Do more. Work less. Tips that save time.
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I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you make mistakes too… We all do. Being able to put some words together in a smooth sequence of sentences is not enough to produce a decent blog post.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing” – I guess Nathaniel Hawthorne was right after all…
Now let’s set some things straight. I’m no guru when it comes to writing. I’m making a ton of mistakes myself. Not to mention some language errors because English is not my primary language (greetings from Poland). But there is a small set of things that I’ve figured out, more or less. And I’m writing this post to tell you what those things are.
So let’s start. Here are the mistakes:
1. Trying to deliver more than one main idea
Every post should touch upon one main idea. If, for example, you want to write about how to create a cool YouTube background and how to get more YouTube subscribers, doing it at the same time is not the best possible approach.
Providing just one main angle/topic makes the post easy to digest for the reader, and gives you a better chance of your post getting noticed by the community. Trying to be all things to all people tends to backfire.
2. Not using subheadings effectively
Subheadings are a great tool for providing highly scannable content. You probably already know this, but people on the internet don’t start to read right from the get-go. First they scan the content and then decide whether or not they want to actually read it.
Writing clear and impactful subheadings is great for getting attention and conveying the basic message of your post with minimum amount of words.
Subheadings are also great for breaking your post visually so it’s much easier to read from top to bottom. (You can achieve a similar thing by using images.)
3. Hedging too much
This has been covered on Copyblogger (10 Secrets to More Magnetic Copy) some time ago but it’s still a valid point.
You’re hedging whenever you’re trying to soften down your voice because you’re afraid that you might not be 100% correct about what you’re saying or that some people might get pissed off.
Here’s an example. Hedging: “Many people say thatis probably one of the best services available.” No hedging: “MailChimp is the best email newsletter service ever.”
4. Using smart language
Blogging is not Wall-Street-Journal-style of writing. You don’t have to sound smart. Blogs were meant to be places where people could share their thoughts and start discussions. Therefore, you should be as conversational as possible.
Here’s a quick rule of thumb. Whenever you’re writing a blog post try to imagine that you’re talking to one of your friends. What language are you using? How are you referring to them? Are you joking a lot? Are you being sarcastic? … etc.
5. Imitating others
So you’re a Problogger reader, or a Seth’s Blog reader, or a Smashing Magazine reader, or a whatever reader, and you want to be just like them because you see that it’s obviously working more than fine.
Getting some inspiration is fine, but in the end the truth is that you are neither Darren, nor Seth, nor Vitaly. You have your own voice, your own style, and your own way of writing. Use it. And. Be. Yourself.
6. Not knowing when to end the post
This is something I’ve struggled with in the past. A post shouldn’t be 33,000 words long just because you have much to say and want to drain the topic completely. People are not used to reading 10-pages-long articles on the internet. Reading your post shouldn’t be a task in itself. It should be entertaining and interesting, therefore 500-2,000 words is a safe range to aim for.
Remember, never expand a post just for the sake of it. If you feel that you’ve already provided all the information you wanted to, stop. Then go through the post again and edit out all the things that are not valuable and beneficial to the reader.
Just to be honest, I’m not saying that I always succeed at not making any of these mistakes. But being aware of their existence can get your mind on the right track much quicker when you start to wander off and lose your blogging-edge.
But wait! I have one bonus tip for improving your posts
Writing two separate copies of your new post.
The truth is that whenever you write a post about a certain idea the first draft won’t be the best you can do. That’s because you won’t have all the facts and clever points lined up in your head the way they will be after the first draft is done.
So what you can do is create a new document and start over. Don’t look at the previous version and write the whole post again. It will be much better in 90% of cases.
Of course, writing one post twice every single time is not the most efficient way of working, so I’m not saying you should always do this. But sometimes it’s worth to give it a try when you want to secure a guest post spot on some big quality blog.
Tell me what you think about the mistakes I’ve shared. Are you making any of them? Maybe there’s something you’d like to add to this list?