This week's installment of our Elements Of A Good Blog series comes from one of our favorite bloggers in the IFB community. On her blog, Dress With Courage, Elissa Stern discusses fashion, beauty, body-image and vintage finds. Today, she's lending us her savvy blogging skills to talk about the importance of editing your content before publishing.
What’s So Great About Editing, Anyway?
You've spent hours thinking about a great blog post. You brainstormed for ideas, edited your photos, and studied magazines and other blogs for inspiration. Finally, you gather your thoughts and put your words into a draft. But the work isn't finished. In fact, it's just beginning.
It's time for editing and rewriting.
“But why?” you might groan. Your post is finished. Perhaps you like it just as it is. But chances are high that you didn’t get everything right. There could be incorrectly spelled words. Your sentences might not flow the way they should. Grammatical errors may have been missed. And your text might not be pleasing to the eye. Mistakes are made by all of us, and that’s why editing is so crucial.
Clean copy goes a long way towards making your blog credible and professional. It is concrete proof to followers that you are educated and intelligent, and leads them to take you seriously. In addition, clean copy makes it more likely that first time visitors will want to come back to read your future posts.
As you edit your thoughts, here are a few tips to improve your blog copy:
- Don't write in a too-formal voice: The most effective blog posts are written in a conversational tone, using language you speak in on a daily basis. Pretend you’re having a conversation with a friend, and in the same voice. Avoid preaching and using cutesy language (such as ‘adorbs’ for adorable, ‘totes’ for totally.) One way to help develop your blogging voice is to pay attention to the language used in blogs you already follow. What is it about the tone that resonates with you?
- Edit, Edit, Edit: Review your post for redundancies, spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and punctuation errors. All of these errors distract your reader and take the focus off the message you’re trying to communicate. I always type my posts out in a Word document before copying them into a blog post. Though it takes a few extra minutes, I can be sure that any grammatical and spelling errors will be caught before I post. Watch out for common misspellings that won't show up on the spellchecker, such as “your” versus “you're,” “their” versus “there,” and “principle” and “principal.” You can also use dictionary.com and the Website Guide to Grammar and Writing for additional help.
- Consider total length: An investigation on Problogger found that blog readers stay for an average of 96 seconds. Based on this knowledge, many successful web-masters restrict their post length to a level that is readable in short grabs. In addition, both extremely short and extremely long web pages are not Google ranked as highly as pages of a reasonable length. Most experts recommend a word count of around 250 words per post. This has proven not only to keep readers engaged and interested, but also may encourage you to post more frequently – a smart technique for generating readership through your RSS feed and in search engines.
- Avoid tired clichés: A cliché is a phrase that has been used for so long that it's become tired and repetitive. Take a moment to be creative and replace those clichés with something fresh and inventive.
- DO use lists. Most blog readers skim post rather than read them all the way through. One way to maximize your post impact is to use lists. Bullet lists or numbered lists call attention to important points, and guarantee that readers who are skimming will catch the most important parts of your post.
- Understand basic principles of effective text layout: Readability is one of the most important aspects of good blog copy. Use line breaks between paragraphs. Use italics for emphasis. Your goal is to draw the eye and create a smooth sense of flow throughout your post. Make it easy to read!
- Come back later: If you get frustrated while editing, don’t try to force the words to come. Save the post and work on something else for a while. You can even switch from one post draft to another, spending a few minutes on each as ideas comes to you. I tend to work on two to three blog posts at a time, and I've learned that this really helps me keep a fresh eye.