Writing a great blog involves doing many different things well. You need to do your research, know your audience, be interesting, write compelling headings, keep it simple, write actionable content, make your writing scannable, and include call to actions—and that’s not even everything you need to keep in mind.
We wanted to know exactly what it takes to write a great blog, so we reached out to 29 experts and asked them this question:
What are your top 3 must-follow rules for blog writing?
Top 3 Must-Follow Rules for Blog Writing
(According to 29 Experts)
C. Chris Brogan
R. Rob Cubbon
T. Ted Rubin
In order to write for online audiences we often have to re-learn writing. Through my years of blogging experience I have learnt a few basic rules that you must always follow.
You probably know this principle already—Keep It Simple Stupid. Ok, let's leave the "stupid" off. However, the "simple" still applies with online content. There is no need to impress your audience with your vocabulary or the specific jargon from your industry. Keep it plain, simple and easy to read. And they will love you for it.
- Break it up.
When it comes to blogging and online writing you have to understand that many of your readers are lazy. Sure, not all of them, but we can cater to both. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Chop up your long sentences and paragraphs. Break them into more consumable chunks.
- Add headings and sub-headings throughout your content so it is easy to scan. (assume I won't read the actual paragraphs)
- Use bullet points like this when you are listing things.
- And scatter images or other related media (videos, slides, gifs, etc.) throughout your content to make it more pleasing to the eye.
- The heading is still crucial.
Back in the days of tabloids and newspapers this lesson was clear. However, today we seem to think that our amazing content will speak for itself. It won't. Not if nobody opens your post to begin with. So, don't forget to spend a while crafting your heading after your content is ready.
Ashley Faulkes is the Founder of Mad Lemmings. Find more about him at madlemmings.com.
1. Be authentic.
Let your own voice shine through so your reader connects with you and what you are sharing through your writing.
2. Serve the reader.
People come to your blog because they are seeking something—an answer to a problem, a solution for a challenge, or simply to be entertained. Put the reader first and give them so much value that they return again and again for more.
3. Always have a call to action in your blog posts.
If you've captured your reader's interest long enough to read your blog post, then don't send them away without asking them to take action. Invite them to get your lead magnet, ask for a social share, or send them to the sales page for a related product you're offering.
- Have a fresh, compelling idea or take on your subject—not the same old same old.
- Know what you are talking about. Just don’t read a few articles on Google and then write. Dig deeper.
- Prove your idea with lots of specifics.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant with 3 decades of experience in business-to-business and direct response marketing. Find more about Bob at www.bly.com.
Top 3 writing rules:
1. Write a lot.
You can't get better if you don't write enough to understand your own habits, preferences, flaws, etc.
2. Always proofread your work.
Edit for voice and flow, but also grammar. To me, grammar mistakes are unforgivable in this day and age; if you don't know a grammar rule, Google it.
3. Push boundaries.
If you have an opinion on the topic you're writing about, state it clearly, logically, and respectfully. If you have stats and information to prove your point, include those. You should expect some backlash, but you should also keep an open mind if conversation arises and others counter with good points, too.
Bree is a pro digital media and online video writer, as well as a PR/media consultant for startups and small businesses. She also teaches entrepreneurial geeks how to run their own freelance businesses at geekandprosper.com. Find more about Bree at www.breebrouwer.com.
1. Write conversationally.
2. Use smaller words whenever possible for clarity.
3. Write with brevity in mind.
People spend too much time worrying that they don’t sound smart, and they end up muddying the water.
Chris Brogan is the CEO of Owner Media Group.
1. Get feedback and use it.
You are creating a consumer product. If it confuses or bores the reader, find out before publishing something that confuses or bores lots of readers.
2. Establish a clear voice.
Your own—if it is nonfiction. Your point of view character's—if fiction. Point of view is hard! The best storytellers establish it within a sentence or two. Study how it's done.
