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How Getting An F On Your School Paper Makes You A Better Blogger

This guest post was written by Rob Sutton from Ramped Reviews. Image by kharied.

-1.jpgThis comes to be a surprise to many, but I hate writing. Every paper in grade school through college was a futile effort in an attempt to pull out my own teeth. I could not stand it and I would do everything in my power not to have to write one more paper. My senior thesis to complete my economics degree was one of the worst experiences of my life. I dreaded every word on the page and had to stretch out every thought just to make it past the minimum page point to graduate. So…with all of these harsh, I’d rather die feelings about writing, how do I throw over 2,000 words a day on a screen for others to read and why is everyone I know surprised that my words now turn into dollars?

We Are Conditioned To Be Boring Writers

Throughout grade school and college, we are basically taught to be boring research paper writers. Unless you were a lit major (and probably even then), every single paper had to be double spaced, 12 point font, researched, cited and with 1 inch margins. As you typed out every content driven sentence, you had your grammar book open researching how you needed to structure every sentence and cite every reference. Really does sound like pulling teeth doesn’t it?!

This is how we wrote…this is how we were taught to write and this is how we were graded. We were in a boring writing cycle as we continued to attempt to make the grade writing about subjects we had little passion on. It was pure torture (at least for this blogger).

Writing was not seen as a form of expression, but a method on which we were ranked against others with defined topics and content.

How Getting An F Makes You A Better Blogger

Blogging is the polar opposite of research paper writing. Blogging is full of feeling and life, but many new bloggers struggle with boring writing as they are conditioned for years to write in a manner that does not speak to their own personality. Readers engage with blogs to step into the world of the blogger and feel that personality and connection…not to find a list of citations at the bottom of the blog article. It is time to fail lit in pursuit of the successful blog! But how do we do it?

Write As You Talk – One of the easiest ways to get over the hurdle of boring blog writing is to type exactly like you talk. After you get all of the words on the Add New Post screen, you can go back and edit/organize. By not worrying if the article is perfect on the first pass, you are able to make sure that your voice rings through and your readers are able to connect with you through your words.

Be Unique and Have Unique Ideas – Much of research paper writing is regurgitating what someone else has already said in your own words and formulating your hypothesis off of those conclusions. You are a blogger…you have an opinion…you can express that opinion and listen to other readers differing opinion. It is a beautiful thing! Conversation among semi-like minded individuals on the Internet without the aid of compound sentence structure and rules. Bring out your unique ideas and be unique yourself to engage in the conversation we call blogging.

Throw Away Conventional Sentence Structure – Some of the sentences in this article would fail me instantly in a written paper during the years I attended school. Now…I am not advocating writing in a way that no one can understand because you do not want to use spell check or construct sentences that actually mean something. But…you can throw in triple periods for the pause effect and have the occasional misspelled word. You can use run ons and fragments to get feeling across in your writing where only rambling and abruptness will work. You can stray away from conventional sentence structure to bring back feeling in your writing. Just make sure your readers can still understand it.

Be Super Descriptive – By being super descriptive in your writing style, you are able to pull your readers into your world. As I sit here listening to the clicks of the keys on the keyboard, I am imaging a day when my head was buried in a 40 pound book just bleeding for that last paragraph that would get me out of the nightmare. I can still smell the pages of the worn out book as I flipped through mindless text gasping at each failed page turn. See what I mean? No citations there…just painting a picture of the even as it unfolds…

Language - Are there slang words that will connect with your readers? How about a certain form of speech? You already know the type of speech that is going to engage your reading population. Your goal is to speak and connect with them, so what better way than to speak in a way they are comfortable with? Often times, this kind of speech writing would fail your paper, but it builds you credibility in your niche as a blogger.

What We Did Learn From Writing In School

Unfortunately, all of that time dreading papers in grade school was not wasted. As much as I hated it, there were certain aspects of that style of writing that we really need to take to heart as bloggers. Without these ideals and foundation, much of our writing would be worthless and unrecognizable.

Content…Content…Content – Remember when you tried to fill space by repeating the same thought in a different way? Your teacher used to crack down on that pretty hard didn’t she! Well…the same holds true in blogging. Many beginning (and experienced) bloggers are sometimes more interested in the word count stat than getting their point across efficiently. Your readers will be able to tell when you are padding up an article just to make it look longer…and they will count off points for that.

Sentence Structure – I know…I just told you to throw away all sentence structure and really go for it in the outside the box writing world, but you can not go too far. Even-though there is the urge to really expand your eclectic writing style, people still need to be able to understand it! You can stray away from the conventional way of writing, but don’t stray off into your own world. If your readers can’t understand what you are saying, they are not coming back.

