A lot of us love to write. If you're interested in blogging, you must have some affinity towards the art of writing. And what's not to love? Writing is a magical way to focus your thoughts, affirm your dreams, and express your soul. Sound whimsical? That's because it is. In the best way!
I believe everyone should be encouraged to write. Whether it's writing things to remember them, writing out the crazy stories in our heads, or writing the opinions and beliefs that make us who we are. Everyone has something to write about.
But not everyone is good at writing.
I know, that's mean.
But be honest with yourself for a second. Have you ever clicked on a blog post only to be greeted with poor writing? Words are misspelled, grammar is flimsy, and the words drone on, and on, and on . . .
We're taught that bloggers are supposed to write informally. Forget about academic and professional writing styles, blogging is conversational! And yes! Yes, it is! But that doesn't mean low quality.
It's time to prioritize blog post quality again.
I'll admit, I'm a chronic comma over-user and I like to add moooooore letters to a word than necessary. Run-on sentences are a weakness and I'm not the most concise writer. However, I believe I still have a degree of quality to my writing. (If you disagree, you don't have to take my advice.)
Today, I want to share with you 5 ways that you can improve your blog post quality with your writing. In the end, practice is the only thing that will make better writing a more natural process. However, there are easy ways that you can improve the content you put out today!
Let's get the product recommendation out of the way first, shall we? I am not an affiliate of Grammarly.
The good news is that Grammarly's basic plan is free! And it is genuinely pretty cool. I've been using it for several months now and love it!
Grammarly is kind of like spell check on steroids. Even on just the free basic plan, it's caught a ton of really stupid mistakes for me. And stupid spelling/grammar mistakes can wreck your blog post quality.
You can copy and paste any text on their website and it'll scan your document for basic spelling and grammar errors. Then you can look through them and approve or ignore the suggested corrections. Easy peasy.
One of the awesome things I love about Grammarly, though, is the browser extension. I installed mine on Google Chrome, and now Grammarly follows me everywhere and criticizes my writing! Still completely free for basic errors, and it works great in WordPress.
While I'm super interested in using the Advanced features, I'll be honest that the premium plan is a little out of my budget right now. However, I see this as a future investment I'd be willing to make.
When you start writing more, it can be hard to spot your own errors. Plus, it's tempting to skip over the editing stage.
If you currently write in high volumes, are planning to or currently writing a book, or need serious help in improving the writing quality of your articles, Grammarly premium may be for you, though. Otherwise, the free basic plan is still a great companion!
2. Edit backwards and out loud.
Editing backwards is an odd tip that my old English professor gave us once. It's a little weird when you first try, but it's surprisingly effective once you get the hang of it.
When we read from beginning to end, especially when it's our own work, we naturally start skipping ahead. Skimming is almost an instinct when we're familiar with the content. As a result, we miss stuff.
Crazy old Professor Temple says that you should start from the end and work your way backward. This will force you to read out of context and focus more on punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and word choice. Pretty cool, huh?
After you've done this, I'd recommend going back to the beginning and reading the post out loud as a final step.
It's a little cringey, but this is usually where I find the most items to change! When you read out loud, you force yourself to address every word. You can hear how the sentences work together, and you'll be able to determine if your writing is robotic or if it sounds like a conversation with YOU.
Blogging is highly personal, so having a strong, coherent voice is essential to ramp up your blog post quality.
If you don't live alone and have to whisper it, go ahead. Just try to read it verbally in some way.
3. Don't focus too much on word count.
This is my problem area. _o/
That little symbol mush up there is a person raising his hand. Just so you know.
Anyway, word count is kind of the bane of our existence, is it not? In school, it always an extreme, never in the middle. They'd ask for 3,000 words describing your summer when all you did was binge the Harry Potter movies forwards and backwards. Then they'd ask you to describe the complexities of your very existence in what was practically a tweet.
You know what rocks about running your own blog? NO RULES.
But there actually are a few rules so pay attention.
Yes, longer articles do better with SEO (as in, at least 2,000 words). Plus, people tend to prefer value-packed, lengthier posts over a series of brief-and-to-the-point posts.
On the flip side, if you write too much, people will grow bored and give up on finishing your article.
So write concisely. Find ways to shorten an overcomplicated sentence. Remember that most people are skimming anyway. Don't beat around the bush - get to the point!
If you want a longer post, add more content, not more words.
If you think your post is too short, rambling on about the same points won't help. But SEO and reader attention spans aside, what matters most is the value you bring and the takeaway that you give your reader.
4. Don't take too many shortcuts
One of my number one lazy-person tips is to do it right the first time.
A lot of times, when we write, we take shortcuts by using placeholders like "insert an awesome paragraph about this here later."
And you know what happens? You forget about it. You either find it at the last second and throw some words in there because you really want to schedule the post, or you miss it altogether and look silly with a published placeholder.
If you don't use placeholders, you probably just throw some poorly worded sentences together so you could move on. You probably promised yourself you'd fix it later.
Again, it probably won't get fixed the way you intended later on. Why? Well, that's the entire philosophy behind my "do it right the first time" advice:
You're only going to get lazier.
I'm serious. We save things for later because we'll feel like doing it then, but how often does that happen? Be honest with yourself.
Write correctly the first time. Don't do things like use TBH or "ur" just because you think it's a rough draft.
Take the extra ounce of effort required to spell out a word fully, or look up the definition of a word you think you want to use. You'll thank yourself for it later.
