The online world is awash with so-called ‘expert’ blog and article authors, writing on such a diverse array of topics that you’ll be hard pressed to rise to the top of any heap. It can be hard to ensure that your pieces stick out above the rest, encouraging site owners to choose you as their guest poster and web users to visit your own site. With that said, there are a number of factors which you would be wise to keep in mind when writing for any online audience. By striving to make sure that your articles are as well-written as possible, you are giving yourself the best chance to become a world-beating blogger. So, without any further ado, here are some hints and tips for aspiring authors.
Keep Your Design Simple
I want to preface this with a small rant about ‘list’ articles. You know the type; ‘Top 3…’ or ‘The 5 Cheapest…’ are common examples. Lists do have some advantages – they offer punchy, direct content; they deliver exactly what the reader is expecting to read; they are clean and easily adaptable. However, as you might have noticed during your internet travels, they can also come across as lower-quality content purely because of their proliferation. Every guest blogger uses this as their primary format, and as a result, list posts can sometimes seem a little spammy. High quality sites are looking for high quality writing, not copy-and-paste lists which can be hammered out in 15 minutes and then adapted to fit dozens of topics. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to structure your writing in a complex manner. Simple, short subheadings, like those in this post, offer a clean and more sophisticated look which can be adapted to emphasise certain keywords for SEO purposes if necessary.
Use a Wide Vocabulary… But Not Too Wide
Often, I read posts submitted by guest bloggers which are drowning in excess vocabulary. These writers may well have poor English, and so rely on a dictionary or thesaurus to translate their thoughts from a native language into ours. This might be unavoidable. Notwithstanding that fact, English language writers from all over the globe should try to sound natural. Using unnecessarily complicated words makes your content sound like it’s been through a spinner or authored by somebody with little knowledge of the language. It’s better to say ‘the cat sat on the mat’ than ‘the feline rested its posterior on the floor protector’, even if the latter makes you sound more ‘clever’.
Vary Your Sentence Structure
The best journalists will use long sentences only when absolutely necessary. Instead, writers should concentrate on punchy, declarative sentences, which allow the reader to digest information quickly and easily. The last thing you want is for readers to need to read things twice. That said, there is room for maneuver. When attempting to draw readers in, particularly in the title or introduction of a piece, it can be useful to employ a series of rhetorical questions (‘Do you want to know more?’ etc.). Try to avoid using exclamation marks unless they are truly suitable, otherwise you might come across as overly enthusiastic. Finally, subordinate clauses can be a great tool for adding extra smoothness to previously sharp sentences.
Punctuation – Keeping a Balance
The first thing to be said about punctuation is that you cannot overuse full stops (periods). The full stop should be the default punctuation mark. If you feel that a piece is too rigid, don’t insert questions or exclamations; lengthen a few sentences with subordinate clauses instead. Aside from that, one of the most common punctuation errors I see is the overuse of hyphens (-) and/or semicolons (;). I personally have relied far too heavily on the former in the past, and now make a conscious effort to split any two clauses which might be linked with a hyphen into two separate sentences. Semicolons seem to be used either never or constantly. Learn when they are appropriate and only insert them where they belong; to do otherwise is to devalue a very useful little device.
So there you have it – a few tips and tricks to get you started. Always remember that the best way to improve your writing is to draw inspiration from those better than you. With that in mind, never stop reading, and pay close attention to the techniques used by your favourite bloggers.
Thomas ‘TJ’ Jones is a writer for I Say! Digital, who provide Brighton SEO services.