, I know that now-a-days every blogger is emphasizing that there should be at least one image in a post but I find such images rather disruptive to my chain of thought. Am I the only one who feels that way?

  6. According to me, the most important thing to is: shoot straight to the point, and stay there.

    This pretty much sums everything up. Many bloggers ramble on and on and on and give long and uninteresting introductions. Why do that and lose your readers? :o

  7. Guillermo says:

    And yet another post on how to write posts… You could have added “originality” but… well… you know.

    Nice post anyway, eh? The title is so illustrative that I just jumped to the comments.

  8. Frugal Dad says:

    Great advice…I particularly like the part about writing a strong opening paragraph. I have a bad habit of jumping right into the content without setting up a good hook first.

  9. Makakman says:

    Nice one Skellie, I’d agree with you and have to disagree with Famous Quotes on the image front. I think images, 2 maybe 3 at most, break up what could other wise be a long page full of text. Sometimes it’s a light relief to view an image.

  10. Colin Joss says:

    In addition to the idea of Sub-Headings, there is one important thing for me to keep a post good and interesting for loyal readers. That is to keep the post short enough, so it is better to split a long topic into several interesting articles then to publish a super long article.

  11. Greg says:

    Sorry for commenting twice, after rereading I found out I still have something to add. I don’t want to complain, but to us bloggers, who follow blogs about blogging regularly, this information is unoriginal by itself

  12. Peter says:

    Great advice Skellie. My simple trick is to continually ask myself “who cares?” as I write or edit articles.

    People always have other ways they can spend their time apart from reading a particular blog article, whether that option is to read something else online or do some activity offline. From my own experience, if an article is boring or doesn’t flow I’m moving on… NEXT!

  13. Review points at the end of a long post = brilliant.

    (And you didn’t even mention it as a tip!)

    I use summary points in my workshops and classes, but it never occurred to me to use them at the end of a long blog post.

    P.S. What’s with the snarky comments? If this post has information you already know, then go read something else. Geez!

  14. Review points at the end of a long post = brilliant.

    (And you didn’t even mention it as a tip!)

    I use summary points in my workshops and classes, but it never occurred to me to use them at the end of a long blog post.

    -Sally J.
    The Practical Archivist

    P.S. What’s with the snarky comments? If this post has information you already know, then go read something else. Geez!

  15. Sorry for the double (now triple) comments. It looked like it was hung up on my end and not posting.

    Apologies!

  16. Parth Shah says:

    Is there a printable version?

  17. WTL says:

    There is some great stuff in here, thank you for sharing! I try t o add photos to all my posts when possible, preferably using something I’ve shot.

    Thanks again

  18. Greg says:

    You are going to hate me for this, but I think Skellie is able to write much better :)

  19. Sonia Simone says:

    Along these lines, something I often find myself doing is moving the first paragraph I write to later in the post. Sometimes I delete it, but more often I move it.

    If you’re on a trackback or a SERP, your potential reader sees a headline and the first sentence or two. Do those things make her want to click? If not, find that sentence or two in your post that will.

    It’s a great two-minute exercise to encourage clickthrough, and it pulls your regular readers in as well.

  20. I really took a lot away from this post, because my blog is often on the side of well…boring. These ideas will benefit me greatly, I guess its harder to find your niche through blogging rather then have a concrete niche in place. I’ll have to bookmark this page for me to come back to, time and time again.

    The dog with the coffee up on this head….genius.

  21. Caravan says:

    Great post with some excellent advice.

    I’m relatively new to the blogosphere and coming from a web design/programming background I find that copywriting is something that doesn’t come that natural to me. Hopefully the points raised in this article will help remedy this.

  22. Brilliant tips. I’ll be practising my opening paragraphs right now. And also making a conscious effort to try to learn how to add pics. Thank you.

  23. Chetan says:

    Ha ha i was just going to read the headings as u mentioned.. But the post looked interesting and i did read the complete of it. It was a good read and nice tips shared :) thanks

    Chetan
    http://www.thewwwblog.com

  24. Alot of these writing suggestions are in the book, On Writing Well. Those interested in expanding their style and charisma through text should read that.

  25. There is a style of writing called inverted pyramid writing. It is designed specifically for the web, where readers largely skim instead of reading attentively.

    You can find out more about it here:
    Inverted Pyramid Writing

    I do not always use this style for my blog, since I have a specific layout already. However, come to think of it, I could do with shortening my posts sometimes:

    http://necrofiles.blogspot.com

  26. This is great advice! In fact, it’s so great I will be “Stumbling” it. ;)

  27. LifeTweak says:

    Wow :) I was looking for some tips for finding and using flickr images on my blog posts. I even mailed Darren about this :) Thanks Skellie and Darren for your work! :) You guys are wonderful :)

    Manu.

  28. blueprint says:

    All good tips. The most important for me is the infusion of YOU in your blog. In some instances this may just be the only area where you can differentiate yourself from others who blog about the same thing. In reading in print, often times I’ll read b/c I like the writing style- not talking at you but to you. the kind of reading that invokes a response. Whether it’s a smile or me talking back to the page (don’t act like I’m the only one). In reading on-line I find this holds true too- if I like the personality that comes through in the writing…I’m more inclined to click around and be interested in what more they have to say but then again…you have to be talking about something that interests me too….but definitely talk to me- I want to know who YOU are.

  29. matt says:

    Wow, I never even thought about using flickr images in my post, thanks for the tip. Subheadings are very important IMO.

    http://leetblogger.com

  30. feefifoto says:

    This is a very useful post. i just linked to you: http://blog.feefifoto.com/2008/01/thursday-thir-2.html

  31. Black Zedd says:

    I’m using images in all my posting, and it seems placing image on the first section of my post creates a greater urge to read the whole post, as opposed to embedding them in your writing.

  32. Sue says:

    I’d like to mention that using images is good, but it’s far far better to use relevant photos that relate to your post. Darren is good at this. Skellie, while the dog image is of course, cute, I think the point would be better made by finding and using something a bit more relevant to the subject.

  33. Great post. I’m wondering about the images thing, though. While I agree that images can really help make a blog post pop, isn’t it a violation of copyright to snag someone else’s image without their permission?

  34. K says:

    well, what can I say, this is priceless advice.. I’d also recommend visiting dailywritingtips.com ^^
    As for the subjective part.. I would personally refrain from that on certain topics (for example, if something negative were to happen, I would rather simply speak out the facts instead of adding my opinion as well :/)

  35. Glen Converse says:

    What a great, well written post. I’ve not started blogging yet. I’ve only been reading about the subject in the hopes that I’d not fear getting my feet wet. Thank you ever so much for the post. You’ve certainly inspired a large group of people to stick their toes in the waters.

  36. jennychn says:

    I really agree on uploading images on the blog makes it enjoyable to read. I have uploaded cute cartoons that represent every article on my blog. Those images makes my blog enjoyable to read.

    check my blog http://funworks-bearpal.blogspot.com

  37. Michael says:

    After writing each and every post I write I look for a picture to include in the post, it is an essential part of my blogging workflow. One thing listed here that I do need to do much more often is provide sub-headings to split up my post a little bit and make it easier to read.

    Great tips! Keep’em coming.

  38. This is amazing.

    Just what I was looking for

  39. giuseppe says:

    Indicazioni davvero molto utili.. Consigliatissimo. Thanks

  40. neon says:

    There is some great stuff in here, thank you for sharing! I try t o add photos to all my posts when possible