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How to Write an Effective Blog Post

So you have a point you’d like to make, or important news which deserves widespread attention, and you think a blog post here or at some other community blog site will do the trick. Great! But unless you write an effective post, your point or story won’t get the attention it deserves. Here’s what you need to do to achieve your goal.

1. Write the headline first

Seriously, start with your headline; it should tell the story before the story itself. There’s a lot of other content to compete with for attention, and only a compelling headline will earn a reader’s click (but you already know this because you read blogs, right?).

If you are a regular Twitter user, you already know that you can say a lot in 140 characters. Now think shorter, roughly 60 characters long. What are you trying to say? If you can’t say it in 60 characters, it may not be a story.

Oh, and one more thing: there’s protocol to headlines. Take a look at the site to which you are submitting your post, notice the other headlines. Are they structured in sentence format (called downstyle headline formatting ) – first word and proper names capitalized and all other words in lower case? Or are they in AP or NYT format – generally, all words capitalized except for articles and prepositions under four letters long? Try to write your headlines in a form at compatible with the site and the site’s owners/editors will love you for it.

2. Remember your grade school composition

The five-paragraph essay served you well in grade school, right? It will serve you just as well or better on the internet. Just follow the same rules you used as a kid, keeping in mind that your first paragraph – containing your thesis statement – should contain the lede or hook. (If only you knew way back then in fourth grade that the thesis statement was your lede…).

Sure, a meaty blog post may contain many more paragraphs, but if you are relatively new to blogging, you can’t go wrong with the five paragraph essay format. And if you’re really struggling, you can shorten it to three paragraphs, but use the same concept – an opening statement containing your thesis, at least one paragraph expounding on the key topic, and a closing statement which revisits the thesis and makes a conclusion.

Before you even ask, yes, spelling and grammar count. You know that already; think of the hideously bad posts you’ve read which ignore these conventions. You probably still remember how bad the post was and not the point the author was trying to make.

3. It’s all about you, really, it is

You’ve stumbled upon a really important piece of information or an idea in another medium which you want to share. Excellent.

But a compelling blog post doesn’t just parrot the other medium’s content; you might as well stick to Twitter and send us a link to the original content.

What readers want is you. Yes, YOU. They want you to flesh out what is so important about that other piece, provide some new meaning they won’t find anywhere else with regard to that other medium’s content.

Go ahead and provide excerpts, but remember that it’s your analysis and not the original content you’re discussing which is important. Be sure to keep your excerpts within Fair Use guidelines, roughly 200 words or three paragraphs so as not to run afoul of copyright where applicable, or offend an author. And do be sure to include a link back to the original source you’re discussing. It’s generally accepted blog etiquette and often helps with generating additional traffic for your piece and the source of your excerpt.

4. Learn how to use the bells and whistles

You know how fonts and boldface and underlining can add emphasis to a print article. Using the editing tools most blog applications provide, including embedding pictures, will make your article more likely to be read.

But do keep in mind that the site at which you post your content may have a style. Try to use the same style and you are more likely to be treated as a valued contributor rather than the odd duck at the site.

5. Ask questions

There are no stupid questions, as you have heard so many times before. All seasoned bloggers have been through the same steep learning curve on how to blog, and virtually every good blogger you have ever read has gotten pointers from other bloggers on how to do better blogging.

So go ahead and ask. You may be very surprised at what you’ll learn.

And get blogging!

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Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, FDL community member since 2005, geek since birth.

Fan of science and technology, wannabe artist, decent cook, successful troublemaker and purveyor of challenging memetics whose genetics may be only nominally better.

Assistant Editor at Firedoglake and Editor at The Seminal.