3. It is permissible to use "had" and "were" and "was"... but only sparingly.
They generally betray a narrator data dump. Reveal things (even back-story) through the character's experiences, thoughts and actions.
David Brin is a scientist, best-selling author, tech-futurist, and leading commentator and speaker on modern trends. Find more about David at www.davidbrin.com.
- Think of headlines (or chapter titles) first.
- Write everyday.
- Dont edit yourself until you're finished.
1. Don't be pretentious.
People think they have to use big words to sound intelligent.
2. Make your sentences easy to read.
Keep them short and use small words that anyone can understand. Proof read out loud. It isn't until I read my words out loud that I can tell if the story flows. Often when I read in silence, I think everything is fine. But once I say the words, I realize that things sound off. We read everything out loud before hitting publish.
3. Be fearless.
The more you write, the more confident you become. Write often and write with honesty. Rules are important but they are made to be broken. Find your own style and don't be afraid of criticism. Feedback makes us all better writers.
Deb Corbeil is the Founder of ThePlanetD. Find more about her at theplanetd.com.
1. Strive to understand what your reader believes.
That will inform what you write about and help you write in a way that connects.
2. Pay particular attention to the verbs you use.
Sentences soar with strong, visual verbs -- and flounder when you rely on adjectives to paint your word pictures.
3. "To master the metaphor is the greatest thing by far. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others, and it is also a sign of genius.” ~ Aristotle, Poetics
Donnie Bryant is professional marketer and copywriter. Find more about him at donnie-bryant.com.
Dustin W. Stout
One: Write for someone
Don’t write for “anyone”, but someone very specific. Someone whose name you know and whose face you can see when writing. When you write in this way it becomes more personal and you communicate more effectively.
Two: Tell stories as much as possible
The human mind is built for consuming things in the form of a narrative. Stories are how we passed down our history before historians started writing it all down. It’s much easier to retain a story about something than a series of cold, hard facts about that same thing.
Three: Be succinct
Never use more words than absolutely necessary. Make each word count.
Dustin W. Stout is a social media enthusiast, designer, digital media consultant and speaker. Find more about him at dustn.tv.
1. Get your ass in the chair.
No matter how bad the writing might seem, it doesn't matter. If it's on the page, you can always make it better.
3. Be open to opportunities.
Don't lock into a very strict outline or notion of where your story has to go. Wonderful things can happen along the way and one of your jobs is to be open enough to go along with them.
Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been translated into 28 languages.
- Have one goal for each piece of content and include only information relevant to that goal.
- Write for one reader because it makes your writing voice more human and more engaging.
- Be dazzling: Add rhythm to your writing and use sensory words to create a strong voice.
Henneke Duistermaat is a copywriter and marketer. Find more about her at www.enchantingmarketing.com.
- Provide value.
- Tap into your reader's emotions.
- Make your writing scannable.
Jacob Cass is a prolific graphic designer who runs the popular design blog, Just Creative, which doubles as his graphic design & branding firm. Jacob’s clients includes the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Disney, Nintendo, Powerade and his award-winning work has been recognized world wide. Subscribe to his blog and get a free 70+ page logo design inspiration eBook.
- Always have an unexpected hook to consistently provide unique value/experience to your readers.
Aim to include actionable ideas that people won't see elsewhere in every piece of content you publish.
2. There are only 2 ways to really succeed in blogging—it's either to be the first one to break a story, or to have the absolute best version of the content that covers a topic that many have already written about. Do both.
3. All content must have a goal.
Whether it's to attract more customers to your business, build relationships with other publishers, or exemplify expertise (for branding). It's imperative to align your content ideas and efforts with your business' end goals.
- Craft a powerful introduction.
- Keep the words simple. One syllable is good.
- Use rhythm in your writing. Short sentences, medium and long.
Bonus tip: Avoid adverbs
Jeff Bullas is a social media marketing blogger, keynote speaker, digital strategist, consultant, best-selling author, and the CEO of Jeffbullas.com Pty Ltd. Find more about him at www.jeffbullas.com.
