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How to Write An Engaging Opening Sentence (with Examples)

Learning how to write an opening sentence is part science part art.

So, there’s a lot to be said about it.

An opening sentence has to be simple, really simple. And it has to be short, really short.

But it also needs to be captivating.

Trying to write an opening sentence can make you feel anxious because it carries a lot of weight.

As Stephen King explains:

 

An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story.

It should say:

Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

~Stephen King, Author

Novelist Stephen King admits to spending months even years writing opening sentences. But we’re business owners, we’re busy, and we don’t have that much time.

So what can we do?

To write an opening sentence that’s compelling, there are techniques you can use. But first, let’s look at what makes an opening sentence compelling, and then I’ll show you a couple of examples.

 

The Power and Passion of the Opening Sentence

The job of the opening sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s more to it than that.

An engaging opening sentence grabs your attention and pulls you into the writer’s world. It introduces the writer’s voice and sets the tone for what’s to follow

 

The First Sentence is a Handshake

~Joe Fassler, the Atlantic

Let me explain.

The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. And the job of the second sentence is to lead the reader on to the third sentence. It’s this vital progression —the first leading to the second, the second leading to the third, and so on— which bind together to form the rhythm of your blog post’s opening paragraph. The idea is to make it so engaging, that they hook the reader in.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

 

The most famous lines ever written were opening sentences

In Copywriting

For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

~attributed to Ernest Hemingway

In a Blog Post

You wake up. You roll over. You check your phone. You open your email.

~Nathan Collier,

9 Best Knowledge Base Software Options for Startups and Small Businesses

In Literature

We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert,
when the drugs began to take hold.

~ Hunter S. Thompson,
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

In Film

I had the craziest dream last night; I was dancing the white swan.

~ Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin &
Andres Heinz, Black Swan

Can you see what these opening sentences have in common?

They’re interesting. They’re unique. They’re short, and they make you want to keep reading. Legendary copywriter, Joe Sugarman explains: 

Your first sentence should be very compelling by virtue of its short length and ease of reading. No long multisyllabic words. Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.

8 Ways to Write an Opening Sentence that Hooks your Reader in

Let me take this opportunity to introduce you to William Zinsser.

William Zinsser is a writer, teacher and editor. The New York times credited his classic guide to non-fiction writing as a “bible for a generation of writers looking for clues to clean, compelling prose.”

In this book, On Writing Well, Zinsser discusses the opening sentence and the sentences that follow:

Your lead must capture your reader immediately and force him to keep reading. It must cajole him with freshness, or novelty or paradox, or humour or surprise, or with an unusual idea or interesting fact or a question. Anything will do, as long as it nudges his curiosity and tugs at his sleeves.

In the above quote, Zinsser mentions eight ways to write an opening sentence. They are:

  1. Cajole with freshness
  2. Novelty
  3. Paradox
  4. Humour
  5. Surprise
  6. Unusual Idea
  7. Interesting Fact
  8. Question

Let’s explore them, shall we?

 

1.  Cajole with freshness

(Cajole is an uncommonly used word. I had to look it up and here’s the definition: To flatter someone in an attempt to persuade them.)

So what better place to find fresh, cajoling inspiration than a blog post from a dating app?

“What’s Your Idea of a Perfect First Date?”

This works as an opening sentence for a variety of reasons:

  • It’s a question.
  • Questions encourage the reader to pause and think about and answer.
  • It’s personal and it’s fresh. It’s probably something you’re not often asked to think about (even though you probably have!).
  • Anyone of dating age can relate to it. Therefore, it taps into a broad target audience.
  • It makes the reader curious and eager to keep on reading because it has the potential of being a fun read.

 

2.  Novelty

Where there’s novelty, there’s originality and where there’s originality, there’s personality.

Novelty can be quirky or funny, even outrageous. It leads you in. Sometimes it shocks you, then it makes you wonder, and before you realise it you’re hooked.

Here’s a perfect example:

You know me as James Chartrand of Men with Pens, a regular Copyblogger contributor for just shy of two years.

And yet, I am a woman.

This is not a joke or an angle or an analogy — I’m literally a woman.

This is my story. 

3.  Paradox

A startling statement, fact or statistic, that may or may not be accurate, is an enthralling way to start a blog article. The more outrageous the statement, the more it drives the reader to keep reading because they’re dying to find out if it’s true. They’re also a great way to start a conversation.

There’s the paradox:

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

~ George Orwell
Animal Farm

Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

~ Ghandi

There’s the (may or may not be true) statement:

My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six.

~ Alan Alda
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed

There’s an opera house on the U.S.–Canada border where the stage is in one country and half the audience is in the other.

~ Buzz Feed, Blog Post: 42 Incredibly Weird Facts

And there’s the statistic:

In a 2011 study by Logitech, the computer accessory and remote controls manufacturer, revealed that there’s a 50 percent chance that your lost remote control is stuck between your sofa cushions. Meanwhile, 4 percent of lost remotes are found in the fridge or freezer, and 2 percent turn up somewhere outdoors or in the car.

Blog Post: Live Science:  8 Weird Statistics about Life

If you’re surprised by a statistic, chances are your reader will be too. Therefore, if you have one that’s related to your topic, be sure to put it in your opening paragraph.

4.  Humour

Telling a funny story is a wonderful way to open a blog post, particularly if the reader can relate to it. People love to be entertained, and what better way to do it than by telling an entertaining or hilarious story?

 

That time infamous singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson landed a stolen helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn to sell him a song.

Cole Schafer, www.honeycopy.com

I don’t know how other men feel about their wives walking out on them, but I helped mine pack.

~Bill Manville, author, Breaking Up

5.  Surprise

Grab your reader with something unexpected and you harness his attention to the story you’re telling. At least for that moment.

 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

~ Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups

His children are falling from the sky.

~ Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

6.  Unsual Idea

Unusual ideas are generally founded on personal opinions. So opening your blog post by stating a strong opinion on a popular topic can be an effective way to engage your reader.

An unusual idea creates intrigue for what’s to follow and questions whether your reader might agree or disagree —which is a fabulous way to start a robust conversation. But, be mindful that if you choose this opening, don’t sit on the fence. Thought leadership needs to go deep.

 

Personally, I’ve never liked the term “thought leadership”.

~ Brian Clarke, Copyblogger

I’ve often wondered what goes into a hot dog.

~ William Zinsser

The moment one learns English, complications set in.

~Felipe Alfau, Chromos

I love this last sentence. It’s short, it’s simple, and it’s wry. It also has a substantial degree of subtext. Yes, learning English is complicated, but you get the sense that there will be another layer to this.