Keep Your Paragraphs Organized – Typically, teachers back in the day wanted paragraphs around 5-6 sentences with a defined subject and conclusion. While we may stray from that some, there are a lot of bloggers out there that think writing the entire article in one paragraph is a good idea. It is a proven fact that readers digest information much better when it is separated in organized chucks. Keep your paragraphs short and concise. If I see a huge block of words…I go on to the next site. That much content jumbled up looks like too much work to translate.

As You Draft Your Next Blog Post…

Take an honest look at your writing. Are you speaking from the heart or are your feelings getting lost in the type? It is our goal as bloggers to engage and connect with our readers, and nothing kills that connection more than really boring writing. It is time to start thinking outside of the box in the quest to build a better blog and a better life.

This post was written by Robb Sutton. Auther of Ramped Blogging, Ramped Reviews and Ramped Mindset. He blog about blogging tips and lifestyle design at robbsutton.com.

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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. Rita says:

    I don’t agree with you at all that occasional typos are O.K. Typos tell people you aren’t careful about what you write; they may question your content.

    I looked at your Web site. I saw two typos. Also, it took me a while to figure out what your Web site is about.

    For people thinking about blogging or those already blogging who want to review their writing, I suggest signing up for a couple of journalism courses at a local community college. They’ll cover the basics; bright writing, short sentences, short paragraphs, and how to tell the story.

    Rita, consumer journalist, blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  2. Thanks for your article. I found your commentary, from your personal experiences, useful and should help me in the future.

  3. Eric says:

    I agree that in any kind of writing you will keep readers longer when you write in organised and short paragraphs. I try and do the same with mine.

    It makes reader much more tolerable and easy on the eyes as well as easy to follow. How you write is what I think has the biggest influence besides how the paragraphs are structured and organised. If you’re into your writing and putting thought and writing for the reader it’s going to turn out good.

    Only thing at this point that would turn a reader off is no interest in the topic at hand.

  4. Rahul says:

    Failure is key of success…

  5. akhlis says:

    Glad to read this post :)

    I’m a lit graduate, Robb. But I don’t think I can write better than you do. Your words speak by themselves. Perhaps in your writing classes back then, you were a wrong man in the wrong place, which was why you got F. Here in blogosphere, however, you’re a right man in the right place. Sometimes people get bad grades just because they’re assessed based on a set of ‘inappropriate’ criteria. Someone’s writing talent isn’t necessarily mirrored by how high their writing grades were.

    I’m with you, Rob, when it comes to grammar, sentence structures, and punctuations. They’re essential but there’re times when setting aside those rigid rules and liberating our minds could be fun. It’s OK to omit some commas and misplacing some conjunctions as long as our readers know well what we’re trying to say.

    I guess this just sparked off another idea of new post for me. Thanks Robb! Awesome job!

  6. Helen Calder says:

    Thanks Rob, great thoughts.
    Loved that you have found a passion and income from writing when you struggled with it at College.
    Another lesson we can learn from you is not to let past experiences hold us back. Our past does not have to define our future!
    Thanks for the inspiration to keep moving forward.

  7. Thanks for this, these are great tips. Being a newbie I am a bit self conscious of what I write, this article helps overcome that.

    Greg

  8. WritewhereUr says:

    You know, much of the writing that takes place in school is regimented. Often the subjects are not of our choosing. We know that we are being graded on not only the technical aspects of the piece; such as the format and the grammar; but, also by the follow through in getting it written and turned in on time.

    Blogging should be about filling a need, connecting with your readers, sharing your passion or your purpose, and achieving your goals. Blogging is as individual, in it’s delivery, as free form dance is; and, should be just as joyful.

    After all, if you can’t get inspired about your subject and gain the attention of your reader; then, you better consider outsourcing that job. Your blog is often your calling card or your business card, if you will; so, keep it interesting and forget about having to write with exact standards of writing.

    WritewhereUr
    http://www.writewhereyouareblog.com

  9. Kathy Condon says:

    When writing my book, I got so much advice about how it should be written, I finally decided to just write it the way I wanted to.

    I will never forget the day when the email came that my book “It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: It’s all about Communication” was a “Best Book Finalist USA Book News.”

    You are right…I wrote it in conversational style and I told real stories to prove my points. Let’s stay real!

    http://www.kathycondons.blogspot.com

  10. I so agree with this post. Grammarians probably just winced.

    In addition to blogging, I write a monthly column for a national gluten free foundation. They are happy for all volunteer efforts and generally print as is.

    Last week, I guest posted for a large healthy eating blog, that has a professional editor. Woo, that post came back all marked up. They edited to “fit their style” and basically kept my voice. They objected to serial commas, I think that is funny. And I am happy not to be bound by stringent grammar rules.

  11. John White says:

    @Linda Ferm – I see your points, even though I’m not a teacher.