- Let your authentic voice come through.
- Read widely. About writing. About life. About everything.
- Write. Even when you don't want to.
It's important to have an idea as to how your story is going to play out. For pantsers, this can be difficult, but drafting an outline doesn't necessarily mean it has to be lengthy. If you're a pantser and hate the idea of outlines, at least write down your beginning, middle, and end to keep you focused, then fill in the rest of the story "pantsing" style. My outlines normally start as "three-act" outlines, and then are developed into chapter-by-chapter outlines. This keeps me focused while writing and also helps me remember small details that might otherwise be easily forgotten.
2. Less is more.
Don't over-explain. I like to give my readers the benefit of the doubt and allow them to interpret the meanings of certain scenes, actions, and dialogue. I want to give just enough information so that the reader can picture what I'm saying, but also allow them to use their imagination to fill in any blank spaces.
3. Go for the unexpected.
I avoid clichés as much as possible. Why? Because they're called "clichés" for a reason. Nothing is worse than reading a book you're really into when, 20 pages in, you're hit with cliché after cliché and stereotype after stereotype. In addition, for each scene, I always ask myself, "What would the reader expect to happen?" And then I'll write the exact opposite of that expectation or put the characters through a really trying situation. As a reader, it's fun to be surprised. I love hearing people say, "Wow, I definitely didn't see that coming."
1. If possible, write about the things you are most inspired by at the moment.
Your writing work will go much faster that way.
2. If you hit a moment of writer's block, find a way to start writing about anything.
Go out and find Q&A sites where people are asking questions about the topic you are supposed to be writing about and answer some questions. Or find some blog posts about your topic and write some comments. Stop staring at a blank document and start writing—it will get your mojo going.
3. Use an editor besides the one built into your word processor or CMS.
I prefer the premium version of Grammarly because it will catch a lot of errors that other applications won't. It will also teach you to be a better writer as it will explain why certain errors are errors.
1. Writing is an art which should always be in a flow.
So to be in a flow, you must remove all the distractions around you first and start writing in WordPress full-window mode. This one practice will keep you more focused, and give you better content in a short time.
2. When you are a writer, start feeding your mind with copywriting skills.
This is a killer art which has brought millions of dollars into big companies' pocket by just playing with the words. Steve Jobs is the example when he said, “1000 songs in your pocket.” These words were so powerful that iPad became a big hit in just a few months after the launch.
3. If you want to master any skill in the world, you will have to go in the investment mode.
Start investing money to hone your skills. Attend seminars, listen to podcasts, read books and meet new people who are better than you in that field.
Kulwant Nagi is the Owner and Founder of Blogging Cage. Find more about him at www.bloggingcage.com.
Writing great content is an essential part of any online marketing plan. It's important to create something that's valuable, interesting or entertaining, that suits your target audience and positions your brand.
- Know your audience. There's a lot that goes into this but some quick wins can be gained by reviewing any questions that are emailed into your business. Look at what people ask and consider whether those questions can be answered in the form of a blog or downloadable whitepaper.
2. Write something uniquely valuable.
Copying what other people do or writing the same old dross isn't going to help anyone. Instead, be inspired by the topics being covered around you but always focus on how you can add your own unique spin.
3. Use shorter sentences, paragraphs and clear formatting.
This makes it easier for people to skim read your content. Long chunks of content appear overwhelming when viewed online.
Laura Hampton is a Digital Marketing Manager at Impression.
- Read your writing out loud. If you stumble over anything while you're reading it, then it needs to be changed to flow more naturally.
- Break up your paragraphs. You don't want to have one long wall of text—it's hard on your readers' eyes!
- Have fun! If you're having fun writing it, then your readers will have fun reading it.
