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How to write a good blog post: Five tips for the beginner

Clear Idea! 900px

You are among the best in your field – and want to share your knowledge. But how to write it? Here are some tips for how to write a great blog post!

In my professional life I work as Chief Communications Officer in Schibsted Tech Polska, a programming center that work with 19 different partner companies in Norway and Sweden. Almost all of them are part of Schibsted Media Group, one of the most innovative and forward-leaning media groups in the world.

We have decided to start a tech blog in the company, in which programmers share their knowledge and experiences with fellow programmers. This is part of our wider content marketing program.

A big group of great colleagues have decided to join the tech blog group, all of them experts in their fields and eager to share their knowledge.

But the fact that you know your stuff, does not mean you are great in communicating it.

So I presented some tips for what an expert in a professional field should think about when he write blog articles for the first time.

And I figured I might as well share the tips with a wider audience! So here they are:

Tip 1: Have a clear idea for your article!

The tip may sound obvious, but it is not. My experience is that experts, when writing for the first time, tend to want to put far too much into the article. Often they worry about letting important details out.

But you need to focus if you want people to read your article. Better than expanding the topic is to narrow it down – and instead split the material into several articles.

A good tip to make sure you have a clear idea: Start with the headline!

Are you able to formulate a clear headline?

If not: Maybe your idea is not so clear after all?

To have a clear idea can relate to several aspects of your article:

  • The topic of your article. Can readers understand it immediately?
  • The point you are trying to make? Is it clear? Or are your arguments leading in different directions?
  • Your storytelling technique. Have you chosen a special way of telling your story? If so: Are you sticking to it throughout the article?

The main point: Make sure you have a clear idea for the article – and stick to it!

Tip 2: Make the top level of your article right!

Think about your article in two levels: The top level (level 1) and the rest (level 2).

Here is a writer´s dream: Readers carefully read through your article, taking note of all the fine arguments and when they come to your well thought out conclusion, they make a wise assessment of your smart arguments. Impressed!

Forget it!

Most readers will never get past the first sentences of your article!

In fact: Your smart arguments will not even be read by most of the people who come across your article.

Unless you get the top level of the article right!

So what is the top level of the article?

It is the elements that meet the reader first. And the attention span is short – expect only 3-4 seconds. In that time the top level must have convinced the reader that it is worthwhile to dig further into the article.

The top level consists of the following elements:

  • The headline
  • The first 2-3 sentences
  • The subtitles
  • The images or illustrations

Think about it! Your first impression of any article is always based on one or more of these elements. If an article is shared on Facebook, for instance, you will typically see the headline, the first 2-3 sentences and an image. Based on that you decide if it is worthwhile to click on the link.

And even after you have clicked the link and go to the article, the first 2-3 seconds are usually spent scanning the top level elements. They give you an idea whether the article is worth your time.

So you need to get the top level right!

And the most crucial – and hardest – is the headline! It has to be catchy and make the reader curious. Here is a tool to test if your headline is good.

Never underestimate the power of a good headline!

But the other top level elements are important as well. Good use of subtitles can make your text much easier to read. And a compelling image or illustration is proven to make many more people share the content.

A tip about illustrations: Check the site canva.com. The site makes it easy for non-designers to create cool info graphics. And if you are a programmer, as most of our people in Schibsted Tech Polska, info graphics may be a very good way of illustrating your main points.

Tip 3: Use short and active sentences

Many who write articles for the first time tend to complicate their language. Sentences are long and stuffed with difficult nouns.

Instead your sentences should be short. And they should be active.

Of course not all sentences need to be short. To vary the length is good and it can create a good rhythm and flow in your article. But in general: Try to keep your sentences short. It is much easier to read.

It is also much easier to read if you use active language. By an active sentence we mean that the subject in the sentence performs the action of the verb.

Also avoid creating unnecessary nouns.

Here is an example from one of the draft articles for our planned tech blog:

The model provides the classification of product features and their impact on the customer satisfaction.

In this sentence “classification” is an unnecessary noun. It is much better to write the same using an active verb, for instance:

The model classifies product features and how they impact customers´ satisfaction.

To sum up: Try to make your sentences short, active and without unnecessary nouns.

Tip 4: Be consistent

I wrote that it is important to have a clear idea.

But you also need to be consistent with your idea. That goes both for your topic, how you write it and the way you put your arguments forward.

For instance: Let us say you have decided to write an article about “Ten reasons I will not develop in Java”. Then you must make sure that is exactly what you are doing. It must be ten reasons, not nine or eleven. They must be presented in a consistent way, for instance by using subtitles to identify each reason. And the ten reasons must be formulated in a similar way. Do not for instance formulate seven of them as statements and three as questions. Make a choice and stay consistent!

Tip 5: Make someone else read it before publishing

This tip cannot be overestimated. You need someone else to read through it, both for the content and the language.

I used to be head of the editorial desk in Norway´s largest newspaper Aftenpostenand have through my career read through thousands of manuscripts from professional journalists.

I can tell you: You would be surprised about the type of errors even very experienced and professional journalists can make!

I remember one journalist who had consistently replaced the last name of her interviewee with the last name of another person throughout the whole article. Of course she knew who she had interviewed, but this time her brain had played a trick on her.

Therefore: Always let someone else read your article before publishing. He/she should read it both for the content and the language.

Be especially careful about not allowing any factual errors into your article. Readers can disagree with your arguments. But if you serve them a factual error, your credibility for the rest of the article is gone.

Summing up

Make sure you have a clear idea, stick to it – and do not forget the elements readers see first: The headline, the first sentences, the subtitles and the images/illustrations. And always make someone else read the article before you publish it!

Good luck!

About the author: Experienced media manager and journalist. Enthusiastic about digital media – and eager amateur photographer. Currently Chief Communications Officer at Schibsted Tech Polska in Krakow, Poland.

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