One of my favourite metablogs, Skelliewag, recently published a post saying that, in blogging, your writing style is not as important as your ability to get your ideas across, and that traditional print writing style can be a hindrance in blogging.
Photo by incurable_hippie via Flickr
I think Skellie is half right. Blog writing style is different to the various print writing styles – it’s usually shorter for a start. If you’re writing an informative post, it is more important to be informative, than it is to have great style. Blogging is about communicating first and foremost, and to get started communicating you only need to get your idea across.
On the other hand, if you want to be remembered, in part you need to be distinctive. You need to better than every other mediocre writer with good ideas. You need to find your own voice. And some of the great writing advice you can get will help you find yourself – cutting out the excess and leaving the worthy.
I’m probably the last person to tell you how to write. I don’t think I have a great writing style. I’m not a natural writer. I haven’t taken classes in writing – in fact my last English lesson was when I was 16 years old, and I’ve no intention of starting that up again. But I am making an effort to improve my writing.
I think that my ideas are good, and I want them to be enhanced, not hindered, by my use of language.
The great thing about blogging, is that you tend to do it little and often. Most blogs that are read widely are updated at least once a week. In a given year, you’ve got at least 52 opportunities to incrementally improve your writing skills.
I think the best way of taking advantage of your blogging schedule to improve your writing skills, is to write your post and then edit it. Writing on it’s own, won’t improve your skills, it will only display them as they are. Improving your writing skills, I think, means improving your editing and rewriting skills. Once the ideas are in place, improving and rewriting your language to better communicate those ideas just takes practice.
Although I notice good writing whilst I’m reading, I am not skilled at deconstructing it to find out why the writing style works so well. Although I’m sure that anyone can absorb good writing style by reading widely and reading well, my best resource for trying to improve my own writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This book is pretty much an instruction manual for developing non-fiction writing skills. It explains what works, and why.
One of the features and selling points of my personal finance blog, is that I’m British and part of a small and growing band of non-American personal finance bloggers. I can help maintain this difference, regardless of my topic, by using a British English writing idiom. For this reason, On Writing Well is particularly helpful for me. Even though it’s an American book, it doesn’t rely too heavily on the idioms, style and taste of American English but instead focuses more on the general attributes of good English not peculiar to one country.
Writing is a skill that you need to cultivate to improve your blog, just as you need to cultivate SEO skills, or design skills, or coding skills. Certainly, you can be successful whilst being mediocre at any or all of them if you have great ideas, but you probably wouldn’t be reading Blogthority if you didn’t want to improve your blog.
As part of being the best blogger you can be, why not be the best writer you can be?