 

7.  Interesting Fact or Statement

It takes seven years for your body to digest a piece of gum.

Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis.

On average, you swallow eight spiders a year in your sleep.

People love facts because they back up what they already believe to be true. Facts stimulate conversation, are often shared, and can be controversial – we only have to look at the current discussions around Covid vaccinations to see how polarising people’s beliefs are.

Because facts drive conversation, they’re an excellent way to start a blog post. But not all facts are true. So, starting with an often believed but totally untrue fact—particularly if it relates to your industry— allows you to set the record straight by backing it up with evidence.

 

8.  Question

Questions can be a powerful way of starting a blog post, particularly if it’s a question that your reader may already be thinking, and one that resonates with how they feel. They’re also a good way of beginning a story.

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right?

Does your moody teenager rule the house?

How do you respond when a stranger calls you a bitch?

Are your readers doing what you want them to do?

Did you know that 9 out of 10 of your blog readers don’t get past the first line of your posts?

So now you get the idea, let’s sum it up.

5 Tips on How to Write an Opening Sentence to Grab Attention

1.  Make it punchy

Boom! Get in there. Mix up your style by trying different openings. See where it leads you.

2.  Keep it short

Readers are lazy and busy. You have less than 5 seconds to grab their attention, so try to keep your first sentence under 10 words.

The shorter your first (and first few after that) sentence is, the punchier it will be, and the more likely your readers are to keep reading.

 

You’ve been here before.

~ Stephen King, Needful Things

3.  Give it its own line

Put it on its own line —a one-sentence paragraph. This creates a visual impact that ensures it’s simple enough to seed its way into the reader’s brain.

 

4.  Show Empathy

Connect with your reader by showing them you understand their thoughts and feelings. What can you say that will make them break out into a grin or leap up and punch the air? If you’ve felt it in your business journey, chances are they’re feeling it too. Spell it out.

 

5.  Show Personality

Think about your favourite books, blog posts and writers. What is it that makes you keep going back to them? I guarantee that their personality is a significant factor.

Personality is not something that can be forced. You’re either hilariously funny and quick with a joke or not. But there is something about you that people love and relate to. What is it? Are you empathetic, do you like to shock, or do you tell it like it is? Whatever it is, try and inject some of that into the first sentence—while remaining true to who you are, of course.

 

There is no magic to writing an opening sentence

An opening sentence might come to you straight away. On the other hand, it may be the thing you write last— after your post has been written. Then again, it may be “a little like catching moonbeams in a jar” (Stephen King). The most important thing is to not to overthink it. Despite what Mr King says, it’s not magic. Try to get something down in the first draft, then work on it in the editing.

Spending a little time on the opening line can pay off. But if it makes you break out into a cold sweat, try this tactic: Think about your reader. What keeps them up at night? Imagine having a conversation with her. What would you say first?  Often, the best approach is a simple question.

 

 

Content Creation Mindset: How to Blast Through The 7 Barriers Preventing Your Success

What is a content creation mindset?

A content creation mindset is a set of beliefs that shape a person’s attitude towards creating content.

Psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way. Whether we do this consciously or unconsciously, it influences our behaviours, beliefs, and feelings.

Loathe it or love it, content creation, like any other business activity, relies on your own energy and drive to make it happen. And when you are solely responsible for creating content for your business, the biggest threat to success can often be yourself.

In the early days of my business, I experienced my own subconscious barrier— something I couldn’t put a finger on was holding me back.  I learn that it was imposter syndrome and set myself on a path to overcoming it. I did some research to define what it was and to understand why I was feeling that way. But what made the most significant difference was the realisation that I wasn’t alone, and once I grasped that understanding, I could begin to overcome it.

It turns out that most content creators have barriers to break through when they start their content creation journey. You may recognise some of them in the following list.

The 7 biggest barriers to hitting that PUBLISH button

Barrier #1 Imposter Syndrome

This is the biggie, the top of the list and the biggest hurdle I had to overcome. It turns out that I was in good company – Tom Hanks, Serena Williams, Arianna Huffington, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and Albert Einstein have admitted to having struggled with imposter syndrome. All had feelings of being ‘found out’ — either as not competent, skilled, talented or deserving as people perceive them to be.

Imposter syndrome is tied to self-limiting beliefs and poor self-confidence. To tie in with content creation, it can be related to worrying about your credibility. Often expressed as a nagging doubt, a little voice that says, “Who do you think you are to being doing this?” (or versions of that). It can be a subconscious fear of what people think or a fear of being discovered that you’re not good enough, that you can’t write or because you aren’t expert enough to express your opinions, no one will read your content. Imposter syndrome is widespread among women and stems from the old-world narrative of ‘you’re a woman, you shouldn’t be doing this’.

Mindset Quote on Vulnerability

One of the best ways to overcome imposter syndrome is to understand it for what it is and talk about it. When you put these feelings out in the open, you’ll realise that you’re not alone, and you’ll get positive feedback on your abilities, which will give you strength. You’ll recognise that these self-beliefs are not true because you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing if you didn’t belong where you are.

So when that little voice rears its ugly head, acknowledge it, then tell it to naff off.

Here’s a thought: Imposter syndrome is so universal – they gave it a name!

Content Creation Mindset Barrier #2 Worrying About What People Think

If you’re new to publishing blogs, videos, podcasts or images of yourself, then you’re going to be pushed beyond your usual comfort zones. The hurdle to overcome here is the fear of doing it in public.

Putting yourself ‘out there’ can be daunting. But if you’re hesitant to hit publish, then there could be more to it than that. I’d like you to consider something.  Are you someone who needs approval from others?  Are you a perfectionist, so much so that it hinders your performance? Are you honestly worried about posting selfies because of what you look like? If you answer yes, then this could relate to imposter syndrome. Michelle Obama discusses this candidly, in a quote from this video when, with feelings of imposter syndrome, she had to show up as the first lady in a boardroom full of men

Michelle Obama quote on Imposter Syndrome Mindset quote

It’s important to acknowledge that you’ll go through a period when you start to publish content when you feel that hardly anyone is paying attention because very few people are reading your blogs or engaging with you. But it won’t always be like this. Because when you show up consistently, publishing content that you know your audience wants, you’ll gain confidence every step of the way— and your audience will grow. It takes time, but it will happen.

 

Mindset Barrier #3  Being Too Busy

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this…

Yep, you’re busy. You’re a business owner. To be fair, this isn’t an excuse. It’s a fact. People are busy.

The only way to overcome this mindset hurdle is to make it a part of your routine.  Set aside a couple of hours first thing in the morning for content planning and creation. Use a content calendar to map out your content and a social media calendar to schedule your posts.

