How to write a blog?

BLOGThis question has repeatedly come up @ one of the clients I have been recently working with.

Blogs are very popular today, to connect with your audience and give them a sense of 1on1 contact. Everyone, from Amitabh Bacchan to the kid next door, becomes a prolific writer overnight. However, the greatest challenge in writing a blog is faced by the person who is actually ghost writing. Not that I mean to say that people are not writing their own blogs, what I am trying to say is that most require some help with it and some require more.

When you are writing for yourself you write in a language of a dialogue with the understanding that your reader would respond to your thoughts in writing – thereby closing a communication circle. However, when you have to ‘assist’ someone else with their blog – there lies a challenge. You need to re-wire your thinking to fit their pattern. This is especially difficult if you have had minimal contact with the other party. The of course there is the hurdle of messaging the communication right.

So coming back to the crux – the million dollar question is – how to write a blog? (Especially if you are writing it for someone else.)

I would advise you to connect a little more deeply with the person you may be ‘assisting’. This doesn’t mean that you need be their shadow – all you need to do is to talk to them a few times on general topics – may be record the conversation, so you can get a handle on their style. It would also be a good idea to get their thoughts on various possible messages that you may be taking up on their behalf. Of course there are some topical situations that you may not be able to foretell – however, most of the time the blog content is likely to follow pre-defined communication targets.

Generally it is a good idea to use less formal language on the blog to bridge the gap as well as to get people to follow what you are saying.

Focus on the important stuff. As you are looking to connect with the minds of your audience through your blog – put in your efforts in getting the identified messages across efficiently.

Plan the structure beforehand – even go as far as getting an outline in place before you get down to actually polishing the content.

Avoid slang and abbreviations as far as possible – unless you are sure your audience is as familiar with these as you are.

It is a good idea to research some relevant blog sites to get an idea of what language is generally used.

OrwellGeorge Orwell in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, defined 5 rules for effective writing; to distinguish yourself from competitors and clearly communicate your ideas. I quote

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such as toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles’ heel, swan song, and hotbed come to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic.

For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

Long words don’t make you sound intelligent unless used skillfully. In the wrong situation they’ll have the opposite effect, making you sound pretentious and arrogant. They’re also less likely to be understood and more awkward to read.

When Hemingway was criticized by Faulkner for his limited word choice he replied:

Poor  Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree (Ezra Pound). Accordingly, any words that don’t contribute meaning to a passage dilute its power. Less is always better. Always.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

This one is frequently broken, probably because many people don’t know the difference between active and passive verbs. I didn’t myself until a few months ago. Here is an example that makes it easy to understand:

The man was bitten by the dog. (passive)The dog bit the man. (active).The active is better because it’s shorter and more forceful.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

This is tricky because much of the writing published on the internet is highly technical. If possible, remain accessible to the average reader. If your audience is highly specialized this is a judgment call. You don’t want to drag on with unnecessary explanation, but try to help people understand what you’re writing about. You want your ideas to spread right?

6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.

This bonus rule is a catch all.

Above all, be sure to use common sense.

These rules are easy to memorize but difficult to apply. Be sure to read Orwell’s original essay. It

contains many helpful examples and is, of course, a pleasure to read.


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