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Using Examples to Give your Posts Depth

Late last year I began the process of hiring a handful of writers to help create new content for Digital Photography School (I wrote a little about it here). I ended up taking on 6 new writers on a trial basis to write one post each per week. It’s been a fascinating process to go through and it’s taught me a lot about how I blog as I move more from a blog writer to a blog editor role.

There are many things that I could write about this transition (and I will in future posts) but one of the first things that I’ve noticed about the posts that have been submitted so far is that in many cases they could be given more depth by using example.

The main thrust of each post submitted has been excellent – great insights and helpful tips in each one of them – however they have been a little one dimensional and could be lifted considerably with just a little extra work.

In each case I’ve sent the posts back to writers with the suggestion that they add examples to their posts. On every occasion the posts that have come back to me have been drastically improved. Let me give you some examples:composition-2.jpg

  • The Human Side of Photography – 4 Tips for Natural Looking Portraits – the four tips in this post were really helpful but with stories and pictures relating to each one the post became a winner. It attracted 76 comments that illustrated how these stories and images touched the hearts of readers.
  • Rapid Composition – How to Compose a Photo Quickly – another great post that was taken to the next level with diagrammatic images that had ‘hand written’ notes on them to illustrate the story being told (you can see one pictured left). Once again – this visual element took a post to the next level.
  • Twilight Photography Tips – this post again has images that illustrate the points being talked about. The writer of this post actually went out and took shots specifically for the post and again comments on the post highlight that this was appreciated.

Now obviously these are photography based tutorials and lend themselves perfectly to images to illustrate points – however the same thing can be true in many types of topics. When you add examples to posts you take them from the realm of theory into the realm of practical. You help your readers to not only see how you do things – but also give them tangible ‘hooks’ to hang the hope of them being able to do them also.

Examples can take many forms. They could be visual ones (photos, video, screencasts, diagrams or charts), stories, case studies, links to other sites or even audio.

How do you use examples on your blog? Feel free to share examples of when you’ve used examples so we can all learn about how to apply this powerful principle.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Nail on the head, Darrin!

    I almost always use stories (usually from personal experience) to illustrate an point I happen to be attempting to make. Without that example, it’s just theory. But the stories make them “real”.

  2. Nail on the head, Darrin!

    I almost always use stories (usually from personal experience) to illustrate the point I happen to be attempting to make. Without that example, it’s just theory. But the stories make them “real”.

  3. Ty Brown says:

    Whenever I teach in person I often use examples. For some reason I haven’t done that as much in my writing. I think this blog post will help my own blogging.

  4. JamieO says:

    Context is important, however there is a fine line to this. If you are typeractive as I tend to be, the important concepts you are talking about get washed out by the volume of words you put on the page.

    Stories, examples and analogies are important, but making sure they are as concise as possible will make better overall articles. Be ruthless when editing your own work.

  5. Scott says:

    I try to always explain my stories with examples from my past experience. I only try to explain things I know on my blog and I feel examples are needed to help the flow of understanding. I know personally its easier to learn with examples in front of you rather then trying to figure that out yourself. It saves a step of thinking if your provide an example along with your story because then the reader doesn’t have to think of how it would work since you’ve already laid it out.

    I love this blog and I’m learning new things daily from it. Hopefully I’m catching the right meaning to all of this but I feel I am.

    -Scott

  6. Personal examples are one of the things that make blogging special. If you’re writing advice, stories “from the trenches” give you authenticity and make your content more remarkable and unique. Personal examples breathe life into what would otherwise be dry advice.

  7. When explaining things to people I always try to use examples of which I’m sure they will understand, and then make the comparison.

    On Rehuel punt kom I write about web development related stuff, and I have used the example of a mall to explain how DNS works. If anyone’s interested in reading that, check it out at http://www.rehuel.com/2007/03/12/what-is-dns/

  8. Tom Beaton says:

    Very good point. Examples help people see how things work and how your point or what your explaining applies in more practical terms.

    This is the reason in school we have case studies in geography and do experiments in chemistry.

  9. Mike says:

    I very rarely include examples – though I am definitely going to try to improve that.
    I have mentioned things about myself (such as the effort it took me to ask a girl to the prom in my Just Do It post), and one hypothetical scenario (but I can’t remember what post that was in…)

  10. I generally use stories and real life experiences. Since mine is a business blog, I really try using real-life examples from my own ventures to help others. If anyone one can learn from my mistakes and successes, I will be very glad.

    I imagine I should use photos more… as a good amount of people are especially good at learning visually.

    :)

  11. Christi says:

    There is some contrast between how you are saying that you would prefer that your bloggers write in more detail and depth, I have worked for some blog editors that insist on short, yet insightful posts. It’s caused me to be much more reserved than I’d like to be, and your post encourages me to be more thorough in my posting – as I naturally would have been prior to working for people who desired “brief” posts.

    Good article once again, Darren!

  12. Murad says:

    Hmmm…very nice and cool things .
    I almost always use stories (usually from personal experience) to illustrate the point I happen to be attempting to make.

  13. My latest post http://www.inmyheels.com/when-your-husband-dies is directed to new widows .. providing them info valuable and exclusive to their needs. However it’s deeply personal because I filled it with examples- personal stories -to better illustrate the things they needed to know.

    I did this simply because – other than me honoring the memory of my husband – I remember being in that position and all the books talking at me couldn’t resonate with me. *chuckle* at all actually. I needed the personal touch of someone’s story in order to relate.