While you’re planning your content, think of the benefits of why you’re doing this. And just to remind you of those benefits, here are 7 of them:

7 Benefits of Blogging

  1. More potential clients
  2. Higher profile
  3. Greater trust & influence
  4. More connections
  5. Strong website traffic
  6. Larger email list
  7. More social media content

Content Creation Mindset Barrier

#4  Giving up Too Early

This is where you need to draw on your resilience to keep going. The main reason new businesses fail is that they give up too early, and if this is something you often feel like doing, then reading Kanter’s Law may help. Keep it on hand and read it often.

Kanters Law Everything can look like a failure in the middle

It’s about showing up consistently

When creating content, know that recognition leads to brand confidence and that confidence creates loyalty, so if gaining loyalty is one of your goals, it’s essential to show up consistently. When you post a blog on your website, you get traffic, when you post on social media, you get engagement. When people engage with your content, their friends see it. All of it is eyes on your content, so you are on their radar, and as a result, your audience grows.  Statistics say that it takes at least 8 touchpoints before a potential client reaches out to you. So make it easy for them and show up regularly.

 

Make it enjoyable for your audience to read your content

Is the format of your content scanable? Most readers  scan the content first, particularly if it’s a long article, then if it piques their curiosity, they’ll then go back and read it. It’s important that your article looks inviting by being easy on the eye? A lot of newbie content creators publish walls of text which turn readers off. There are some tricks to laying out content which you can easily learn.

 

Barrier #5  Fear of Technology

There’s no way around this. If you want to get good at something, anything at all, you must build up your skill level. And if you’re going to DIY your online marketing, that means learning software. This usually involves several hours of learning and in the beginning, a fair amount of frustration. People call it a learning curve. And it’s always worth it because you’ll have control and save money. And it’s nice to know that it always comes with support.

When you choose a reputable piece of software, there’ll be tutorials on how to use it and communities of users that offer advice and problem solve. This is the norm. It’s doable, and it’s learnable. Case in point – remember when you first got a smartphone?

Back in 2012, I had an online jewellery store, and I needed a website. For $250 (so cheap back then), a start-up website company built a 4-page website for me using WordPress. As it was a jewellery store, I had to regularly upload a lot of content, which meant an outlay of money to the website company every time I needed it done. Having had a bit of experience managing websites before (in an ancient program called FrontPage), I decided I’d learn to use WordPress, which is NOTHING like Frontpage. If any of you have been on a similar journey, then you’ll know what I’m saying when I say – it was a MASSIVE LEARNING CURVE. But learn I did. Fast forward to today, and I’ve built my own website; I upload my own content and save a lot of money. (I’ve even learned SEO).

You must get over your fear of technology

If you want to make your business more streamlined and content creation more productive in the future, then you’ll need to learn new software programs. Accept it because technology here to stay.

Mindset Quote

Content Creation Mindset Barrier #6  Procrastination

“I don’t have time now; I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“Have you seen that document I was working on last week?”

“I’ll just check my Facebook page for a sec.”

Any of this sound familiar?

Another big hurdle for most people. Procrastination – derived from Latin to mean to put off until tomorrow, is one of the main barriers blocking people from living the life they dream of.

Lack of willpower is often blamed for our tendency to procrastinate. But the new thinking is that it’s our motivation that’s to blame.

If procrastination is holding you back from achieving your goals, there’s a couple of excellent books that I recommend you read

  1. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Based on the concept of doing the one thing that will get you closer to your goals, it discusses the dangers of multi-tasking and the truth behind trying to live a balanced life.  It will completely rewire your thinking to get more productivity from your work and life, master what matters, and have less stress and a better lifestyle.

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book shows you how you can change your life by thinking big. The precis is that by forming habits to become a part of your daily routine, you can accomplish more by focussing on less.

 

Content Creation Mindset Barrier #7 Forgetting your Content Strategy

Sometimes we get drawn towards new things. There’s always a bright shiny object in the distance beckoning our attention, and it’s easy to get distracted from the path we’re on to achieving our goals. We put aside our strategy,  try new tactics and reach for new opportunities.

When you often change tactics or publish random content unrelated to your business or target market, it can confuse your audience and dilute your message. But when you go off strategy, you’re in danger of losing your direction.

In Gary Keller’s book The One Thing, he identifies what makes people successful. After studying the careers of numerous highly successful entrepreneurs, he found that it’s their ability to prioritise and set goals, and then to focus on that one thing that moves them towards achieving that goal.

If you find that you often stray from your strategy, then perhaps it’s time to review it. Have your goals changed? Is your business moving in another direction? If so, then it’s time to develop a new strategy.

If not, then it’s crucial to get back on track.

 

It’s important to take action

Content is such a massive part of marketing a business online, so it’s crucial to approach it with a positive mindset. Should you recognise some of the unconscious barriers in this list, try and face them head-on. Because only then can you confidently move towards achieving your business marketing goals.

 

How to Fit Blog Writing into a Busy Schedule (without compromising time)

Does this sound familiar?

Yesterday, you promised yourself you’d write that blog post. You even allocated time to fit blog writing into your busy schedule. But it didn’t happen.

If this does sound familiar then join the club, because it happens to us all. We get super focused on a different task, or something unexpected pops up and before we know it, another day has gone by.

The fact is that writing a good blog post takes a lot of time. And time is something in short supply, particularly when you’re running your business as well as doing the marketing.

Woman holding clock with clockface of business woman running

However, if you want to get serious about publishing your blog more often— to reap the benefits, then you may need a blog writing schedule—one that doesn’t interfere too much with your day-to-day.

Now, I’m not waving any magic wand here (nope, no fairy dust on this page). You still have to do the work, but a schedule will make your life a whole lot easier, and you’ll be hitting that publish button more consistently.

The impact of Not Posting Consistently

If you want to be known as a go-to in your industry, it’s essential to be top-of-mind with your audience. With millions of content pieces published every day, it’s easy to be forgotten if you don’t post consistently.

You will also be forgotten by Google. Neglecting to add fresh content regularly to your website means that Google will stop sending their website bots to scan and update your content as often.

It can be difficult to fit blog writing into a busy schedule. Doing so depends on what kind of writer you are.

So what ‘kind’ of blog writer are you?

How you approach writing a blog post is dependent on what type of writer you are. Typically, you may fall into one of these categories:

 

Do you start writing only stopping when finished?

Sitting down and writing it in one hit can have its drawbacks.

With this approach, it’s challenging to maintain momentum over a long period of time. Do you get tired, lose your focus and become easily distracted? I’m guessing you may be nodding here, because this approach is hard work!

 

Are you a perfectionist writer?

