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Editorial Note: How to Write an Effective Post

photo: tarop via Flickr

MyFDL has a number of new community members, including folks who are writing blog posts for the first time. Let’s look at how to write an effective blog post for their benefit, and as a refresher for more seasoned bloggers among us.

How to Write a Post:

Begin with the end in mind: what is the point you are trying to convey to your readers? It’s a good practice to scratch out a thesis statement or a nut graph in order to frame your thoughts before beginning the rest of your blog post. If you cannot articulate the point in a single paragraph, it’s likely you need to spend more time on organizing your thoughts. Don’t be afraid to draft a quick outline before starting to compose.

Who, What, Why, When, Where, How should be answered in the course of your post. Take a recent news story and pick it apart and look for these elements; the most effective articles will cover these points very early in order to engage readers and capture their attention. For bloggers, covering these points assures that you are fully aware of the scope of the story and that you haven’t missed a detail, and that you’re fully satisfying your readers’ curiosity.

Here’s a simple exercise most of us can use: Who made you angry? What were they doing that made you angry? Why were they doing it? When and where did they do it? How did they do it?  If you can answer each of these points, make a thesis statement as to why you were angry and then flesh out your rationale for being angry, you likely have a solid, interesting and classic blog post.   . . .

Focusing on informing and educating readers in at least one of four ways can make a really good post:

•   Pull together and publish some data which hasn’t been readily available; a number of very good bloggers find older data or information and compare to current data to make a point.
•   Point to context in information which may not have been discovered by others, ex. finding correlations in data published by government agencies which haven’t been noticed except by you.
•  Provide analysis of an issue or event which is unique and educational. It’s not enough to say you’re angry if we’re all angry; tell us in detail what specific issues or events made you angry, picking apart what’s wrong from what’s right.
•  Offer a prescription to resolve a challenge, with realistic evaluation of potential outcomes. When bloggers only offer critique and no solutions, they are easily minimized and ignored as not serious.

A really great blog post finds a way to combine two or more of these approaches, like finding data as-yet unshared and pointing to context, or analyzing a challenge and offering a prescription in the same post.

Take your time. If you cannot muster three paragraphs on your topic — a thesis statement, some commentary, a closing paragraph — take more time to organize your thoughts before publishing. You may be wasting your time if you cannot muster enough material to make an effective point.

Etiquette and Protocol:

Cite a source either by naming it or by providing a link to the original source. Attribution is critical to developing and maintaining the trust of readers.

Avoid CAPS in writing, unless using an acronym, or if the proper name is spelled in caps. Use sparingly as emphasis. Writing in all caps is considered shouting in blogging and forums. Never use caps for anything but acronyms in headlines/titles.

Spellcheck and grammar are musts; in this day and age when spellcheck and grammar check are readily available across the internet, there’s no excuse for spelling errors and poor grammar. Your efforts will not be taken seriously if you don’t respect yourself and your readers enough to check your work.

Make your post worth reading. While it might be fine for an email between people who are familiar with each other, a single sentence or a single paragraph is not worth your time or your readers’ time. If you do this too often you will lose readers’ trust and they will simply skip your posts when they see your name. (Posts of this nature also run the risk of being pulled back to drafts by moderation and editorial team members, particularly if there is a pattern of these kinds of posts since they act like spam.)

New work pushes others’ works out of the Recent Diaries list; be considerate of your fellow community members and do your best to make your work at least as good as that you are pushing off the page.

And finally, MyFDL means better blogging. You as a reader expect better blogging from fellow community members here at MyFDL; keep this in mind as you compose and publish. You are rubbing shoulders with some truly excellent bloggers. Your work should help draw attention to you and them alike for the same reasons — quality blogging.

Resources on writing blog posts:

If you want to learn more about how to write good blog posts, here are a few resources.

How to Write A Blog Article Post (Thims,
The essentials of writing a basic, three-paragraph post — it’s elementary. You learned this in grade school, let’s just revisit this process.

5 Tips to Write Blog Posts (Susan Gunelius,
Nice how-to with emphasis on writing for your own blog site.

5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post With a Bang (Brian Clark,
Snappy, to-the-point overview.

How to write a blog post people love (Penelope Trunk,
Note her comments regarding “writing short”; this is a 13-graf post, packed with info, but it’s “short” because it’s concise considering the amount of information she’s sharing.

Starting a blog? 12 ideas for blog posts (Paul Bradshaw, Online Journalism Blog)
For more advanced bloggers who are trying to write more frequently and may be dealing with writer’s block.

What makes a blog popular? (Dave Pollard, How to Save the World)

Do you have more resources to suggest? Share them in comments.

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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.