Monday, June 16, 2008

Tips for new bloggers

To create and retain a loyal readership, give your readers the value they deserve.

Anyone can start a blog. The problem is, with so many people across the globe blogging regularly, why would anyone want to read what you write? Some people write for the pure pleasure of it, or because for them, a blog is the equivalent of a personal diary. And they are content with a small but dedicated readership of fans or followers. But if you are not a celebrity and writing for a global audience, it can be hard to retain your readers’ interest considering the sheer volume of content that is available online. If you do a little research before beginning writing, you are likely to find that someone somewhere has already said what you want to. And at the same time, now that everyone can be published, a lot of poor quality writing is also doing the rounds online.
But there are things you can do to capture and retain the interest of your readers, improve the overall quality of your writing and ensure that your blog does not sink into the vast seas of repetitive, largely unread online content. Here are some basic guidelines to follow.
1. Define your topic
Decide what you want to write about and stick to it. This will give your writing a sense of direction and purpose. Most people will not be interested in the infinitesimally tiny details of your personal life, however interesting your own thoughts may seem to you. If you have multiple interests, create separate blogs to cover each of these, so you can avoid the verbal equivalent of trying to sell a sledgehammer to a watchmaker. Define your bounds from the start and stay strictly within them; also make them unambiguous and easily identifiable to readers.
2. Make sure you have your story straight
To do justice to your readers, you must be up-to-date with all the latest happenings in the field of your interest. When citing figures or quoting someone, don’t just make an empty statement - be sure to credit the source. Your credibility as a consistent blogger can only be built through knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, and not merely through giving the appearance of knowledge and understanding. This can only happen through dedicated study and sustained interest in the subject. When expressing a personal opinion, explain clearly that it is your personal opinion. Other people may go on to quote you, so be fair to them. Make sure your theories really hold water, and that you are not wasting your readers’ time by stating shaky opinions founded on inadequate research.
3. Get to the point
Your readers’ time is precious. Don’t waste it by giving them lengthy, useless introductions. Before you start writing, make sure you have a point, and focus on introducing it as early as you can. Each sentence should be used to focus and drive your central point. Remember, you have a very short span of time before your reader decides that he/she is uninterested in what you are saying and moves on to the next blog. Use that time as well as you can. State your case clearly and quickly and avoid the use of redundant, repetitive words. Steer clear of adjectives and long-winded descriptions - provide facts as far as possible, and let people judge for themselves. Avoid jargon and long words/sentences where simpler ones will suffice. This will let people relate to your writing with greater ease. Make each word count. Also, remember that people across the globe are going to be reading what you write; in terms of content and style, aim for global rather than local.

4. Be original
Give your readers the value they deserve. They don’t need you to reiterate opinions held by masses of people across the world, or rewrite news items faithfully without diverting from the original content of the story. Look for what people will care about and mould your content to build their interest, but don’t forget to add your own voice and personality to the content you publish.
5. Provide visual relief
Avoid large, intimidating, impossible-to-read blocks of text. Use subheads to break up your text, or insert pictures, graphs or quotes. Ensure that every element is informative, relevant and unambiguous in meaning.
6. Encourage dialogue
The concept of blogging revolves around people exchanging ideas. If you don’t allow people to comment, you lose out on the ability to find out about the large variety of alternative opinions out there. Let people come back to you with what they think, and respond to them. Respect your readers’ opinions even if you don’t agree with them.
This will help you to grow and learn as a writer and person.
7. Stick to a schedule
Figure out how much time you can invest in blogging each week/month. Try to post as frequently as you can, but stay realistic when setting expectations. Don’t overcommit and then disappear for weeks at a time. Apologise to your readers each time you come back after an absence.
8. Spellcheck!
Everyone is prone to the occasional embarrassing typo, and unless you are in the habit of reading your text over several times before you publish, it’s nearly unavoidable. Running a spellcheck before you publish can save you a lot of trouble later.

Happy posting!


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