I’m having a rule-following problem. As in, don’t want to follow them.
Which rules? These ones:
- Use snappy titles containing a question, the words “How To” and jarring adjectives. Do not be cute, arty, or poetic. Copy-write. Read the titles on the cover of The Enquirer or Cosmo and do what they do. Your title is more important than the post, itself.
- Give advice. Provide value. Solve problems. Don’t talk about your cat or your sex life.
- Make it scannable. Break up text with headers.
- Make is scannable. Use lists.
- Make it scannable. Use boldface and italics to emphasize your point.
- Be brief, simple and stick to one topic. Your readers are only scanning it, anyways.
The Blogging Rules, Flouting Them, and the Faux-Rebellion.
Here is my confession: I’m a lit-on-fire blogger (who hates the word blog, cringes when I’m called a blogger, and resists the word “post”) but I don’t want to play by these rules.
I want to write wild, long, passionate, raw and real. I want to create art. I want to write words that land and burrow and inhabit my people. (I should just admit that I’m a wannabe poet and call it a day. Then no one would EVER read/scan my stuff. And so I blog.)
Here is my second confession: I adhere to the Gospel of Doowhatchalike. My titles are posts in and of themselves. I often write loooooooooooong pieces – sometimes 2,000 words or more. I insert my opinions and streams of consciousness and wackadoo digressions all over the place and they’re usually more interesting than the ostensible topic. And then I post pictures of my cleavage.
But just between you, me and the double D, I’m not a rebel.
I may have a vivid imagination and torrid/insane romantic life (thanks, vivid imagination!), but otherwise am so screamingly normal that it makes your normal tawdry. This is me: 9-5, kids, stability, friends, family, education, achievements, regular oil changes, a yard that doesn’t raise the wrath of strata, blah blah blah.
Why then, in my blog – my baby, my heart, my love, my creative offering to the world, my own thing – do I have to follow the rules? Why do you?
The Revolution Will Be Blogged
Recently, at my own site, I asked: Why do you blog?
The answers were many, varied, and invariably wonderful:
Though I may never become a writer who makes millions through my craft, blogging has given me the opportunity to affect the lives of others with my words. – Maven, A Fabulously Good Life
I blog because I’m the savior of the world and if everyone would just listen to me, we would all be better off, but then, I can’t even save myself sometimes so I guess that’s not true either.
I blog because I love run-on sentences.
I blog because the Infinite source of the cosmos calls me to it, that or is constantly warning me to stay away from it. Either way, I’m pretty bad at listening. – Steve, Life Change For You
I started blogging initially because it I was bored, dateless and cold on one January Friday night in Chicago. True story – Laura Cococcia, The Journal of Cultural Conversation
I am a glutton for personal development. whut.
I blog about it because I do my best thinking when I’m talking. I learn things as I explain them to others. I realize truth about myself, ugly ones and damaged ones and foreign ones, when I’m not stuck in my own head.
I blog because blogging is gangsta, and I got a gangsta lean. – Carlos Velez, Conscious Me (coming January 2010)
I needed a space where I could support my own interests, where I’m the Queen Of My Own Domain! It was also a challenge to push myself to try something completely new…to get unstuck and out of a rut. – Eileen, Blue Bird Luxe
I also consider it a creative act and a political act – any woman blogging now is raising a voice for all those womens’ voices which were silenced throughout history. And as the famous quote by Adrienne Rich states: When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her. – Lianne Raymond
…I blog because I want a revolution, I’m adverse to guns, and toddlers aren’t great at protest marches (unless they’re protesting the lack of third bowls of ice cream or fourth green bananas). – Arwyn, Raising My Boychick
To recap: we’re blogging for creative expression; to affect the lives of others; because the-cosmos-made-me or we’re bored and dateless and got a gangsta lean; for challenge; as a creative and political act (be the revolution), and lions-and-tigers-and-bears, OH MY.
Nobody said this:
- To follow the rules
- To do what everyone else is doing
- To turn my blog into a cliché
- To make money (whaaaaaa????? NOBODY? – okay, a few)
My point: blogging can be transformational.
You know why?
Because it is writing – and we might say, oh you don’t have to be a good writer to be a popular blogger, but for the most part that is a big wiggly lie – and we’re doing it daily.
Those two things, together, mean we’re thinking about THINGS and working through them. A-ha moments are practically guaranteed.
And then there are the people. Wow, the people. Blogging lets us find our people and that is a revelation. It is like coming home to a love-in, only everyone keeps their clothes on (usually) and talks pretty about thinky things. It is beautiful. It is soul food that doesn’t make you fat.
Transformation, community, freedom, creative expression.
That’s why some (most?) of us are blogging. We’re not looking for another set of rules to obey.
Nope. Not even one person jumped on the couch to scream “I LOVE THE RULES. Katie Holmes, Schmatie Holmes, I WANNA MARRY THE RULES!”
So WHY all the Blogging Rules?
So what’s up with the rules? Who made these rules anyway? Why do we need them?
Even more importantly – let me put my social science hat on here and run a really good query – where do they come from?
Dearest Reader, I knew you’d ask, so I did the research. And this is the answer:
That’s not a code and I’m not alluding to a bad word. That’s really the answer. That’s how people read online.
F for fast. That’s how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.
In our new eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users’ main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:
- Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar.
- Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar.
- Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F’s stem.
That’s not reading. That’s scanning – that’s a person who ended up on your site thanks to Google, and who is searching for an answer to a question. A solution. Maybe even something to buy. And that’s where The Blogging Rules come from.
Readers read the headline, maybe the first line or two, and then scan the body of the piece. Hence: great titles, strong leads, headers and lists.
Blogging Rules: Your New Best Friend. Alas.
The rules aren’t random. They’re a guide to crafting effective online content that gets read (errr…scanned).
Larry Brooks, the writing guru behind the rampant writing usefulness that is storyfix (and he’s so much more than that, too – he’s in love with me although he doesn’t know it nor does his wife. Vivid imagination, say hey!) writes in his blog about the importance of following the rules.
As in: if you’re a writer, and you want to get published, you better learn the storytelling conventions and rock them out. To the letter. Or resign yourself to being an undiscovered ungenius.
The same is probably true with blogging. The rules are about how people read online. And you want them to read your stuff, right? I mean that’s why we’re blogging, yes?
My inner imaginary rebel just nodded, sighed and said F it.
PS – Want more on the rules? Here’s a quick, top ten list of good stuff you can find here at ProBlogger. (Ah-choo!)
- Striking Findings from an Eye Tracking Study
- Behaviors of the Blogosphere Study Results
- What is a Blog?
- 18 Lessons I’ve Learnt as a Blogger
- Writing Good Content
- Post Length – How Long should a Blog Post Be?
- Granular One Topic Blog Posts
- Using Titles Effectively on Blogs
- Scannable Content
- Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable
Kelly Diels is a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.