    My 17-year-old son has had so many bad experiences with writing that he doesn’t even like to read anymore. I’d show him this post, except that I know he won’t read it.

    Good post, Rob. You’re following lots of rules for good blogging.

  12. Like this one.
    Throw Away Conventional Sentence Structure

    I had an editor on a book I wrote who was an English teacher – and a nun. Don’t ask what she had to say about my sentences.

    I have always written as though I was talking to someone. I think that is the key, Robb.

  13. I totally relate. When I started blogging last year, I had to completely relearn how to write. As I look back on my original blogposts, I see the transition from “research paper” into conversational writing that engages my readers.

    I think that’s a major misconception about writing especially (blogging or otherwise) – that you have to follow culturally accepted rules of writing format.

    You see, writers create language – not the other way around. Even though we don’t see the changes in our English language on the micro level; on a macro level, English is constantly changing. Were it not for writers expressing themselves as they feel compelled, we would still be talking with “thee’s” and “thou’s” today.

  14. Robb Sutton says:

    Thank you again for all of the responses. It is great to see the differing opinions on the subject.

    This really hit home from John White:
    “My 17-year-old son has had so many bad experiences with writing that he doesn’t even like to read anymore. I’d show him this post, except that I know he won’t read it.”

    Because that was me! I didn’t even like reading because I despised writing with a fury. I don’t want to blame teachers because I had a few that tried to make things interesting…the curriculum was just bland. It really put a bad taste in my mouth for reading and writing for a long time.

  15. Rick Barlow says:

    It’s never necessary to ignore grammatical structure in order to write better — more interestingly or effectively. The author certainly proves it in his own writing. Sloppy writing is always a turnoff. It makes the writer seem careless or inarticulate or both.

  16. scheng1 says:

    I still remembered my English teacher refuse to mark my essay. She just wrote “far-fetched” and threw the story back!
    I think she kills many creative writers with her attitude.

  17. PotPieGirl says:

    I love this article! To me, a blog is a conversation – not an essay. I agree that sentences and grammar need to be somewhat structured, but I would MUCH rather read a blog with a few typos yet is an original voice and enjoyable.

    Write for your audience, try to keep them engaged, and be yourself.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff.

    If someone is catching my (unavoidable) typos and is “sweating” over them, then I failed to keep them engaged in my conversation.

    Or, they simply weren’t interested to begin with =)

    Jennifer
    ~PotPieGirl

  18. Atif says:

    Very Nice Post… I always love with Darren Rowse Post. These nice and great tips really helps for my blog growing up and up.

  19. A really helpful post – you’d normally have to buy an ebook to get this kind of advice. Cheers.

    - BFG

  20. Great article, just don’t show it to my daughter until after she graduates high school :)

  21. David Walker says:

    Yes Rob, I was one of those students submitting boring papers too.

    It’s been harsh opening my eyes to “blogspeak”. It wasn’t until I started writing as I talked that it sounded less stuffy (and easier on my inner ear too)

    I still have problems with passive voice; it’s something I need to beat over the head with a mallet until it goes away…far, far away.

    Pavlov wouldn’t have done better, but a part of me is now grateful for the paragraphs and sentence structure drills.

  22. I think getting an F can burn your spirit so your abilities in blogging will increase effectively. I’m in High School so I now how it works.

  23. Beth'a El-Shamy says:

    This blog rang so true with me. I just finished another english course in college and it to was like death….. Let’s not forget the point that I was an ancient statue for most of the kids in my class. They were fresh with ideas and they knew all to well the structures in which you spoke of what we are taught.
    But for me…. I was like a old treasure chest that was pulled out of the attic, and let’s face it my english structure was just that DUSTY.
    Whatever happened with a good story starts with Inspiration, Inspiration starts with a dream and a dream with imagination. When we limit our imagination, we all but shackle it down and dare to let it out.
    Whatever happened to close your eyes and let the pen come to life. Let your imagination dance along the paper or in today’s time the screen. Structure is great, but for me it is the shackles on my imagination.
    Thanks for your inspiration in your post, it only helps to push my dreams along. And with that comes a great story!

  24. It’s very true that you have almost 100%control over a business if the product that you are selling, it’s yours. Clearly, you know where you want your product to be seen, how you want it to be known, you know all the details..and it’s really better for you to have the control.

  25. Chanelle says:

    Great suggestions! It’s important to know that blogging is not an english essay. People will get bored within the first few sentences unless you’re interesting enough to keep their attention.

  26. Goji says:

    This is a fantastic post!
    Thank you.

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  30. Woah, I like the idea but the headline is totally irresponsible… How many under age kids will you mislead with this?

  31. vacuum says:

    I think getting an F can burn your spirit so your abilities in blogging will increase effectively. I’m in High School so I now how it works.

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