Cultivate Your Writing Skills to Improve Your Blog

by Mike Holman

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.

Writing

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?

{ 7 comments }

1 Easton Ellsworth

Great points, plonkee. I’m writing a book about improving your blogging skills and this fits well with my core argument that you have to do things with a strong sense of purpose in order to achieve maximum success. So write a draft, but most of the time, don’t hit publish yet. Prune it and pick at it till you’ve got it right. Writing for the Web, in many cases, is so much more about editing than ideating.

Hope that made sense.

2 Shanti @ Antishay

On Writing Well was my BIBLE when I decided I wanted to write more a few years ago. Not only did it make me think outside the box (I love to write non-fiction, but all of my real writing experience prior to reading the book was research papers and essays), but it was fun :)

Thank you for this. It makes me want to dig out the book and read it again.

3 Four Pillars

Great stuff Plonkee – I’ve been working on my writing as well. More along the lines of simplifying a bit since some of my posts are somewhat complicated.

Mike

4 plonkee

I’m actually working on expanding my writing. I have a tendency to be too concise, and make assumptions – not giving people enough room to see my ideas. Before I started blogging I hadn’t tried to improve my writing for years and years, so a bit of a catch up is required.

5 Troy

I agree with you entirely about writing and then editing, it’s probably what I have been missing in all my blogging. Unfortunately, a lack of time does get in the way. I will just have to commit more to editing and carefully structuring all my writing.

6 shimla

good article , will help in improving my blog

7 Journa Liz S. Ramirez

As a journalist, and a recent blogger, I was once confused on how to be the two considering that blogging and journalism have different writing styles, not to mention the rules are at times contradicting each other. But I have later realized that I could be a blogger without compromising my journalistic skills. I just recently learned the writing style of blogging and it just couldn’t pass my standards in writing, and yet I am into it (i just don’t drop of my journalism hat when posting a blog.

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