Contrary to popular belief, blogging is actually bloody hard. Even as a former journalist, it can be difficult to get thoughts out of my head and on to my blog. So I decided to share three tips that I find help me blog more often.
1) Make use of the inverted triangle principle
Within journalism, there is the principle called the inverted triangle. The idea is that the most important part of the story – the foundation – should come right at the beginning. In fact, even more than that, the entire story should be spelt out in the first sentence (if possible).
Let’s look at some recent news stories on the BBC, whose journalists use this technique every day.
London Euston pub fire: Crews tackle blaze near station
A large fire has broken out at a pub near three major railway stations in central London.
Even though I’ve only included the headline and first line of the story, you know almost everything there is to know about what is happening. There is a large fire, in central London, near three major railway stations. In a pub.
If you click through to that story, you’ll see that the second line goes into more detail about what is happening, but it doesn’t add any new major points to the story that weren’t highlighted in the first line. It does, however, add more important details that add further information to the first line.
Finally, further down the story you start to be presented with general information that adds context to the story, but isn’t the story itself.
A technology example
By following this principle, it becomes possible to write strong, structured blog posts with (relative) ease. A technology blogger I have a huge amount of respect for is Paul Boag – a UX expert based in the UK.
I picked the last post from his development category to demonstrate how Paul – who has never worked as a journalist – makes use of the inverted triangle principe with great effect.
Why performance is the best way to improve the user experience
Many things shape the experience of users. However, nothing is more likely to drive users away than a poorly performing website.
In less than 25 words, Paul has set out the entire premise of the blog post. It’s that nothing drives users away from a website like a poorly performing website.
Considering the whole point of the post is about how developers can improve the performance of a website. The post then goes on to break down the solution into points. I.e:
1. Poor performance damages findability
Again, looking at the first line outlines the main argument of the point:
Google has made their position over site performance clear.
It’s concise, clear and to the point. Everything that follows after it simply expands on that initial point.
Paul’s post demonstrates one incredibly important thing. You don’t have to stick everything in one sentence. The principle still works over two sentences, so long as you don’t ramble.
A short note on the inverted pyramid
The media-savvy amongst you may have been thinking that the inverted pyramid is a tool for writing ‘hard’ news, rather than ‘soft’ news. And while you’re absolutely correct, it’s worth remembering that you don’t need to follow it to the letter. It’s more a guiding principle to help you structure your blog posts.
2) Make a plan
When you set out to write a post, start by thinking about what the main point you want to make. Just like you wouldn’t rush into coding a solution to a problem – at least I hope not – it pays to stop and think about what you’re trying to achieve.
Perhaps you feel passionately about a popular topic and want to add your two cents. Or maybe you have some knowledge to share, like this very post. The key is to identify what it is you want to say and write it down. It doesn’t have to be how it will be at the end; it’s more about getting it down to break the barrier of the blank page.
Lists are your friend, but don’t be beholden to them
Once you’ve gotten down the main point you want to make, start making a note of between three to five additional points. They don’t have to be numbered listings, but they can be if it makes sense. This post is a good example of this approach. I wrote it this way deliberately to demonstrate the approach.
Write down the main points you want to make. Keep them fairly high level at this point. Make them sub headings. Don’t worry about how they sound when you write them down. They’re just a framework at this point. For example, with this post, I knew I wanted to highlight three techniques to make it easier to write and post blogs as a developer. The three points I wanted to make became the sub-headings.
Fleshing out your points
Once you’ve written down your points, start jotting down some further points you want to make for each point. Again, don’t worry about making them perfect at this point. They’re more of a way for you to mind-dump onto the page.
These points will eventually become your paragraphs. After you’ve written down all the sub points, start going back and fleshing out each of those notes. Keep in mind the next point so you don’t go wandering off in a random direction. It’ll also stop your blog posts spiralling off to the point where they become too big for you to feel like they’re ready to post.
Just remember to clearly outline the answer to the point in the first line or two of the section after the header.
3) Use text to speech tools
The last point isn’t a writing tip, but more of an editing tip. It can be extremely difficult to edit your own posts. Even professional editors don’t edit their own stories. They’ll hand it to their deputies or other editors to review.
However, technology is making it easier than ever to review your posts. Tools like Hemingway are phenomenal at giving you clear points about how to improve your writing. That said, one tool stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of making it easy to edit your own posts effectively... Text to speech.
That’s right. What is an accessibility tool is used by journalists around the world to aid in ensuring they pick up on 99 per cent of issues before passing it on to be reviewed by someone else.
As you may know, reading something out loud can make it much easier to spot mistakes. However, even then, your brain is exceptional – even if you misspell a word, or miss out a word, your brain can easily fill in the spaces. As you already know what the post says, it’s easier for your brain to fill in the gaps, which is why it’s so hard to edit your own posts.
By getting a computer to read it out to you, it’s much easier to spot mistakes and awkward sentences. Just a small hint. Try to limit it to reading a sentence at a time, at least at first. It can become quite difficult to remember all the bits that weren’t quite right.
Hopefully this post will help you to post more in the near future. If it has, let me know below. In addition, if you have any tips of your own, let me know!