Do you edit when you write? Do endless rewrites? Obsess over spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? No doubt, you dislike the process immensely, because it takes up so much of your time.

 

Are you a distracted writer?

You like writing, but it’s challenging to get started and stay in the zone. You’re easily distracted. Even starting involves a great deal of procrastination. But once you get into it, the words begin to flow. But eventually, you get there.

 

 

Creating a Schedule  helps make writing less of a chore and more of a delight

Blog writing is a creative activity with benefits— an outlet for your opinions and thoughts— the perfect opportunity to educate your client prospects and draw them into your world.

When you think about all the benefits a blog gives your business, you know it’s worth the effort. Plus, there’s the bonus that you have a supply of content to share on social media when you repurpose the post.  (Download the ebook ’10 Ways to repurpose one blog post’ on how to do this—The link is in the sidebar next to this post.)

 

Have you every wondered how the world’s greatest authors write so prolifically?

There’s no real secret, only real dedication. And a routine. Every successful writer sets aside time to write—every day—until it’s done.

I’m not suggesting that you have to write every day, nor am I suggesting that you write a tome, after all this is about writing blog posts, but they do have a point. If you publish your business blog haphazardly, because you struggle to find the time to write it, then setting up a blog writing routine may be your answer.

“Routine, in an intelligent man*, is a sign of ambition.”

~ W.H. Auden, Pulitzer prize winning poet

* quoted in 1958

Transform your haphazard blog writing routine into a passion

This isn’t going to be a long process, honestly. The concept behind fitting blog writing into your busy schedule is to break the tasks up into segments over a couple of days.

 

How to put a Blog Writing Routine into Practice

Have you read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear? If not, I highly recommend it. He writes about setting up routines and practices to achieve goals.

 

“You do not rise to the level of your goals.

You fall to the level of your systems.”

~ James Clear

James suggests deciding on a goal and implementing regular daily habits that progress you towards that goal. 

By fitting those habits into your lifestyle, they become, by their nature, so ingrained, they come to be a part of your lifestyle.

Habits, that because of the action, result in self improvement and become motivation.

Writing Habit Formation

The 3R’s of Habit Formation, James Clear

 

If your goal is to be regularly publishing content, the best, most positive way to achieve this, is to incorporate a blog writing routine into your monthly schedule and make it a habit.

How to Fit Blog Writing into your busy Schedule

DAY 1

SET UP

Choose your time.

Time may be a four-letter word around that can involve a lot of emotion—but we all have the same 24 hours. Ask Beyonce. Ask Stephen King.

The majority of writers find writing first thing in the morning to be the best time. I tend to agree. Even though I’m not a morning person, I find that if I don’t do it first thing, the day gets away from me and it doesn’t get done. (Bit like going to the gym).

I’m not suggesting getting up at 5 AM and forfeiting your morning walk or gym session, but how about scheduling time when you get back home, after dropping the kids off at school or when you first arrive in the office (before checking your emails!) Which brings me to dealing with distractions…

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

~ E.B. White

Author Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little + more

Turn off anything that goes beep, has a ring tone or knocks on the door. If you’re in a boss-office tell someone near you that you don’t want to be disturbed. So they can dive tackle them  before their knuckles hit the door. (In my previous life I an Exec Assistant – I did a lot of dive tackling).

Day 1 : Plan and Outline the Blog Post

Planning your blog post keeps you focused and will prevent you from from going off on tangents and getting distracted.

  • First up, set a deadline for the date you’ll publish your blog post— a deadline keeps you accountable.
  • Second, plan the content. Planning involves researching the topic for information that will support and strengthen your content—things like quotes from experts, statistics and visuals. It also involves doing keyword research.
  • If your post is quite in-depth you may like to take the research phase a bit further by reading and analysing 3-5 other published posts on your topic. This can help you discover what you can improve on or how you can add to the conversation— a different perspective perhaps?

To make the process easier, download the blog post planner template to start planning your post.

 

Outline your Blog Post

This task is an extension of the planning phase and involves drafting your:

  • blog title*
  • opening sentences
  • subheadings, and
  • wrap up:  conclusion, CTA and links.

As this is still a draft stage, it’s easiest to use bullet points.

Download the Outline template to start outlining your post.

 

*A Note about the Blog Title (Headline)

It’s not necessary to have a blog title written in this stage. Just use a draft ‘working’ title that contains your keywords. This will keep your writing focused.

If you prefer, you can start working on your headline during this stage, but please don’t get stuck on it for hours. Sometimes headline inspiration doesn’t come when you’re tired. Sometimes they come to you when you’re doing something else – like walking the dog.

That’s it for day 1.  Your job is done. Now you can get on with the rest of your day.

Never underestimate the importance of taking a break

Taking a break gives your mind time to re-energise and engage in passive thinking. Inspiration can strike when you’re doing the dishes, but not when you’re tired and trying to force it. After taking a break, you may return to your writing with a different perspective.

Even a brisk walk can make all the difference.

Day 2

The goal for today is to write the first draft

A big old brain dump.

Using your outline as a guide, begin expanding on those bullet points.

Try not to edit as you go and ignore word count. You’ll get to that later.

The goal today is to get it down on the page. A big ugly first draft.

Approach the First Draft with a Content Sprint

Writing a first draft is hard.  Some days it can feel like you’re on a mission to conquer a steep hill— you can feel the burn in the back of your legs and all you want to do is lie down.

The only way to face it is head-on. As the Nike slogan goes – Just Do It!  I tackle my first drafts first thing in the morning —it’s the time of least resistance. I may read it back and recoil in horror, but it’s usually something I can work with.

Setting a time limit helps. Even going so far as using an actual timer. Poise pen, start writing, end when beep goes off. First draft done.

Leave it and get on with your day.

 

Avoid the temptation to edit

The perfectionist in some of you will be itching to edit the work. Please don’t. Not at this stage. You’ll increase the possibility of getting bogged down in rewrites and spend more time on it than you need. Besides editing requires fresh eyes and a clear mind. Best leave it until the next day.

If you are close to your deadline, leave it for a few hours otherwise, return to it tomorrow.

No one ever publishes a first draft.

When Issues with Writing become Excuses

There are many excuses for not writing.

It’s too hard.

I’m not in the mood.

I don’t know what to write about.

But really, these are just excuses. The reality is that excuses are the result of a lack of preparation.

Here are some ways famous authors face these excuses head-on.

 

Got Writer’s Block?

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page.

You can’t edit a blank page.”

~Jodi Picoult

Author of 24 novels (8 NYT best sellers)

Not in the mood for Writing?

“I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it

that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.”

~Peter De Vries, author of 26 novels

Lacking Motivation?