    For the most part, majority of my blog uses examples such as photos as well as little stories and anecdotes – most not as personal and private as that post but valuable nonetheless. I strongly believe you can give depth to your writing by being relatable or easier to understand by illustrating your point so that a wider range of readers can grasp what you mean.

    Excellent post Darren .. but of course. :) (hmm.. Iong comment from me on this one lol)

  14. Jack says:

    Hey Darren, this is great advice.

    I myself have been trying to do this more on my own blog. Although sometimes I do find it more difficult with the subject matter. Because my blog is based more on current events it seems like it might be more difficult to relate to myself, although even just writing this and thinking of my lastest post I have come up with two things that I should have added to make the post better!

    awesome! thanks a lot.

  15. jd says:

    As one of my mentors would put it, concrete examples are where the “rubber meets the road.” …

    On one of my experiment blogs, The Book Share, I try to connect the dots. As I make my way through books and find nuggets of insight, I try to do three things:
    1. chunk the insight from the book down into something actionable
    2. share the insight in a way that’s more actionable and reusable
    3. relate the nugget to my own experience or applied use at work

    For example, in this post, Building Trust on Your Teams, I share a nugget from the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.” I first give context for the problem, then quickly summarize the insights, then share relevant quotes. Lastly, I share my key take aways in a way that is hopefully actionable for the reader.

    Sharing insight in the blog is one way that I try to scale myself. I mentor several folks at work, so I’m using the blog as a way to share lessons learned and reach more than I can directly in person.

  16. Andrew Chen says:

    Good info, I thought this blog was written by one person.

  17. Sangesh says:

    I am always enthusiastic about photography. Love this article too and specially “Twilight Photography Tips”

    Cheers.

  18. ArtShades says:

    As a lampshade designer maker I am a ‘visual’ person, so find it much easier to communicate my design inspiration using images – an example is here

    http://www.typepad.com/t/app/weblog/post?__mode=edit_entry&id=41848252&blog_id=1336894

    I only started blogging last year and decided from the start to make my blog image heavy. However, your blog has helped me to take a step back and remember the purpose and structure. I printed out your ’13 questions to ask before publishing a post on your blog’ post and have it pinned up beside my desk!

    It looks like I should be subscribing to your digital photo school blog now too.

    Thanks for all your help.

  19. Wayne Liew says:

    Examples helps to make things clearer sometimes. However, when I use examples in my blog post, I have the fear that I will sway away from my main theme of the blog post or making the post goes way too long for the digestion of my readers.

  20. Monetize says:

    My choise would be the video examples – for example, the ones you host on youtube or video.google that will also attract traffic themself. One thing I’m not sure if Flash video allow placing links inside..

  21. Great examples of posts with examples. Almost like a mirror in a mirror kind of thing.

    Also, a great example of productive links to unrelated sites. I’m sure you’ll get subscribers to the photography site with this post. I’m not really into photography, but my wife is so I emailed her the link.

    “Leveraging Synergy of Unrelated Blogs for Fun and Profit” – I really need to work on my headline skills, but I bet lots of us are working two or more unrelated web properties.

  22. Giving examples to students while teaching does not take much time but in writing, one has to frame them correctly so that the readers understand them.

  23. Black Zedd says:

    Well, my blog is a humor/satirical themed blog, therefore examples are less significant.

    However, when I’m using a particular topic as a background (like current event or or post from other blogs) I usually include the links to give a picture to my readers on what I’m talking about.

  24. Lily says:

    I use video and sound files as well as personal experience – useful for information on language learning. Also, I think this is important because people can be a different types of learners – auditory, visual or kinetic. Kinetic is a bit hard to do on the net but I guess you can write in ways that appeal to that learning type such as encouraging them to try out something for themselves or ‘get their hands dirty’. Even the language you use can reflect the different learning types. Being aware of the different types of learning can help to make you vary you’re writing style or the things you do to add depth.

  25. Examples and illustrations sure are helpful for providing the depth to posts. It makes great posts all the more greater. And it also help readers to understand the concept much easily and fully…

    As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course, you can use video alongwith pictures to further exemplify the effect.

  26. Barbara says:

    I often use analogies and/or short stories. If I write what could be considered as controversial, I tell my readers why, by providing examples.

    When I wrote my latest post on why RSS feed reader numbers can be a farce, I provided at least 10 examples in an attempt to teach new bloggers that “things aren’t always as they appear. To some it was an eye opener. .

  27. Since my blog is mostly a review blog, I have to come up with colourful metaphors all the time. Opinions are highly subjective, so my opinion is largely irrelevant.

    However, if it is entertaining I believe I can engross a reader, even if they don’t like my subject matter.

    I try to come up with my own unique images as often as possible. It adds a little uniqueness to my blog readers can’t get anywhere else.

    For image editing, I don’t use Photoshop, I use The GIMP, which is FREE. Yes, it does run on Windows.

    http://necrofiles.blogspot.com

  28. alanw says:

    I’ve been writing a series of articles about being more creative when writing music, mainly a set of hints for avoiding writer’s block. When I include audio and screenshot examples, I get hits than when I do not. From that perspective, it’s definitely worth it. And when I read them a month of so later, the examples help refresh my mind as well.

    The problem I’ve found is the time. Preparing a piece of music to show an idea can take a couple of hours or more, especially if I want it to sound just right. It depends what I’m trying to show. A simple idea can just take 10 minutes to compose and record. Some need a lot more time to get a finished product.

    However long it takes, I’m in the process of going back and adding examples for as many of the articles as I can. I think the examples add so much more to an article.