Until I am a full-time blogger, I pay my bills by working at The Forum, Fargo’s daily newspaper. My degree is in journalism, and since college I have been working as a newspaper page designer and editor. Every day I read and edit newspaper stories and/or blog posts. Since a lot of writers read my blog, I thought I’d share some ways to write better, from an editor’s perspective.
1. Get to the point right away.
When I’m writing for my blog, I make my focus clear in the first sentence or paragraph. People are not going to read halfway through a cute story in order to figure out what I am really saying. Readers want to know what they are reading in the first two seconds or they will move on to something that takes less time.
2. Omit useless words.
Every time I re-read over one of my posts, I find unneeded words that can be deleted. The word “that” is hardly ever needed. And the word “just” appears in my writing for no reason. Many writers use flowery phrases. Here are a few examples, with the unneeded words in bold: “In my honest opinion, there is a business opportunity,” “I do believe there is a business opportunity,” “First let me explain to you there is a business opportunity,” “I have to admit that there is quite a business opportunity…” Why not just say it? There is a business opportunity. The more concise your writing is, the clearer and easier it will be to read.
3. Don’t let typos or incorrect grammar get through.
This happens to everyone. At The Forum, at least four people read everything we publish, and we still miss errors. The best way I avoid errors in my blog posts is by reading and re-reading carefully and slowly, spell checking and having someone else read them.
4. Hire a proofreader or bribe a friend.
My boyfriend Josh and I read each other’s posts before we publish. When I have been staring at the same writing for an hour, it is easy to overlook obvious mistakes. It helps to have someone read over my work carefully. I recommend finding someone who will be rudely honest with you.
5. Spend time away from your writing, and then re-read it.
I work on a blog post to the point where it could be published. Then I do something else before I actually publish it. This is a good time to have someone else read it. When I come back to the post with a fresh start, I notice things I didn’t before.
6. Break up the text.
I like to break up my writing with subheds or pictures to keep the reader interested. If I see a page of solid text, it looks overwhelming and I am not going to read it. If that same text is broken up into smaller sections, it looks easier and less time consuming.
7. Know who you are writing for.
I struggle with this one when I am writing for my blog because I write for dog owners or people who like dogs. Really, that is too general. I try to think of a narrower audience for certain posts, like lab owners or people who travel with their dogs. Even if I pick one person and pretend I am writing for her, my writing is more focused.
8. Include yourself.
The more personal my writing is, the better. People want to read about a real person. Last month, I tried to write a post about why you should run a marathon. That post was so boring I don’t think Josh even finished reading it. He told me to start over and write about my own experiences with running, and it turned into a much more interesting post. With blogging, readers want to get to know the blogger.
9. Be unique.
If you know something no one else knows, write about it. I like to write about rugby because a lot of people don’t know much about it. If there’s a popular topic everyone is writing about, find a new angle. In one post, I compared the pet overpopulation problem to the human overpopulation problem