As Switchfoot once sang, “If we’re adding to the noise, turn off this song.” If you don’t have a topic and an angle for blog writing, you are noise. Go brainstorm!
Step 1: Do you have something to say in a blog?
Brainstorming can include conversations with other people about your topic idea or reading articles for inspiration. Sometimes, it can even be good to jot a few paragraphs down to help you figure out where you’re headed.
A topic is the subject you’re wanting to cover. An angle is what makes what you have to say about that topic unique. For instance, two bloggers decide to write about Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. The first writes about her worsening Alzheimer's, and how this feature helps her feel grounded in her past and present for now. The other, a recently sobered addict, writes that On This Day only serves up a daily dose of nightmarish reminders of a painful past. Same topic, different angle. BIG difference.
Step 2: What are other people saying about your blog topic?
It’s really helpful to get a feel for other perspectives before you solidify your own. Oftentimes, you might even change your mind completely OR gather a stronger argument for what your initial angle was.
Referencing and linking to a reliable outside source not only bolsters your own credibility, but also it adds substance to your writing. I recommend linking to at least one outside source.
Step 3: Get to writing the blog.
By now, you’re probably itching to get your thoughts on paper. Now that you have a direction and perspective, go for it! Don’t hold yourself up too much at this stage with revisions, because we’ll handle that next. Let it flow! When you’re done, re-read it all and make revisions and corrections as you see fit. And, as the tip below suggests, simplify. Concise is key in maintaining engaged readership.
William Zinsser, author of the ever-relevant book On Writing Well (I can’t recommend it enough!), argues that any good nonfiction ought to get straight to the point: “The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb… there are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.” In short, say exactly what you mean and nothing else.
Step 4: Get feedback and revise the blog.
Regardless of how great you think your writing is (and it’s probably not half bad), you’re always better off by having a second pair of eyes on your piece before it goes live to the condescension of the internet (you’ll thank me later). Chances are, a workmate or friend would be happy to lend your piece a few minutes of their time. Take any feedback with a grain of salt, but make sure you’re listening to what your peer had to say and make revisions accordingly.
If you absolutely have nobody to review your writing, read it aloud to yourself. You’ll nearly always catch at least one glaring grammatical flop or stumbling sentence.
Step 5: Polish up the blog.
Assuming that you’ve caught all the typos and run-on sentences by now, let’s talk about aesthetics.
- Is it formatted in a way that is easy to navigate through visually? Look through this article, and see how bolding, italics, color, and paragraph breaking are used to create a “guide” for the reader. If your text all looks the same, chances are some formatting could take your piece to the next level.
- Do you need supporting media? Depending upon how your content will be displayed once published, it may be good to find an interesting and relevant image (or sometimes video!) to go along with your article. Always make sure that you have the rights to use any images you get off the internet, and give appropriate credit to the photographer or artist.
- Check out your first sentence one last time. Make sure it motivates you to want to keep reading! In journalism, that first line is called your “lead,” because it leads your reader deeper into the story. As Zinsser says, “The most important sentence in every article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.” If your article is - by this definition - dead, fix your lead. If it’s alive and kicking, then you’re ready to publish!
Blog writing should be part of a strategy for organizations. If you feel like reading more, consider checking out our blog about the top business tools for SMBs.
Erica is the Director of Administration at VTR, and a mom. She delights in challenging the status quo of how organizations run and how work happens, and is on a never-ending journey to make the workplace and culture optimal for human productivity + happiness. She enjoys good coffee, hiking, painting, and is also an enduring fan of The Walking Dead.