Writing for Blog Audiences
1. WHO you are writing for
Although this may seem self-evident, you must always remember that you are writing for someone else—your reader! But this is often all too easy to forget when you are absorbed in getting your idea down on paper.
Before you start writing, ask yourself Who is my reader? They’re probably your customers or potential customers. They’re probably people who share similar beliefs and values to you. Or, they might be people who are simply curious and want to know more about you and what you stand for.
If you know who your reader is, it will be easier to imagine them as you write. If you find it difficult to think of them as a group, you might find it easier to imagine a single reader and write just for that person.
2. WHAT you are writing about
Be really clear what you want to tell your reader. What do you want them to learn from this article? If you don’t pin this down before you start writing, your article will be vague, and is likely to go off on tangents and be hard for your reader to follow.
Take the time to plan your article so you know it will do its job when it’s done. Once you know the message of the article. If you find yourself straying off the point but you do not feel you want to delete the tangent and move on, save the subject of your tangent for a future article.
Also, consider the impact you want your article to have on your reader. Do you want to make them think about something in a different way? Do you want to make them angry about some injustice in the world? Or do you want to warm their hearts and make them smile. Again, if you know the answer to these questions before you start, it will flavour your article as you write it and you will be able to assess whether you have achieved that when the article is finished.
3. Remember that your reader is NOT a mind reader
The subject matter may be well-known to the writer, but one must remember that the readers probably do not share the same insight. They do not necessarily know the writer personally so they do not know what the writer thinks or feels. They do not share the same experiences or knowledge or even the opinions about a relevant subject. And yet, it is really easy to make intellectual leaps without realising it, leaving your poor reader wondering whether they have missed something. In the worst cases, you’ll leave the reader not being able to understand the most crucial point of your article, because you assumed they ‘got’ what you meant without really explaining it.
This is when having someone else proofread the articles come in handy. An objective reader is in a much better position to see what needs further explanation and what doesn’t.
If you have an international audience, also consider the examples you give. I recently proofread an article that referred to American TV networks and TV programmes. As a Brit, I didn’t have a clue what they meant. The author of the post was American and hadn’t realised the names wouldn’t mean anything at all to a UK audience.
The same applies to acronyms and jargon that is specific to your field. Don’t assume your average reader will know what they mean. At the very least write acronyms out in full the first time you use them. And simply try to avoid using jargon. Jargon could be specific technical words or words that are in everyday use that are used in a different way in your field.
NB: if something needs explanation and the explanation doesn’t seem relevant to the article, then consider the possibility that the point is actually an unnecessary tangent and remove it.
4. Don’t make your reader WORK too hard
It is important to use sentences that flow nicely, which are neither too long nor too short.
Sentences that are too short are choppy and unsettling. There is no flow to the article and it can be hard to see how one sentence links to the next.
Conversely, long sentences can be confusing for the reader to follow. If too many sub clauses (phrases between commas that explain what came before) are used, or too many brackets, or too many lists it can be really hard for your reader to follow the thread of the sentence. Sometimes when proofreading, in order to understand the basic message of the sentence, it has to be read it leaving out all the extra bits so it can be seen what the sentence is actually saying.
You might feel that all of these extra bits and pieces are necessary to make sure your reader has all the information they need in order to understand the article, but this information will be lost if it is presented in such a way that the poor reader has to concentrate hard just to piece it all together.
Making your readers work too hard will backfire on you, as they will probably give up before reaching the end of your article, and will be unlikely to return to your site another day.
5. Have the COURAGE of your convictions
As the author of a blog article, you are the teacher teaching the message of your article. As the teacher it’s up to you what you put in and what you leave out. You need to decide what is essential to this article forthis audience at this time and what can be left out or saved for a follow up article.
Too often, people try to get everything into their articles and end up with long lists of examples, lots of explanatory sub-clauses, lots of tangents and too many either/or’s. You can over-explain for fear of leaving something out or offending someone or being challenged on what you’re saying.