As a copywriter, my writing needs to be as clear and easy to understand as possible. So my first rule is to imagine my reader sat at their laptop in their underwear at two in the morning, or flicking through the page on their smartphone. This reminds me to use simple language, short words and to avoid trying to sound intellectual.
My second rule is be bold and to rattle some cages. I want my readers to be angry or excited about solving the problems in their lives. Even if my client defangs my copy later, I want to go for the jugular and write copy that makes people react.
My third rule is to always review my copy three times—especially first thing in the morning. As Stephen King once said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
Rule 1: Be real
You don’t need qualifications or fancy words in order to write well. People don’t want jargon and they don’t need confusion. Just use normal, everyday language.
Rule 2: Be unique
Always try to find a new angle for your content. Take meta descriptions for example. These little search snippets have a huge impact on where your content will rank, so be creative and get people clicking.
Rule 3: Focus on the reader
Effective copy happens when you’re creating content for your target audience, not when you’re talking about matters only important to you.
- Write now; edit later. Stop editing yourself as you write. Those are two different functions of your brain and they don't work well together at the same time. Just get your thoughts out there. Then worry about making it good.
- Read an insane amount more. Sign up for every single magazine you can find and afford. Sign up for Any New Books and send every sample ebook to your Kindle or phone that looks even remotely interesting. Throw more books away. Bad books are a sunk cost. It's not worth pouring more time into them. Throw it away and start a new one. There's an infinite amount of good ones out there.
- Don't give them a: too long; didn't read. Yes cut away the fat of what you are writing, but unless you are a newspaper columnist, your readers probably want intrigue, surprise, thrill. Learn to tell good stories. Don't spoil the surprise in a headline or tweet.
- Always have a clear goal of WHAT THE ARTICLE SHOULD BE DOING. Is it trying to make a sale? Trying to make someone laugh? Trying to get someone to dial a number on their phone? Click a checkout button. Without determining this goal first, I personally tend to meander around in the article.
- Grammar and spelling are secondary to a super-juicy story. If Warren Buffet was personally about to give me his can't-lose stock tip of the century, and misspelled "Investmnt", I wouldn't disregard the tip because of that. Also, computers are damn-good at catching mistakes nowadays. Less work for us writers!
- Be yourself. If you're boring, write boring copy about boring subjects for other boring people. If you're freaky and wacky, then let your freak flag fly. If you're in the middle, then admit that and let others who are in the middle enjoy your writing.
Neville Medhora is financial blogger and entrepreneur. Find more about him at KopywritingKourse.com.
1. Ask yourself, "So what?" What's the point of your post? Who's going to read it? A wise man once told me people only use the Internet for 2 reasons: to be entertained, or solve a problem. I think it's easier to solve a problem than to be entertaining, so I usually aim for that one.
2. Create the best resource for your topic. Look at what else is out there on your given topic or keyword and write something that blows it out of the water.
3. Make it easy to read. Think about how short paragraphs, white space, sub-headlines, bullet points, and images can help get your point across and make a great reading experience.
Nick Loper is Chief Side Hustler at Side Hustle Nation. Find more about him at SideHustleNation.com.
- Only write about what you know. This should be obvious but, boy, the internet is full of rubbish written by people who don't know what they're talking about.
- Make simplicity your ultimate goal.
- Following on from the second point, read and re-read what you've written, deleting unnecessary words, simplifying the language and shortening the sentences.
Rob Cubbon is the Owner, Lead Designer, and Marketer at Rob Cubbon Ltd.
Rule 1: Never forget your objective.
Rule 2: Be concise.
Rule 3: Break rules.
Sophie Lizard is founder of Be a Freelance Blogger.
Rule 1... Passionate
Rule 2... Engaging
Rule 3... Simple
Ted Rubin is a social marketing strategist, brand evangelist, keynote speaker, and acting CMO of Brand Innovators.
Thanks to all the experts who sent in responses for this blog post.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on these tips, and how you're going to use them in your own writing. Please share in the comments below.