“A lot of people feel like they lack motivation, when what they really lack is clarity.”

~James Clear, Author, Atomic Habits

Don’t know what to write about?

“I made a decision to write for my readers, not to try to find more readers for my writing.”

~ Seth Godin, Marketing Guru

Author 19 books &  1 hugely successful blog

Day 3

The Goal for today is to Proofread, Edit and Format your Post

Step 1

Read your post. Read it out aloud. Check for the following:

  • Does your writing flow, does it have rhythm? Or do you stumble on words or phrasing?
  • Does it make sense, is it easy to understand?
  • Do you get your point across clearly?

Tidy up where necessary.

 

Step 2

Format Your Post

This step is about making sure your content is easy to read and scan.

  • Break up long sentences and paragraphs into short sentences and paragraphs. This will give your post its rhythm.
  • Ensure everything on the page stands out by surrounding text and visuals with plenty of whitespace.
  • Help readers scan your post using bold text or italics.
  • Put items into bulleted lists.
  • Indent quotes or important points.
  • Ensure that you have included alt tags on your images.
  • Upload the post to your website.

Resist the urge to obsess over perfectionism…

“Done is better than perfect.”

 ~Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook

Day 4

The Goal for today is to Promote Your Post

The hard work’s done. Now it’s time to get it out into the world.

Promote your post on social media by lifting pieces of content from your blog post and turning them into quote posts, 30-second videos or information snippets – infographics, statistics, interesting facts etc.

(Download the ebook ’10 Ways to repurpose one blog post’ on how to do this—The link is in the sidebar next to this post.)

 

Will this blog writing schedule work for you?

Don’t stress it if the 4 days spread out to 5. Some days we have more time than others. After all, this routine is a guide only— to get you into a routine.

“[There is] evidence that environments, schedules, and rituals restructure the writing process and amplify performance… These practices encourage a state of flow rather than one of anxiety or boredom. Like strategies, these other aspects of a writer’s method may alleviate the difficulty of attentional overload.”

~Ronald T. Kellogg, cognitive psychologist

The Psychology of Writing

Work that isn’t scheduled doesn’t get done

Try to approach blogging with the mindset of— write like a writer and act like a publisher.  A publisher publishes consistently.

Even though it’s hard to find the time to fit content writing into a hectic business schedule, breaking it up into chunks makes it more manageable and less overwhelming.

Don’t let blogging fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Keep focused on why you’re doing it.

Each blog post is an opportunity to grow your audience. To strengthen your profile. To get more website traffic. To win more business.

Publish…and be proud of your work.

“Never, never, never, never—give up.”

~Winston Churchill

Author of 43 books. Including the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1953

How to Write Blog Posts Like the Pros

Have you ever read a captivating blog post from your favourite author and wondered how to write blog posts just like it?

They make it seem so simple, while you struggle for hours to write one post for your business.

Tell me.

Have you ever stopped to think what it is about those posts that appeal to you so much?

Is it the way the headline entices you to click?

Or that the writer genuinely understands how you feel?

Maybe it’s because it seems that they wrote it exclusively for you.

How to Write Blog Posts Using Fairy Dust

Perhaps you think there’s a ‘magic’ formula or some trick of the trade?

Perhaps there is. Perhaps there’s just a sprinkling of fairy dust involved.

Let’s take a look at what the fairy dust could be.

Fairy sprinkling fairy dust while flying over laptop

Copying the Masters

Sometimes great writers can make new bloggers feel intimidated and amateurish.

But it’s important to recognise that exceptional writers were once amateurs.

They learned that great writing requires skill, more than talent.

So they studied writing and in the process discovered a trick or two.

They discovered the BIGGEST TRICK OF ALL.

That to be a great writer – they should copy the masters.

‘You want to learn how to write blog posts like the pros, but copying’s cheating.’ (I hear you say).

Let me clarify.

 

Copying doesn’t mean stealing

Copying isn’t about replicating a blog post word for word. It’s about deconstruction —that is, analysing the framework and the writing style, and breaking down each sentence to see what techniques the author has used.

Cartoon Sketch of laptop with a thief on the screen

What about Originality?

There’s a lot of pressure in our society to be ‘original’, to stand out from the crowd. But it’s arguable that originality even exists. Google the question “Does originality exist?” and you’ll get many responses.

(Ah the science of philosophy).

 

Copying the masters has been around for centuries

Since it’s opening in 1793, the Louvre permits amateur and professional artists to copy from its collection. An experience shared with the likes of Dali, Degas, Picasso and Cezanne.

Cezanne is quoted as saying:

“The Louve is the book from which we all learn to read.”

 

Copying Exists Wherever There is Creativity

 

IN LITERATURE

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

—Ernest Hemingway

 IN FASHION

“Only those with no memory insist on their originality.”

—Coco Chanel

 IN MUSIC

“I refuse to believe that Hendrix had the last possessed hand, that Joplin had the last drunken throat, that Morrison had the last enlightened mind.”

—Patti Smith

 

So why not do the same with writing?

You can bet your bottom dollar that the writers you study use a framework and techniques they copied from their favourite writers. So why don’t you?

 

HERE’S THE FAIRY DUST, THE SPRINKLING OF KNOWLEDGE, THE WHAT IT TAKES TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE BLOG POSTS AND TURN HO-HUM INTO THE EXTRAORDINARY.

…drum roll please

 

ANALYSE YOUR FAVOURITE BLOG POSTS

(this technique works for any piece of writing)

Yep, you’re going to pull them apart, technique by technique, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word and image by image.

Look for the fairy dust.

Take notes.

Here’s how.

 

10 SIMPLE STEPS TO WRITING BLOG POSTS LIKE A PRO

Step 1: Conduct Research

Who are your favourite blog writers?

Find two or three blog posts from your favourite blogger(s) and print them out.

Then grab a coffee and some different coloured highlighters and a pen, then kick back in a comfy chair — because this will take an hour or so.

 

Are you a reluctant writer?

Reluctant-woman-sitting-at-desk-wondering-how-to-write-blog-posts

If you’re a reluctant writer, you may not be 100% confident on what constitutes good or bad writing.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you focus on writing that appeals to you and interests you.

Once you’ve analysed a couple of posts, you’ll begin to see the difference.

 

EXAMINE THE LAYOUT OF THE BLOG POST

Step 2: Analyse the post length

  • What’s the length of the post?

You don’t need to get specific about this; an estimate will do. The average page – double spaced – has around 200 words. The average blog post is around 1500 words.

If you have more than one post from the same author, check if the lengths of the posts vary? Some may be around 1000 words and others 2,500 for example.

