While many might debate just how one should blog (most online treatments just deal with the technical aspects), I suggest you begin by applying the basic skills you learn in your college composition courses and consider the blog as an online journal. I’ll add a couple of caveats.
Much writing that you have done for composition in formal, educational settings likely involved your writing to a word minimum. In my experience, this has helped produce exactly the wrong type of writing for the digital age. Writing for digital media should take just the opposite approach: write for a maximum; i.e., set a 200-word maximum for an entry and make yourself stick to it. Writing for a minimum focuses needlessly on quantity, while writing for the Web should consider quality. Every word and punctuation mark matters.
When I say journal, I don’t mean a diary. A journal for college should always consider the context — usually what class you’re writing it for. This will dictate your subject matter and style.
Always know your subject, purpose, and audience before getting into an entry. Consider blogging to be continuing a conversation. Unlike a journal, you are not writing in a vacuum, so be sure that you have something relatively original to say; this means that you should do a bit of research first to familiarize yourself with the current attitudes about your chosen topic. A strong entry will quote from and link to any relevant sources you find about the topic. Remember, this is a conversation: it’s not all just about you. Therefore, posts on Web sites should be hypertextual.
Consider what Jacob Nielsen suggests about writing for the web in “How Users Read on the Web.” Along these lines, be sure that:
- You give the entry an original title. The title should not only inform about the general topic, but give some idea about your position on the topic. An original title is especially important when writing on the class blog, as others will be writing about the same topics.
- Your text is readable. Be sure to preview your entries before submitting them; this practice gives you the opportunity to make your entry as readable as possible. WordPress supplies a lovely “Preview” button in the “Publish” box. Take advantage of it.
- You use categories and keywords, or “tags.” Use tags at the bottom of the entry to further classify your entry. Select words that are applicable to your entry.
- You save often as a draft when you are composing, especially if you are not on your own computer. If you are using WordPress, the system will periodically do this for you. You may compose on a word processor, but this will often insert unseen code in your entry, messing up its formatting. I would advise against this approach.
- You follow a consistent citation style and use standard conventions when writing about literature.
- You proofread and revise your entry before publishing it. Remember, anyone can access the blog, so you want to publish only polished writing, as it is a reflection of you. Also, a sloppy blog is sure to get unpublished quickly by the community during moderation.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, have a clear focus, or argument, in the form of a thesis statement. If you don’t know what your point is, then your readers certainly will not.
Give the following a read in order to be able to talk about blogs, and so that you understand just what they are and how they function.
- Are you in NMAC 3108, then read Choosing a Blog Topic for ideas about how to focus your blog.
- Consider ProBlogger’s “Blogging Tips for Beginners,” especially the links under “Tips for Writing Content for Blogs.”
- For assistance in composing strong comments, see How to Write Comments.
- For an overview of many of the items covered here, see B. L. Ochman’s “How to Write Killer Blog Posts and More Compelling Comments.” She gives some excellent advice.
- 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic on SEOmoz.
- Dennis G. Jerz’ Guidelines for Evaluating Classroom Blogs suggests ideas relating to judging what a good blog does.
- Why You Should Blog covers just that: the importance of daily writing on a blog.
- Writing about literature? Consider these helpful prompts.
- BoingBoing is the most popular blog on the Internet.
- Wired magazine has several blogs. Its Gadget Lab is a good example.
What are some of your favorite blogs? Let us know what they are and why they are your favorites in the comments below.