Writing tips for bloggers, engaging your online audience

Today’s art and article are from guest blogger and artist Carrie Schmitt. Thank you for contributing, Carrie!

By Carrie Schmitt

You have a beautiful blog to share your unique voice with the world.  Now, how do you keep your readers captivated with all the information out there just a click away?

One way is to make your content reader-friendly.  Did you know we read differently online than in print? Below are online writing tips based on scientific research by Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., a leading web usability consultant.

* Engage your audience.  Always write with your readers in mind. Online writing is most appealing when conversational in tone.

Your writing should have a purpose or message.  Identify what this is before you begin. Ask yourself, why am I sharing this?

Keep paragraphs short.  Paragraphs should contain 1 to 3 sentences and cover only one idea.  Why?  Small bits of information are more inviting than lengthy paragraphs without visual stops.

 

If you have a long paragraph and don’t want to delete anything, just break it into a few short paragraphs.  A simple line space will make your content easier to read. 

Use visual cues.  Subheadings with meaningful information are great ways to provide and divide information.

Images entice readers, break up the text and provide diverse information for the brain to process.

*  Cut any unnecessary words.  Consider using bullet points or lists when possible. Sentence fragments are perfectly acceptable too.  Nielsen suggests using half the word count as you would in traditional print writing.

Edit, delete, repeat.  Always edit your writing at least twice before publishing.  Step away for a bit before editing.  Each time you edit, challenge yourself to delete as many unnecessary words as possible.

Here are two sample sentences where I removed words that do not change the context of the message:

a) Random acts of kindness are a guaranteed way to bust out your inner sunshine for yourself and someone else. (This is implied.)

b) It gives you the gift of creates wonder, allows for all kinds of possibilities to exist and makes me feel like a child again.

 

Note: You want to maintain a human sounding quality, which is your unique voice.  Reading aloud is a reliable way to tell if you have cut too much.  If you sound robotic, put some more of your personality back into it!

Start with the most important information.  Readers spend 80 percent of their time above the page fold.  Place key messages on the top half of the screen.

Adapt these guidelines to suit your style.  I don’t consider these strict rules and think it is okay to diverge from these tips when needed.  If you need to use another technique to share your message, go for it!

Pay attention to what writing style you enjoy reading.  To become a better online writer, notice what blogs are easy to read from start to finish, what grabs your attention—the presentation, the content, the message.  Adapt techniques and styles that impress you.

Before I hit publish, I ask myself:

  1. Is there anything I can cut that isn’t essential to the overall message? Does every word count?
  2. Is each paragraph concise and short?
  3. Is this aimed toward my readers?  Are there parts that only I would find interesting?

Examples of effective online writing:

Jessica Swift’s Tidbits and Truisms on her website is a great example of how to use bullet points to organize information. The “About” page also uses short paragraphs, images and different font colors for visual diversity (www.jessicaswift.com/about)

Scoutie Girl does a great job of highlighting important information in the text by enlarging and bolding the font, as well as engaging the reader with questions that invite self-reflection and discussion.  This post also demonstrates how short paragraphs are inviting to read. http://www.scoutiegirl.com/2012/09/in-praise-of-small-closets.html

Juliette Crane often keeps her writing short but meaningful and uses images to convey her messages in an attractive format. http://juliettecrane.blogspot.com/2012/09/6-new-art-supplies-i-currently-love.html

What online writing styles capture your attention? Do you have any online writing tips to share?

(Byline: Carrie Schmitt is a freelance writer and artist whose writing has been published in The Writer magazine, American Journal of Orthopedics, the Cincinnati Enquirer and more. Her artwork and writing can be found on her website www.carrieschmittdesign.com

  • http://juliettecrane.com juliette crane

    fabulous advice! thank you so much for mentioning my blog as inspiration :)

    cheers!
    -juliette

  • Erin

    Great advice! Completely agree, would love to hear more!