A former manager of mine once told me that writing is easy, and in a sense they were correct. Writing is easy. Writing well, however, is not. I have more than a decade of practice in writing, and have spent that time studying and honing my craft. I have received praise from managers and clients alike, and written countless blog posts, for both clients and for myself.
Not every business can afford to hire a content writer, especially one that is skilled and experienced. These firms may need to write their own content. This is a brief overview of how to do just that.
Plan and Outline
You probably already know what topic you’re writing about, but you don’t want to just start writing. You need to know how to approach a topic. Specific is better; posts that answer questions are great.
Once you’ve got your plan of attack, do your research. This may mean researching a topic, or examining a client’s brand voice. If you’re using facts, statistics, or quotes from other websites (and you should be), save those URLs! You’ll want to link to them in your post.
Outlining is vital. Different writers outline in different ways. For example, my outlines are usually just a list of the subheadings I plan to use. Some people will want more detailed outlines. Whatever works best for you.
Use The Inverted Pyramid Structure
The inverted pyramid structure is a method of organizing your writing so that it best engages the reader. You might recognize this technique from news articles; it’s frequently used in journalistic writing.
You want to start at the broadest part of your topic. This allows readers to determine whether your article is going to contain the information they’re looking for. It also prepares the reader for what’s to come.
In the paragraphs that follow, you will delve into greater detail, explaining different aspects of the topic at hand. These paragraphs are where you will use data to back up your message, and give the information that differentiates your article from others on the same topic.
Use Everyday Language
There’s a lot of temptation to use industry jargon or academic language when writing about certain topics, but you should resist that urge whenever possible. Using plain, everyday languages makes engaging with your writing easier, includes a broader audience, and makes reading your article faster.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for an eighth grade reading level for your writing. This allows you to explain complicated topics while including and engaging a wider audience.
If you find yourself in a situation that demands jargon, make sure that you explain to the reader what that jargon means.
Use Short Sentences and Short Paragraphs
It’s always best to use short sentences and short paragraphs. A long sentence is a red flag that you may be sacrificing readability. Use sentences that are to the point, as these sentences tend to be more powerful and more engaging. Don’t combine two topics in one sentence. Break it up into two.
Short paragraphs make your piece appear easier to read. Readers on the web don’t want to be confronted with a massive wall of text. Using many short paragraphs also makes your content easier to read.
Each broad topic in your article should be in its own short paragraph. This will avoid reader confusion.
White space is your friend. It opens up the page and reveals the structure of your content. It makes the page easier and more pleasant to read. This makes your reader more likely to stick around.
Eliminate Passive Voice
The passive voice is the bane of every beginning writer. We often use it without thinking about it. But passive voice leads to weaker statements and longer, more convoluted sentences.
The passive voice is when a verb acts on the subject of a sentence. In contrast, the active voice is when the subject performs a verb. Let’s look at an example:
- Passive voice: The red bike was ridden by Jane.
- Active voice: Jane rode the red bike.
Do you see how the active voice sentence is clearer, more powerful, and shorter than the passive voice sentence?
In combination with using the active voice, choose action verbs whenever possible. A sign that you’re not using action verbs is that you’re using forms of the verb “to be.” This is also a sign that you might be using the passive voice. Here’s an example:
- Non-action verb: Jane was rowing the boat.
- Action verb: Jane rowed the boat.
Both sentences are in the past tense, but one is more powerful and engaging.
Every Blog Post Must Have an Image
I cannot stress how important this is. Quality images on your blog posts invite your reader to continue. Also, images will appear on previews of your work when they’re shared on social media, and posts with images are more likely to be clicked on.
Using images also lends authority to your writing. It shows professionalism and that you’ve put thought into the piece that you’ve written.
The primary risk of using free stock photos is that someone else will be using that exact image. That’s better than not having a picture at all, though.
Every Blog Post Must Have Subheadings
Subheadings are so important! There are a few good reasons to have subheadings in your article:
- They make your writing easier to scan and understand.
- They entice readers to engage with your content by letting them know what they’re about to read.
- Google places some importance on subheadings when indexing your website.
- Subheadings make it easier for the Google algorithm to understand what your article is about.
Subheadings organize your writing, and should follow a logical path through your subject. This way, one concept flows easily to the next, making your message easier to understand.
Your subheadings should always be nested correctly; H2 (heading 2), with H3 (heading 3) underneath, then H4 (heading 4). Most content management systems will auto format these for you once you choose which heading level a piece of text belongs to.
Write a Great Title
Writing great titles is a skill that takes practice to learn. The title appears not just on your webpage but also on Google search results. A great title encourages users to click through to your page, but also to read your article. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Great titles use action verbs.
- Titles must be relevant to your content.
- When writing for SEO, your title should contain at least one target keyword.
- The ideal title length is around 60 characters.
- Write your title after you’ve drafted your article.
Don’t get discouraged if you struggle a little with titles. They take practice to write well, but your efforts will be rewarded.
Review and Revise
Always give your article a second look and see if there’s anything that needs to be changed. Sometimes when we’re writing, we don’t see the mistakes we make. Reviewing your writing carefully will bring these to light. Here are some things to look for when reviewing and revising:
- Spelling and grammar; they actually matter.
- Length of sentences and paragraphs. Look for ones that should be broken up.
- Jargon and academic wording.
- Sentences in the passive voice.
- Continuity of the article. Make sure the order of your topics makes sense.
Revision will help you write the best article possible. Every writer edits a little differently. Some swear by reading out loud to catch repetitive word use and awkward phrasing. Others print out their document and edit on paper. Try a few methods out and see what works best for you.
With this knowledge at hand, you’re ready to start writing blog posts for your business or your own website. Remember, the key to doing something well is always practice, and with practice, you’ll be writing excellent blog posts in no time!