Structuring Your Blog
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Developing the structure of your blog is far more personal than others would have you believe. And ultimately, the set structure of your writing can and will evolve. The cold, hard basics are less romantic than I like, but when you discover the basics that work for you, you can begin romancing your writing and determine how it will best serve your voice and your goal.
Some of these rules I realized on my own, others were based on advice I received or chose to listen to. And just like when I was obviously pregnant, advice-givers come out of the woodwork. Big as a barrel, there were those who patted my belly and decided they knew best. Smiling and nodding then and smiling and nodding now, some advice I received was good and true. Some was not right for me. Discover for yourself.
Finding Your Structure
1. Length. Decide BEFORE you start writing how long each post will be. Making this determination will help you maintain focus and get you to make your point without boring your reader. Most people will only read a blog for three minutes – tops! If your post takes longer than five minutes, you will lose your audience before your last paragraph. This isn’t a book, or even a chapter in a book.
My personal strategy? 400-600 words, Four to Six paragraphs, three to five sentences each paragraph. That should give you a good three to five-minute piece. **Please note: I have, on occasion, exceeded my own suggested word limit – it is typically due to an extensive thought process or a work-related topic. I do not recommend it, but it is sometimes a necessary evil – like this post!
2. Topic. Do not wander or try to fit too much in. a) Say what you are going to say. b) Say it. c) Then say what you just said. A personal story or example is always good to share, it draws the reader in – they may even identify with it – and holds their interest.
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3. Guide. I use my mom as my guide. I figure that whatever I write, she will most likely read. If I think she would be offended, I probably shouldn’t write it. There are things she hasn’t agreed with but I am ok with that. For this reason, I rarely use profanity in a blog post. I do not want to offend anyone and since I cannot be sure of who is reading, I would rather be safe than sorry. It is also important to remember your goal or your industry for which you are writing.
4. Truth. Do not print lies or make up stories to prove your point. The internet is available to everyone. Which means that there is probably someone out there that can disprove what you say, should you choose to lie or embellish the truth with little white lies. Just stick with the truth, you are less likely to get mixed up. What happens on the internet is everywhere. Do NOT Plagiarize -> cardinal sin of writing. If you want to re-post something or use it in a post, give credit where credit is due.
5. Impaired. Do not drink and blog. Do not blog when you are exhausted. Do not blog while distracted. You need to be focused and as clear-brained as possible. I know these rules work, because I have broken each of them. Do not blog while you are impaired.
6. Edit. Edit. Edit. I can’t say this enough. I always write my post in a word doc first. Then I can use spell and grammar check, word count, and there is less likely a chance that I will accidentally delete a whole post or a developed idea by writing directly into the blogging forum. Make sure you have to, two and too, you’re and your, they’re, there and their correct – these can easily trip you up and sadly discredit you as a writer. And my final test is reading it aloud – I read it out loud, to myself before I hit the publish button. Then I also go back and edit later – if necessary.
7. Tags. Always tag your post with keywords and your name or blog name. This makes your post more searchable and thus findable. I always tag with my full name, my Twitter name, the name of my blog, and the forum where it is posted, in addition to keywords and key phrases. And then I sign my post, linking my signature to my LinkedIn profile or website. Always do this, unless of course you don’t want people to find you or your blog.
These rules are not hard and fast. They are just what works for me. And like I said, most of these rules exist because I broke them and paid for it. Find your rules, develop your structure, then stick to it. It makes it whole heck of a lot easier. Trust me.
Blogging re-ignited my love for writing and even brought me to a new career. I have posted this link before, but it is worth watching again – I watch it often. This is a presentation by American Express with Seth Godin and Tom Peters. I LOVE this little snippet of these well-known marketing professionals talking about blogging. It is less than 2 minutes long and worth your while.
I agree with Tom Peters. Blogging has helped me find me, redefining what I want in this life and in my work. I have faced down demons and confronted mistakes in my past in blogs. I have made friends and discovered another way to communicate and share. But most importantly, I have learned. And I plan on continue that learning process for many years to come…
**This is part 3 in the three-part series, The Art of Blogging