The less rough your draft is now, the faster you'll be able to finish the post and the better your final draft will be.
Sometimes, though, you need to skip a section in order to keep your creative momentum. I get it.
If you have to throw in a placeholder (like "research this fact later!" or "find a good joke for this intro!"), make sure it stands out so you don't miss it. Bold it, change the font color or make the text size larger.
And, you can even use Ctrl+F (or Command+F for my fellow Mac users) to find placeholders if you use a consistent symbol like [brackets].
5. Use variety.
There are two important places to use variety in your writing: your word choice, and your sentence structure.
This is relatively straightforward advice, but it's actually very difficult to implement. This is where creativity really comes into play with your writing.
You've got to find ways to rephrase your ideas. Too much repetition comes across as robotic, shallow writing. Identify your keyword focus for SEO, and find DIFFERENT ways to incorporate it.
For example, let's pretend I was an affiliate for Grammarly. In this case, my keyword might be "Grammarly".
There are two ways I can approach this. The first is based off a how-to-start-a-blog article I once read that was a giant Bluehost ad.
(Bluehost isn't even that special. Siteground is better, if you're curious.)
I highly recommend Grammarly for improving your writing.
I always recommend Grammarly for improving your writing.
Grammarly is the best tool for improving your writing.
Click my link to start using Grammarly to improve your writing.
I always recommend Grammarly for improving your writing.
You're probably thinking, "Katie, you used the same sentence twice." I know, isn't that sad?
The above five sentences would literally be within two paragraphs in this particular article I read. It was a nightmare, but based off her income reports, she was able to generate a decent amount of traffic and income from that article, probably because it showed up in people's searches for Bluehost.
Here's option two.
Grammarly is a helpful tool for improving your writing.
You can download Grammarly as a Chrome extension so it monitors all of your writing in-browser.
Grammarly tracks your writing amount and accuracy and sends you regular reports of how well you're doing compared to other Grammarly users.
Grammarly also has a paid version that can detect advanced writing errors to help you seriously improve your writing quality.
Even with the basic plan, Grammarly can save you from super embarrassing typos.
Notice how I'm still selling the product and using the word, but it's giving you a different message with each sentence? Variety is key, not just to blog post quality, but any form of writing.
In fact, sentence variety was the most common form of feedback I'd receive on all of my academic writings. Whether peer reviewed (even in flippin' middle school, I couldn't impress the other 12 year olds) or instructor graded, sentence variety has haunted me my whole life. It's a pain, but it makes a difference.
The best ways to identify places where you're repeating yourself is to first, read your post out loud as described in tip #2, and then use Ctrl+F (or Command+F) to see how often you use certain words or phrases. If you have a 1,000 word article and you used the phrase "I love zombies" 62 times, you may need to make some edits.
Update 2/12/18: Everybody, let's take a moment to thank Hannah of Window Seats & Wildflowers (she's running the cutest lifestyle blog about travel and mindful living!) for suggesting a super cool website, OneLook, that can help you vary up your word choice! I can't even properly describe this website . . . it's a one-stop shop for just about everything related to whatever word you look up. Including made-up words that kinda sound like your word. Like, what? Seriously, you've gotta try it for yourself.
Developing a critical eye.
Developing a critical eye so you can tell when you're writing higher quality content takes time. It takes practice and intention, and as time goes on, higher blog post quality will come more naturally. No one really wants to hear that though, so here's a few bonus tips for you to focus on next time you critique your own work:
Know the goal of the content before you start reading what you wrote so you can measure everything against its ability to achieve that goal.
Don't be afraid to rewrite. If you're afraid you won't be able to get it right, copy and paste that section of text elsewhere and write multiple versions. If you want to go back to an old version, it'll be there. Otherwise, you'll have the freedom to recreate a section of text until you're happy.
Don't expect perfection, and don't be afraid of imperfection. There's always something to improve, and there will always be something to change. Draw a line for yourself so that you can still reach a point where you move on. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to contribute towards the goal.
Talk to someone else about it. Let someone else read it. Discuss the content/subject with another person to round out your ideas.
Study other people's writings. Print out a blog post with a writing style you loved, then take a red pen to it! Dissect it, and analyze what it is that you loved about it. Learn from other writers, but never, ever plagiarize. If an idea or stylistic mechanism is original to that creator, do not use it for yourself.
Be honest with yourself. Don't try to justify a sentence that doesn't sit well with you just because you want it to be a good sentence. If it doesn't work, change it.
Don't rush to publish. If a post isn't ready, it isn't ready. Work on something else. It may not be the right time for you to go public with that information/those opinions. Your readers will thank you for taking the extra time to focus on blog post quality versus quantity.
I want to emphasize one more time: don't expect perfection. Blog post quality is not dependent on your ability to write like a seasoned English professor. Writing is a form of self-expression and art, so there will never be a one-size-fits-all standard of perfection. That's part of the beauty of humanity!
So find ways to make your writings easier to understand and learn from. Make sure what you write contributes to the goal of the particular post you're publishing. But also let your unique voice be heard. Make your own rules. And forgive yourself for less than perfect content.
Because it's yours! And your readers will love it for that.
I'd love to know . . .
What is your favorite thing to write about? It doesn't have to be blogging related!
Or, what's your biggest struggle with improving your blog post quality?
Let me know in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Until next time!
- Katie Scott