 

Step 3:  Examine the Paragraphs

Good writing means short paragraphs. No one wants to read a wall of text – it makes your eyes glass over –

How does the writer handle their paragraphs?

Prompts:

  • Are they long or short?
  • How many sentences are in each one? Are there any single sentence paragraphs? Do short paragraphs follow long paragraphs?
  • If so, how often is this technique used?

 

Next to each paragraph, make a note of how many sentences and lines it has. 

  • Do you see a pattern?
  • How does this affect the flow and rhythm when reading the post?

Step 4:  Look for Links

Links are essential for SEO. They also encourage the reader to check out your other blog posts.

Prompts:

  • How many internal links are there? (These are links leading to other posts on the author’s website)
  • How many external links are there? (these are links leading to third party websites)
  • How are they incorporated into the text?
  • Are they always relevant?

 

ANALYSE THE WRITING

Step 5:  Study the headline

Magnifying glass analysing a blog post

Did you know that 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of your content?

The job of a headline is to grab attention.

Prompts:

  • How successful is the headline in achieving this?
  • What type of headline is it? For example: Is it a list (top 10) headline? Or a How-To (do something) headline?
  • What compelled you to click on it? Does it promise a benefit to the reader? How long is it? What words does it contain?
  • How do the headlines differ from one blog post to the next?
  • There’s a skill to writing a good headline. It takes lots of practice.

Top tip: Create a swipe file and start collecting good headlines. And refer to them

Step 6: Look at the subheadings

Subheadings work as signposts for information that follows.

They break up the text into sections and to allow busy people to skim over the content.

Their purpose is to capture those skimmers’ attention and entice them to read on.

Traditionally, in blog posts, a subheading appears once every 300 words.

Prompts:

  • How long are the subheadings?
  • How often do they appear?
  • What words has the author used?
  • Do they compel you to keep reading? If so, why?

 

Step 7: Examine the opening sentence

Master writers spend most of their time crafting the first sentence because it has a lot of work to do.

Generally, the opening sentence is a single line, followed by 2 or 3 short sentences. The overall purpose of the opening is to engage the reader.

The job of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence.

The job of the second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence, and so on.

Prompts:

  • Take a look at the opening; how does it begin?
  • Does it open with a bang? A statement or a question? A statistic or fact? If so, does it draw you in and make you want to keep reading?
  • Do the opening sentences follow with a statement of what to expect if you continue reading this piece?
  • If so, how do they do this?
  • Where does this appear – how far into the piece?

 

Step 8: Explore the Words

  • Does the writer use short snappy verbs like hurry, guide, slide, shine, grip, grasp?
  • Or multiple syllable verbs like spearheaded, formulated, consolidated, stimulated?
  • Are certain words repeated?
  • Have they used any particular writing techniques, such as alliteration, metaphor, or hyperbole?
  • Do they use words that stimulate your senses like glittering, radiant, lumpy, spicy, mumble?
  • Any acronyms (AFAYK)* or business-speak? (To get buy-in we must touch base with our corporate values)
  • Are there any unusual words or slang? Blah, Gobbledygook, Xertz* (yes really).

*AFAYK – as far as I know. *Xertz – to drink something quickly

Step 9: Go through the post and highlight (using a different colour for each) examples of:

  • Stories or metaphors used
  • Sources
  • Quotes
  • Tips
  • The writer’s opinions, conclusions or points of view
  • Examples of interesting and engaging writing techniques or unusual word choices
  • When the writer has used the word you or yourwe or our.
  • How does this make you feel? How many times are they used? Count them.
  • When the author refers to themselves. For example:

“In the past two years I’ve studied hundreds of blog posts.” or “When I edit, I look for….” How many times have they done this? How does this make you feel?

 

Step 10: Scrutinise the Ending/Conclusion

A good ending wraps up the piece and inspires the reader to implement the writer’s advice. It may also encourage the reader to take action on something.

Prompts:

  • How has the writer wrapped up the blog post?
  • Does it feel finished and balanced?
  • Does it ask you to do something?
  • Does it repeat the essence of the message?
  • Does it sum the piece up or refer to the opening paragraph?

Stop Doubting Yourself

Learning how to write blog posts like a pro is difficult.

At times you may feel overwhelmed.

You may even continue to feel intimidated when you read a staggeringly well-written blog post… DON’T.

Because now you understand the writing techniques behind your favourite posts.

You recognise the framework and the tips and tricks they’ve used.

You are no longer an amateur. You’re a student.

See the distinction?

Whenever you come across a fantastic piece of writing, pull it apart.

Copy the techniques.

The more you copy, the more masterful you’ll become.

Why no-one read your blog post (and what to do about it)

Why no-one read your blog post (and what to do about it)

Dear blogger,

I’ll admit, I didn’t read your blog post.

Do you want to know why I didn’t read your blog post?

It was because of the layout.

Your blog post was too hard to read. 

Now that I’ve admitted that, can I ask you a question? How many blog articles do you read— I mean actually read – from start to finish?”

Naturally your answer’s going to depend on what type of reader you are and that can vary. But did you know that most people scan blog posts rather than read them?

In fact, there are all kinds of statistics that ‘prove’ this. Though how they actually know is beyond me— I read loads of posts and I’ve never been asked. However, the latest stats show that it’s around 43%. Though I reckon it’s higher. Much, much higher. 

43% of people admit to skimming blog posts

How Readers Scan Online Content

On that note, I have to admit something to you—I’m one of them—a scanner. Well, I scan most blog posts, about 95%. That figure could be higher, but I relegate a lot of them to the too hard basket – I don’t even bother scanning them—too hard to read. Which could be a shame because the content might be incredibly valuable. But I’ll never know.

Which brings me back to why I didn’t read your blog post. I’m sorry, but I put it in the ‘too hard’ basket.

You see as one of the ‘scanners’ I read blog posts like they do:

  1. First, we read the blog title; and if sounds enticing…
  2. We read the introduction; if that’s interesting…
  3. We read the first paragraph.
  4. Then, we skim down the page and read the bits that capture our attention, or we look for the section that answers the question the headline promises to deliver on
  5. And then, only then, if the post seems
  • interesting
  • valuable
  • well written and /or
  • entertaining

…and having got the gist of the post,

We may or may not go back to the beginning and read the whole article.

 

Eye Tracking Studies

Over the years there have been numerous eye tracking studies that show when reading on screen, a typical reader’s gaze runs down the left side of the page with brief forays deeper into the line. As they progress down the page the reader steadily reads less and less into the line. This is known as the F-shaped pattern.

