When I taught fifth grade, I harped on my students to be sure their writing had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was about focus, which is hard for kids – and adults. “You say what you’re going to talk about, then you talk about it, then you say what you just talked about.”
A problem we often see with blogs and website copy is over-writing. It’s certainly an easy trap to fall into – when we’re writing a blog post, it’s usually something we know and care deeply about. And when we know and care deeply about something, we all tend to go on and on. The thing is: if we want to convince anyone else to learn about something, we have to stick to the point and keep their attention.
So, how to do this?
Elmore Leonard’s tenth rule of writing is “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” It’s a good rule.
Best to start out with a brief introduction. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, one might kick back with a hot cup of tea and read a long-form New Yorker article about cattle rustling. But on the Internet, everything is short-form. Or even summary-short-form. With leaving a page as easy as twitching a finger, there’s no time for extended descriptions, diversions, or esoteric references.
You gotta keep it simple. And that’s really all it is. When you think about constructing a sentence, try to think about how simply you can say what you want to say. Ask yourself if that adverb is
really necessary. If you want to describe something complicated, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and pictures are easy to add to your post, regardless of platform. Simple.
A huge challenge for me is run-on sentences. Just because I can fit several ideas into a grammatically-correct sentence doesn’t mean I should. Even if I think the writing might flow better with complex construction, I try to avoid it in a blog post. More periods means more opportunities for the reader to take a breather, not get tired of reading, and stick with you.
FYI, you also need to avoid jargon and acronyms. Like FYI. If your readers have to think too hard about what a word means, or have to look up your acronym, they may well leave and not come back. Remember: you don’t have a denouement; you have an end.
Fundamentally, keep your audience in mind. Usually, when you’re writing a blog post for your website, you’re trying to engage as many people as you can. You want to hook new fans or customers.
If you’re writing for the few people who are as into your subject as you are, by all means, go nuts with the detail, the long sentences, and the jargon. Remember that your readers are just as likely to click to Facebook or Amazon or YouTube as they are to scroll down to your next paragraph. And, of course, don’t leave out your single, focused call to action – the one thing you want your reader to take away from your simple, focused piece of writing.