Forget the Advice Write Like You Talk and Do This Instead

Do you write like you talk?

There are some masterful content writers and it’s common to feel a tad intimidated by how well-written their articles are.

Feeling less than 100% confident in your writing may have led you to search “How to be a better writer” and found the following advice:

‘Write Like you Talk.’

If you’ve taken this advice to heart, be careful because it’s not the best advice.

Although you can get away with it on social media (depending on your business), it’s not good advice when it comes to writing articles. It’s meant for the novice writer— to stop them writing like the mouthpiece of academia. (Unfortunately, even today, many writers still haven’t listened).

Advertising man, David Ogilvy is believed have coined the original phrase, but there’s a word missing from the quote, and that word is naturally.

Write like you talk—naturally.

~ David Olgilvy, Advertising Tycoon

The suggestion to ‘write like you talk’ shouldn’t be taken literally

When someone recommends that you write like you talk what they mean is write in a conversational style. Like a chat with an acquaintance, but with a bit of polish.

When we speak, we don’t usually pay great attention to word choice or sentence formation.  Eavesdrop on any conversation and you’ll hear half-finished sentences, sudden changes of direction, slang, ums and ahs and other filler words. Because as Australian’s this is how we ‘talk’.

Hey, How ya going? Dya wanna have coffee? Nah, sorry, can’t. Gotta go.

Writing online obviously requires more formality than the above example, however too much formality sounds impersonal and stuffy—it requires a balance. After all, you want to sound professional and approachable, but you also want to sound like ‘you’.

So how do you achieve this?

 

Ignore the advice write like you talk and Make Your Writing Conversational

Here’s how

Keep words simple

Don’t use convoluted words when a simple one will do. People will switch off if they don’t know what you’re talking about. Therefore, avoid using jargon, unusual words or sounding like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus.

Use simple sentences

Say what you want to say in the simplest way possible, using simple words, then add a couple of interesting words to spice it up.

Simplicity quote write like you talk

Lose the words you don’t need

Avoid using weasel words (words that suck the life out of the words next to them). These include words and phrases such as just, virtually, a bit, having said that, almost, fairly etc., and are common in a lot of writing. These words are vague, unnecessary and weaken your writing. If in doubt, read the sentence out loud, first with the weasel word, and then without it. If it makes your sentence sharper without changing the meaning, omit the word.

Plan in advance how your piece will connect with your reader

Using a conversational tone with a touch of empathy and blended with personality, will go along way to developing a connection with your reader. This powerful combination works because it shows them that you understand how they feel and what they’re thinking. And they’ll like you for it because as they’re reading they’re thinking— this person really gets me!

So let your personality shine through in every piece you write. Choose your words to match your tone of voice and create a mood for the piece. Plan it out in advance to suit the content. Will it be serious/passionate/informative/edgy/personal/wry or fun?

Then,

Read your writing out loud

Is your writing music to your ears? Does it have rhythm, does it crescendo and fall? Does it flow? Does it make sense. Does it speak to your reader?

When someone reads, they hear the words in their head. And what they want to hear is you speaking directly to them. Like you’re reaching out of the screen to connect.

Here’s how

Give Your Writing Rhythm

To get the rhythm vary your sentence length

A long sentence shouldn’t have more than 25 words.  A short sentence can have one word.  Honestly. Break up long sentences with a short one to add punch.

Keep your paragraphs short

Writing is visual and short paragraphs catch the eye and look inviting to read because they’re surrounded by white space. Unlike long paragraphs, which look discouraging. And please avoid walls of text.

Also,

Use contractions

Contractions are more casual and we use them in conversation. So also use them in your writing to sound more relatable. For example:

  • You’ve instead of you have.
  • Don’t instead of do not.
  • Could’ve instead of could have.

Use interjections to express feelings or sudden emotion

Words like Phew. Duh!  Yikes and Ouch are fun and convey a sense of humour and are suitable for informal and casual language, but don’t overdo it.

  • Avoid them in formal writing if you want to be taken seriously.

To make your writing personal

Keep your one reader persona in mind and write directly for them.

  • Use the word you instead of I.
    You may’, ‘
    ‘Here are 7 tips for you to’
    and so on.
  • Have a point of view.
  • Tell a story.

 

Finally, Edit Well

You may have heard of this well-known phrase—The magic’s in the editing.

It’s a well known fact that no one ever publishes a first draft. Every piece will go through a series of edits before it’s published.

I edit several times. Often I leave it until the next day then re-read it and edit some more.

If you have someone to read it through and edit the piece for you, even better, a different perspective always helps if you’re too close to the piece.

If it’s just you then have a go at using an AI tool like https://ttsreader.com/  to hear your writing. From personal experience I find it amazing how many things I pickup that I missed before.

But what if you’re comfortable writing like you talk?

You may be someone who always dictate your articles. If this is the case, my advice is to do so for the first draft. Then give it some polish— read it out aloud and edit it until you’re happy to hit publish.

In today’s world, where content drives business, there’s no excuse for lazy writing. The reader will not enjoy the experience and you’ll be wasting your time. So please ignore the advice to write like you talk and write like the professional you are.

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.

 

 

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

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 🙂