Heat Map of F shaped onlne reading pattern

The F-Shaped Pattern
Eyetracking by Nielsen Norman Group: nngroup.com

In addition to the F-shaped pattern, there are other scanning styles that have appeared in eye tracking studies:

 

  • some people scan the headings and subheadings only, skipping the normal text below
  • others skip big chunks of text looking for something specific, such as a particular set of words, statistics, numbers or a link
  • and some readers fixate on almost everything on the page. This occurs when readers are engaged and highly interested in your content. They will read your entire post. This is the holy grail when it comes to writing content. It’s achievable when we make a connection with our ideal reader because it’s written for them and we understand who they are and what they want from us.

How to Layout your Blog Post to Optimise for Scanning

Now that you know this, I want to help you learn to layout your post so that it’s easy to scan and encourages the scanner to read the post from start to finish.

I’ll start with an example of what your blog post looked like, paying attention to the layout only.

How Not to Layout a Blog Post

This blog post is incredibly hard to read because the sentences are overly long, and they are all around the same length, which makes the post difficult to understand. In fact, the more words you write, the harder it is for the reader to get your message. Because of this there is no sense of flow so using sentences of varying lengths is much better because it makes your text easier to read and creates a sense of rhythm to your writing. Also, each of the sentences flows onto the next which makes for long paragraphs with minimal paragraph breaks, which means that there’s not enough white space on the page to rest my eyes. Reading like this is too hard; it actually makes my eyes tired. And the text, because it’s single-spaced, it contributes to making it harder to read than if 1.5 spacing was used instead. Also the font is too small, which means that I have to increase the document size to read it comfortably.

Formatting your text is known as signposting which is an effective way to capture your reader’s attention. There are no sub-headings to capture the reader’s attention which means they’ll likely miss the relevant parts of the post, and valuable or essential information, such as quotes and statistics haven’t been highlighted in the example, so they are easily missed when scanning the page. The blog post is all text; there are no visuals to help bring the words to life or to emphasise the main points. How more engaging it would be if the piece used a visual graph to represent the statistics then they would be more likely remembered. Numbers are boring, unlike visuals which people love to share. Content writers often research blog posts to search for information they can share on their blog posts and social media channels, and visuals, particularly infographics, graphs, quotes and memes are the most popular. So try and incorporate one or two of these in each of your posts.

You have to admit – this is hard to read.

Compared to this example:

HOW TO LAYOUT A BLOG POST

The above text is incredibly hard to read because the sentences are overly long and around the same length. This makes them difficult to understand. In fact, the more words you write, the harder it is for the reader to get your message. Because of this there is no sense of flow. Using sentences of varying lengths is much better because it makes your text easier to read and understand while creating a sense of rhythm to your writing.

Writing sentences in varying lengths makes your text easier to read and creates a sense of rhythm to your writing.

 

Use White Space

Each of the sentences flows onto the next, which makes for long paragraphs with minimal paragraph breaks. This type of layout means that there’s not enough white space on the page to rest my eyes. Reading like this is too hard because it actually makes my eyes tired.

 

Text and Font Size

And the text! Because it’s single-spaced, it contributes to making it harder to read than if 1.5 spacing was used instead. Also, the font is too small, which means I have to increase the document size to read it comfortably.

 

Signpost

Formatting your text is known as signposting which is an effective way to capture your reader’s attention. Here’s how to do this:

 

Use Sub-Headings 

There are no sub-headings to capture the reader’s attention. Which means they’ll likely miss the relevant parts of the post.

 

Highlight Important Information

Valuable or essential information, such as quotes and statistics, haven’t been highlighted in the example, so they are also easily missed when scanning the page.

 

Use Visuals

The blog post is all text; there are no visuals to help bring the words to life or to emphasise the main points.

What you didn't read my blog post - upset man

The post would be much more engaging if a visual graph was used to represent the statistics (like in the example above). Because when you use visuals, the ‘numbers’ are more easily remembered.

Let’s be honest, numbers on their own are boring—unlike visuals—which people love to share on their own blog posts and social media channels. The most popular visual content for sharing are:

 

  • Infographics
  • Graphs
  • Quotes and
  • Memes

Therefore, to encourage people to share your content, incorporate one or two visuals in each of your posts.

Conclusion

As you can see in the two examples, version 2 is considerably easier to scan than version 1 and will increase the chances of your blog post being read.

Bottom Line…if you want people to read your blog post, use a layout similar to Version 2.

I hope this helps.

Cheers,

Vicki

 

PS  Please download the template of The PERFECT BLOG POST LAYOUT to use when writing your next blog post. It’ll keep you on track 🙂

7 Common Blog Writing Habits You Should Break

7 Common Blog Writing Habits You Should Break

Today’s Tuesday, the day I write a new blog post.

I’ve scheduled it into my diary — it’s one of my blog writing habits.

So far, I’ve read and answered some emails, watched a 6-minute video and made myself a cup of tea.

½ hour’s gone by and I haven’t written one word.

Like you (and the rest of the world) I’m in lockdown, and I’m finding that the longer this thing lasts, the harder it gets to stick to a routine.

However, I know that if I want to achieve something TODAY, I need to, stop procrastinating and start writing.

Which segues nicely into my first point:

You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

The #1 blog writing habit you should break:

You Procrastinate

And (obviously) you are not alone. As you can tell I’m an expert at procrastination. Having said that, I realise that it’s not doing me any favours, so I work on it. I’ve implemented a writing routine to instil more discipline into my day.  After all they go hand in hand— routine and discipline. You need them to beat procrastination because it’s a hard habit to break. So, if like me, you love to dilly dally, here’s a couple of tips that’ll help make you more proactive.

Establish a Blog Writing Routine

A simple method for creating content

Planning and writing your blog post takes time. It’s a lot easier to achieve if you break the process down over a couple of days. I’ll show you how I do this later in this post.

To ensure it gets done, work out how often you want to publish a post, then block some time out in your diary on a set day, at a set time, once a month, or once a fortnight and stick to it.

It doesn’t matter what day or time you choose; it matters what works for you. For me, first thing in the morning every second Tuesday I nut out the first draft. Then on the following morning, I edit and proofread—that way if something unexpected comes up on either day, I don’t have to stress it. It’s done.

Bannish Distractions

Forget about the dirty dishes in the sink, grab yourself a cuppa and sit down at your computer. But first (obviously), shut the office door (if you have one) or go to a quiet place, where you’re less likely to be interrupted, and tell everyone in your house not to disturb you because you are writing.

Then, log out of everything except Word (or whatever program you write your blogs with). By everything I mean all other programs that can lead to distraction – email, social media notifications, messages – anything that’s likely to pop up and shift your focus.

