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How to Write Like Your Teacher Told You Not To

This guest post is by Karol K of 100WPthemes.com.

These days, everyone’s a blogger. I’m a blogger, you’re a blogger, most people who end up commenting on this post will be bloggers too. And literally every one of us has the main goal of providing the elusive “quality content”.

However, the main problem is that virtually everything around us—social media, other commitments, you name it—tries to prevent us from doing so.

And despite the fact that there’s a massive number of tips online on how to write properly, the advice isn’t structured. There are just various bits of information here and there, so it’s difficult to keep everything in mind once you begin working on a new piece.

That’s why I want to share this following idea with you. The idea of writing exactly not like your teacher told you to.

This should be easy to grasp as we all went to school, and we all kind of remember what “good writing” is—according to our teachers.

Just a word of explanation before we begin. I’m from Poland. The school system is different here, but I’m pretty sure that the general rules of writing taught by teachers are pretty similar worldwide. Feel free to correct me, though!

The trick for us as bloggers, however, is to take this advice and flip it completely by doing exactly the opposite thing.

Don’t use long blocks of text

Chances are that your teacher told you to use long paragraphs so you can explain your points in great detail. Long blocks of text are easy to grasp on a piece of paper, but not on a computer screen.

Use a maximum of four to six lines of text per paragraph.

Don’t use complex language

In real life, using complex language doesn’t make you smart, it makes you a smart alec.

Simple words are better for getting your point across quickly.

Don’t wait to deliver your main point

The whole trick of online writing is to deliver your point early on. People simply don’t have time to read 600 words of your article to get to the point. That might work in school, but it doesn’t online.

Deliver your point in your second paragraph (unless you’re creating a list post).

Don’t introduce too many ideas

A blog post should be simple in nature. Remember that people are reading it on their computers, and reading from a screen is not the most comfortable thing to do.

One idea per post is enough. If you try to introduce more, the thing will end up being too confusing and difficult to grasp.

Don’t summarize anything

If you feel like you need to summarize your post then you’ve made it too complicated (see the previous point).

A post should be easy to grasp on its own—no summary required.

Do use readable subheadings

Subheadings were virtually nonexistent at school. At least, I don’t remember using a subheading in any of my school work.

However, using subheadings is the main trick bloggers have up their sleeves. The point of subheadings is to make a post understandable even if someone reads just the subheadings alone.

Try reading only the subheadings in this post. Does it still make sense?

Do write using “you”

Using “you” to refer to the reader directly is among the biggest sins you can make when you’re writing at school. I don’t know why … that’s just how it works.

On the internet, however, not using “you” is the biggest sin you can make. Your writing is your way of speaking to people. And how would you speak to anyone without referring to them directly?

As an example, there are 34 instances of “you” in this post.

It’s not all bad…

Really, I’m not all that pessimistic. Feel free to let me know which elements of school education you believe are extremely useful for bloggers—we’d love to hear them.

Karol K. is a freelance writer, and a blogger at 100WPthemes.com. Feel free to come by if you’re searching for some information on choosing a WordPress theme.

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Comments

  1. Ehsan Ullah says:

    I must point out that there’s another thing my teacher always forced me to not to do when I was in school and that is using numbers to point to point and paragraph to paragraph information, but in blog post we should do it to make it easy scannable.

  2. Ishtar says:

    I much prefer online content that is conversational (using “you”) to more formal scholastic writing. Not only is it easier to read, but it’s easier to write. I can just act like I’m talking to someone.

    • Karol K says:

      I agree, that’s also one of the biggest benefits of writing this way (from a writer’s perspective).

  3. Tash Hughes says:

    I agree Karol – the skills for writing a school essay are not always useful in a business or blog setting. And your Polish education seems pretty similar to my Australian one by the way!

    It hadn’t really occurred to me that we never used sub-headings in essays at school but you’re right – I can’t remember ever using them!

    The exception, of course, is the basic rules (spelling, grammar, punctuation) as they are essential in making your post easy to read and understand.

    • Karol K says:

      Sure, grammar is always essential. That’s where I spend the most of my editing time, to make sure that everything is readable. :)

  4. Hi Karol,

    Short and punchy posts do best. The entire post and each mini-paragraph. Excellent advice.

    Scanners rule online. People are in a hurry…which is a terrible things…but you would like to cater to people.

    Make your posts easy on the eyes.

    Your best advertisement? Your content. Help people to read, digest and understand your work.

    Pay attention to the basics. Your posts should flow smoothly. No forced lines, no extra words.

    Make your point. Exit stage left.

    Oh yeah…hit the Publish button too. Some read their posts 15 times, make 20 edits…waiting to publish for fear of criticism…the pros do a few takes, hit publish and fail their way to a successful blog.

    Practice, publish, practice, publish. Gain confidence by putting your work out there, for public consumption.

    Become a better blogger by writing for the internet crowd daily. Publish. Prosper.

    Thanks!

    RB

  5. While I agree with the writing tips about blogging, knowing how to write prose correctly is still important to know. It’s just not useful in blogging.

    -Andrew

  6. corinne says:

    I totally agree with this! When it comes to online writing, especially blogging, many of the major rules get thrown out the window. Great post!

  7. Bloggers write so much on how to write, but you can’t tailor your own stuff too much or you’ll lose your voice. The most important thing you have as a blogger, is you!!

