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How to Write Sharp and Snappy Blog Posts

In this post Dan Kaufman from Bar Zine shares some tips on writing Sharp Snappy Blog Posts.

When you write a story you’re lucky if you can get a reader beyond the first paragraph. This is true in print and it’s even worse online (a recent study by Jacob Neilson at http://tinyurl.com/mubtmr makes for interesting reading). After all, your post is just one out of millions online – and the difference can lie in how well written your copy is.

Writing is a craft that involves a continual learning process.

Having been a journalist and editor for the past 15 years (and I’m now a blogger as well) I still find myself learning – but there are some hard and fast techniques to make your copy snappier and more engaging. Here are some of the basics:

1) Write Short Sentences

Next time you pick up a book and can’t put it down, stop and have a look at the sentence length – you’ll often find the sentences are short and punchy. 32 words is the maximum for an article’s first sentence and while there are exceptions they ought to be rare. Aim to only have one point per sentence.

2) Use the Active Voice

Have a look at the following two sentences:

The cat chases the mouse

and

The mouse is being chased by the cat

Which one is punchier?

It’s the former because the subject (the cat) is doing something to the object (the mouse). As such, it makes sense to have the subject appear in the sentence before the object. In other words, the sentence is written using the active voice (whereas “The mouse is being chased by the cat” is passive).

Using the active voice is more direct and requires less words – and the less words, the snappier the sentence becomes.

3) Write in the Present Tense

Which of the following headlines seems punchier?

PM halts peace talks

Or

PM halted peace talks

Unless your blog post takes the form of a hard news story you should use the present tense. Even hard news headlines are written in the present tense to make them seem more immediate.

4) Use Positive Language

This means avoiding negative words such as no, not and didn’t when appropriate. You’ll see why when you look at the following example:

Troops have not pulled out of war zone

Vs

Troops stay in war zone

The bottom example reads better since, as with using active voice, making sentences positive often makes them snappier. We also changed the tense from past to present.

5) Write in a conversational tone

A lot of people don’t realise that good writing means using a conversational tone – albeit with better grammar than you would use when talking to a friend in a bar.

Avoid hype, pretentious words, jargon and acronyms – instead of impressing readers it’s a turn off. You should never talk down to your reader by using language they may not understand and you should never assume they know something they may not. Unless you’re trying to spin something or confuse, use simple, clear and direct language. As the old saying goes, if you confuse your readers you lose your readers.

George Orwell put it another way in The Politics of the English Language.

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” he wrote. “When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”

Dan Kaufman publishes Bar Zine (barzine.com.au), where he reviews Sydney bars. He also writes for The Sydney Morning Herald and teaches online journalism at UTS.

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. Great stuff. Helpful in a lot of areas. Not only for my blog (after reading your tips I went to analyze my posts and ups…) but also for writing/reviewing contents for e-learning. Thanks.

  2. fas says:

    Those 5 tips go a long way in changing a ton of things, great stuff there.

  3. L-Jay says:

    There is certainly no High Art in blogging.

    Blogging is writing for mass art. So if you write for 12 years olds (like newspapers do) with short attention spans and low vocab you’ll never get it wrong.

  4. Wasim Mughal says:

    Thanks Buddy!

    This article helped me ver much, though I am a newbie but interested to initiate my blog with home work so I decided to teach myself. Doing this I reached your website and

    I really Found This one of the BEST!

    Regardsssss!

  5. The 5 suggestions for writing sharp, snappy blogs overturned much of what I’ve been doing. I have much to learn in refining my writing style such as writing in the present tense and using more positive words. Thanks.

  6. Yves says:

    This is fantastic.

    I was terrible at writing out of school and never really paid much attention about writing clearly….

    After I got interested in trying to build a couple of blogs and started re-reading my articles it became clear that I needed to think about it.

    I’ve improved… at least I hope I have!
    ;-)

    I liked this article alot, wrote a couple of thoughts about it on my blog.

    Peace!

  7. This is such a great article, some really helpful and insightful tips there. Espeically for me just becoming a blogger is a hard task but with people such as yourself giving all this great, free knowledge to us helps us dramatically.

  8. John says:

    Thanks for the article. I definitely will be applying these techniques in my new blog http://www.livingwithballs.com.

  9. Wallpapers says:

    Numbers 1 & 2 I learned just recently. The other points I didn’t know about.

    Thank you for the post. It’s the best one I read all day.

  10. Anna says:

    I started a blog after seeing how quickly it was indexed…within 10 minutes whilst on my other regular websites pages could take months. I love writing my blog and have found that by keeping it short, positive and by not taking myself too seriously that I am gettting feedback and people coming back on a regular basis. The google adsense revenue isn’t great but pays for the hosting and the odd coffee and cake! I try to keep it relevant to one specific category ( living/life in Spain) and so far it seems to work. i do it for love not money, but when you do make some money, well that’s the icing on the cake!

  11. Ebizel Diary says:

    Great Guest Post :)

  12. Jason says:

    I need to get into the habit of being more concise in my writing. I tend to go off trying to explain things in too much detail when I should just get straight to the point.

    You can’t fix stupid!

  13. These are nice tips. To add onto it, it is important for bloggers to address readers directly by using words such as ‘you’.

  14. Batul says:

    Excellent information & tips. Information like these makes vision clear and strong. I’m goin to start blogging soon!
    Many Thanks

  15. It’s also important to recognize that Knowing your audience makes a huge difference in the way you deliver your message. If your blog speaks to a specific niche, the language you use should reflect the qualities of that group.

    I agree that keeping it short and avoiding long paragraphs (mea culpa!) are the keys to cultivating readership.

  16. Rick Cadden says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I am a new blogger and need tips like this. Have a great day!

    Rick Cadden

  17. Great post.

    I loved the examples and the comparisons.
    Thanks for sharing, definitely a lot of lessons to learn.

    Igor

  18. Jason says:

    Interesting. I never thought about the tense on the writing effecting the quality (ie Present VS Past). Also the use of positive writing. The troops seems like a good example of that.

    This really does a good job of covering just about everything!

  19. In many ways, this article is what is wrong with the web. One reason people don’t read on the web is that the content on the web is written like this. If we wrote more engaging and educated content, (some) people would read it.

    I propose we start writing BETTER content instead of SHORTER content

  20. I think you have made some great tips for everyone to read. I also believe writing short sentences is a must. When you write long sentences, you may lose interest.

    I have been a content writer for many years. I am also paid to create blog postings for my client. Wonderful tips. :-)

    http://contentwritersrevenue.yolasite.com/

    Melanie

  21. Wonderful tips for all of us, especially for me where every new post is a learning experience. One never knows if it’s written well or if you should of spent more time on it..Time will tell or your readership will tell you. thanks for the great info. copied and pasted it into a file just on writing tips!! Thanks jj

  22. patchkabel says:

    Thank You Darren. A very precious piece indeed. Its unbelievable how its easy to get carried away at times whilst writing. Much appreciation for your generosity.