AND this includes your mobile —turn it onto silent or better still leave it in another room (out of sight out of mind).

“Your results are the  product of either personal focus or personal distractions. The choice is yours.”

Benjamin Franklin

The #2 blog writing habit you should break:

You haven’t set a writing goal

Ask any writer what tip they can suggest for becoming a better writer and the answer will invariably be “WRITE”.

It’s well known that author Bryce Courtenay (Power of One) was one of Australia’s most successful commercial authors (he published over 20 novels). But what is less known is that he was also Creative Director of a successful Advertising Agency (remember the Mortein campaign – Louie the Fly?)  so, Courtney would get up at 4.30 every morning and write 1500 words before heading off to the office.

 

Interviewer:
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Bryce Courtenay:  Use bum glue.

 OK, novels are longer than blog posts, but you get my point.

WRITE.

As an example, here’s my routine:

I will write 250 words, or I will write for 20 minutes – some days words flow other days not so much. Then, I will have a break for 15-20 minutes after which I’ll get back into it until I’ve written an outline and first draft. Then I’ll leave it for a day or two.

When I come back to it, the draft will be edited, proofread and rewritten numerous times before being published. The idea is to think of your first draft as as a ‘brain dump’. Just get it written.

 

Pro Tip:   Outlining your blog post first will help the content to flow keep you on point.

The #3 blog writing habit you should break:

You haven’t defined a purpose for your blog post (before you started writing)

 

You know what they say?

Fail to plan- Plan to fail.

If you’re going to devote time to your business blog then it’s important to set goals for it.

After all, why are you blogging?

So before you type the first word think about this…

What’s the purpose of your blog post, what do you want it to do for your business?

Every post should have a purpose, for your business and for your audience. Otherwise it’s just another piece of irrelevant content among a sea of irrelevant content.

So it’s important to think about why you are writing it before you sit down to write the post.

Of course, every post will be different, depending on your business goals, but to help you answer this question, here are some beneficial outcomes for blogging:

  • grow your audience
  • educate your clients on your services and products
  • introduce your new product or service
  • get people to come along to your workshop, webinar, XYZ
  • assist in establishing you as an expert

Sometimes your post may have more than one goal. If so, pick one main one.

“The secret of success is the constancy of purpose.
Benjamin Disraeli

What do your readers get out of your blog post?

After reading your post how with the reader benefit, what will they gain? People will invest their time reading your post if they think there’s something in it for them. So in the planning stage, think about how your content can make a difference to their lives. Are you helping them learn something new, understand something better or solve a problem?

Having a clear focus gives your writing direction and stops you going off on tangents. It also makes the entire writing process easier, because it also helps you to structure your post.

For example, what format the post will take is determined by the type of content you have. Is it easier for the reader to digest in a list format, a step by step process or an article (text based) post? Should you include video?

And by focusing on the goal you want your readers to achieve, it can help you pre-empt the answers they’re after, which give you your sub-headings.

The #4 blog writing habit you should break:

You don’t include a CTA

 

The #1 purpose of your CTA (call to action) is to capture leads. This is how your blog post works to grow your business and make you money. All good content needs a CTA, especially your blog posts as they are the perfect vehicle for them.

What do your readers to do after reading your post?

What action do you want your readers to take once they’ve read your post? Do you want them to further educate themselves by diving deeper into your topic? Then get them to download your ebook. Do you want them to register for your workshop? Then include a CTA to get them to pre-register. 

All CTAs should link to a landing page on your website, that connects to your email list. From where you can continue a more personalised connection through tailored email marketing,

CTA’s should be clear, instructive and use persuasive language to lead readers to action. Some CTA’s take the shape of a button, a form or a combination of both.

blog post call to action

Image: An example of an effective CTA

The #5 blog writing habit you should break:

You’ve written your post in one sitting

 

Writing a blog post in one sitting can have its benefits but it can also have its negatives.

The benefits – it’s done. Kudos to you, you’re a blog writing ninja.

Me, I prefer to write a post over a couple of days.  This is an example of my routine and why I do it this way.

Day 1:   First Draft written. (as mentioned in point XXX above)

Once I have this down, I do not touch it. Also known in some circles as the First Ugly Draft and for very good reason which probably doesn’t need explaining except to say that it will need further work. Which I leave for:

Day 2 or Day 3:   (I may  have a break in between).

Rewrite. This is where I spend an hour going over my post, rewriting, moving paragraphs around and proof reading. I also read it out aloud.

Reading your post aloud helps with editing.

Flow and rhythm are important to keeping your reader engaged. By reading aloud you will hear the flow of your language, from word to word, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph.

Take note of any sentences or words that jar— these will cause your reader to hesitate and to start scanning instead of reading— or worse—to lose interest. You can avoid this by being mindful of jargon, wordiness, clutter and long winding sentences that should be split into two.

The #6 blog writing habit you should break:

You haven’t proofread or edited your content

Some people may think that grammar and spelling mistakes don’t matter so much in these days of self-publication. I totally disagree. You can be forgiven one or two spelling mistakes, even the odd grammatical error, but any more than that comes at great risk to your credibility. I’ve seen copywriters publish documents with typos and misspelled words. Copywriters!

Like wearing a tie splattered with the remnants of the curry you ate for lunch, it’s sloppy. It doesn’t present a good impression and you risk to be not be taken seriously. There is no excuse, proof-read your work then run your blog post through spell check or better still use one of these writing/grammar apps Hemmingwayapp.com or Grammarly.com

 

Spell Checker Poem common blog writing habits

The #7 blog writing habit you should break:

You haven’t promoted your post

You put your heart and soul into your blog post, so why not make sure as many people see it as possible?

SEO will only go so far. To gain a following you need to get your latest blog post out there. Once you’ve uploaded and published your blog on your website, let everyone know it’s arrived.

How?

  • post a link to your post on all your social media platforms (add it to your bio in Instagram)
  • send it out to your email list
  • add a link to your email signature
  • Break down your post into multiple pieces of content to keep it interesting. Then continue to promote it for a couple of weeks after publication to get as much traction as possible.

When I started blogging it used to take me forever. I’d slave over an article sometimes for days. As I progressed I learned about pacing myself, breaking tasks up over a couple of days, outlining and structuring. I learned as much as I could about the process. I started to feel less overwhelmed and more productive.

You might think that it’s all to hard. That you don’t have enough time for writing blogs. This is what I’d like to suggest.

  • Start by taking small steps.
  • Set a writing routine and start writing.
  • Set a couple of goals and start outlining.
  • Pace yourself. Write and edit in stages.
  • Remember to proofread and grammar check
  • Then promote the s*** out of it.

That’s how it’s done.