  8. Egger says:

    Here you have a right Polish education system is very similar, and all of these systems are still the Middle Ages, we do not have modern teaching methods in Europe

  9. My grammar is not the best. I’m sure I can always use writing tips as well.

  10. Chema C. says:

    I do agree with you Karol,
    The skills needed for writing have changed, since the medium of expression has also changed.
    I’m using the email since the late 90s and I don’t know if you’re so young to remember the way in which we used to write a conventional letter to a friend. It contained lots of long paragraphs, there were no subjects o subheadings to focus attention on the topic, it always started apologising for the long time since we didn’t write each others…
    In my opinion, the old way of writing and the new one are different because they arre different acts of speech. I mean, the channel has changed, the participants are different, as well as the context. As you say, it’s not the same writing/reading on a piece of paper than on a computer or smartphone screen.
    Today, immediateness on feedback is possible, so that you don’t need to expose your arguments, reasons or fact. You can renegotiate them with your readers as soon as they reply you. And above all, you may think on a readership that possibly is reading your piece of writing, but you never control who is going to read you on a blog, and you’ll never be sure on the unexpected reaction they could have!
    Interesting post, congratulations,
    CHEMA_

    • Karol K says:

      I do agree with your point of view. The important thing here is to be able to recognize in what kind of “writing environment,” so to speak, are you, and to be able to adapt to it.

  11. Hello. I think that this post is really interesting because says a lot of little big tips to write good in a blog. I have a little more than a year like blogger, but I’m not feel that I’m an expert because I was needing information like this. Greetings.

  12. I’m a bit of an odd duck because I actually WAS a language teacher (I’m American; I taught English). I’ll say I absolutely agree with your points here about writing. The two pieces of your language teacher’s advice I’d urge you to follow are (1) to be careful of word choice and (2) to be careful of punctuation. I’m constantly amazed at how people use individual words incorrectly, particularly in the case of homophones (words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings). Homophones are easy to use in speaking, but in writing we have to make sure we’re using the correct word. Similarly, punctuation is irrelevant in spoken communication, but in writing it’s critical.

    I used to tell my students that language was a gift given only to humans for the purpose of communication. Use of the language itself is not the important thing–the communication is the important thing.

    • Karol K says:

      I am not a native speaker, but seeing “your” instead of “you’re” is kind of annoying, I have to admit. :)

  13. Ayaz says:

    Hi Karol!

    Great points you have provided and certainly using long phrases can disturb you as well as you readers and also its better to use simple that’s how you can keep to the point and can be easily understand by the reader.

  14. David Sneen says:

    Short paragraphs, using simple words. Great points there! The blogger who tries to display his/her brilliance will find his bounce rate going sky high!!!

    I would quibble with you about your no-need-for-a-summary point. When you are producing a list, that works. But, if you are explaining something, a summary is a great tie in.

    • Karol K says:

      It probably depends on the individual topic, so I won’t insist that I’m 100% right about it. :)

  15. Some very useful advice! I recently listened to a writing podcast from the Pointer Institute and the first bit of advice was to make your point in the very first sentence. I have been trying to do that ever since. On a side note, maybe you should put “Pierogi Powered” as a blog badge somewhere on your site! Being half polish myself I think its a good idea – I heard food blogs are doing very well !!

  16. Ewa says:

    Hi Karol,
    I also run a blog and I have also undertook a Polish education. I studied journalism so I had some print habits imprinted. One of the first things I learnt when writing a blog post, was to ditch any creative titles and be more straight to the point. Friendly talk seems to work better as it’s easier to digest by readers.
    All the best.

  17. kizzy says:

    Totally aggree and love the point about sub heading. I will start implemeting them straight away. Thanks

  18. Definitely! I’m always telling my kids that they way they’re learning to write is wrong. We supposedly have one of the best high school in the land, but their idea of good writing is terribly formulaic and boring.

  19. Jeff says:

    I never realized why so many blogs’ content section was narrow, and it hit me when reading this post. It is so they can write a few lines easily!… lol

  20. Great explanation ! these are right step & ways which we had forgotten to use while writing ! These are basic steps & our common mistake which we always do & not to forget to do in writing ! I appreciate yours idea & Advice.

  21. Chris says:

    Hi Karol, thanks for your tips.
    I agree with you that long blocks of text may hurt even best post. But summarizing isn’t bad at all – I like it and I suppose a lot of my readers also like it ;)
    Chris

  22. I agree with only about half of these. For example, I often use “you” and subheadings in my blog. But I also frequently add highlighted summaries too. Many of my readers want a quick peek at the take home message for my gear/location reviews. In any case, I think Karol’s point is that we should all strive to think and write outside the grammar school box.

  23. Ian Eberle says:

    I’m a freshman in college now and I must say that the way they have us write “scholarly papers” is exactly the opposite of what online readers want. Blog readers prefer bulleted lists with quick, short paragraphs instead of textbook-sized blog posts that require you to dig for the information. This is why sites like Yahoo Answers are so popular because you can find the point very quickly instead of having to scan through large bits of text.

  24. Well, never thought of disobeying my teacher back at school, but hey Karol, you are very right. Not everything that teachers say should be obeyed when it comes to blog commenting; in blogs you meet so many types of people and it is good to be more precise and straight to the point.