8 ways blog writing is unique

how to write for a blog

There are many great writers who have unsuccessful blogs. Here’s why. They may be great writers, but they are not great bloggers. There’s a big difference.  Here are eight ways that blog writing differs from how you might write in school or at work.

1) Headlines matter. A lot.
Nobody is going to sit by the fireplace with a glass of wine and relax with a good blog post. Blog readers are SKIMMERS. More than likely they are scanning their inbox or blog reader to figure out what posts are worthy. So a headline that says “My views on soap” or “Thinking back” are not going to cut it. You have to GRAB ’em and make them read. Here are characteristics of great headlines:

  • Catchy
  • Descriptive
  • Accurate
  • Contains keyword
  • Tweetable (short)

Also, any headline that indicates a numbered list is going to attract more eyeballs. Busy readers like lists.

2) Write upside down

In school, we are taught to write linearly. A beginning, a middle, an end. That does not work on blogs. You have to tell the ending first. I call that writing upside down.  Busy readers are going to be bored and frustrated if you don’t tell them exactly why they are there and what the pay-off is. So start with the end … and then explain it.

3) Keep it short.

This graph illustrates the amount attention given to a blog post versus its word-count:
how long should my blog post be
There is no science behind this. I totally made this up. But I have also written about 2,000 posts so I have some sense about these things!

You have to EARN the right to go long. If you are Malcolm Gladwell, you have earned the right to go long. If you are just starting to build your audience, don’t challenge them with long posts unless it is something extraordinary. Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words is golden.

4) Use sub headings

A sub-heading is like a mini headline  — like what you see above this sentence.  Subheads draw attention down the length of the blog post and breaks up the block of gray. This is especially important in a challenging reading environment like a smartphone.

5) Use your original voice

In journalism school I was taught to keep my “voice” OUT of my writing. Just stick to the facts. The best blog writing weaves your personal narrative into the discussion and lets your personality shine.  When somebody wants to write a guest post for {grow} I challenge them to write a post that ONLY they could write. Dig deep. Be you. That is the heart of originality and that is the source of blogging success!

6) Keep it RITE

This is easy to remember. Try to make every blog post R- relevant, I – interesting, T – timely and E – entertaining. If you can do that consistently, you will be creating share-able blog content.

7) Be conversational.

Throw the rules out the door.  Write like you speak. Even. If. It’s. Choppy.  After you have written your blog post, read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound like you simply talking to your audience, lighten it up.  Just tell them the story.

8) End with a question

If you want to encourage comments and engagement, you don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to ask the right questions. Although you wouldn’t normally end a whitepaper or news article with a question, it makes perfect sense for a blog.

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  • travelyn

    Some really worthwhile tips here to take on board and work with. Thanks very helpful.

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  • Bruno Babic

    What an inspiring post!

    I would just like to emphasize one thing that I believe is of an utmost importance when delivering a high value content and building an instant rapport with your target readers. And, that’s all about following and writing about our passions.

    So, focus on your top passions everyday thus making sure you never get off the right track because our passions are something that make us and keep us alive.

    There’s a great quote related to one of the key secrets to success of super successful individuals and billionaire entrepreneurs that says:

    “Whatever you put your attention on grows stronger and stronger in your life”

    The source of the above mentioned quote is one of my favorite bestselling books: “The Passion Test: The Effortless Path To Discovering Your Destiny”

    Please, feel free and welcome to visit my blog and post your comments there.

    In advance thanks a lot.

    Bruno Babic – Thinking BIG guy and Passionate Online Entrepreneur excited about leading a Luxury Playboy Millionaire Lifestyle supported by earning multiple streams of cash from an automated online business

  • radiojaja

    Hi Mark! I love your ‘made up graph’!
    Maybe another point there? To use illustrations where possible.
    Clearly given the rise of the infographic (which always score highly for me) people like to have a quick snap shot of the sense of what you are talking about in an image that accompanies the text.It something I wish i was able to do more of certainly.
    Great post as always!

  • Yes,ending our conversation with a question really will help to build good relationship.

  • Glad I could help!

  • Thanks for adding your thoughts Bruno.

  • Very good point, Tony. For me, illustrations fall under the “E” category of RITE (Entertainment). I hope by giving a little extra and adding a fun graphic or illustration that it will help and attract readers. Maybe I should make up a graphic about that too! : )

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    Hello Mark,
    Nicely done here, the only thing I could add would be to start, many bloggers take way too much time getting started thinking they are writing the next NYT best seller. I strongly resonate with #1 and #5…There are lots of great tools out there to assist in Title creation, and writing with your voice is so important. Although it takes time to “find” your voice, the only way to get it done is to keep writing consistently.
    Hope you safe from this storm and enjoying your day…

  • For people who blog often showing their own personality; when they write a book, should they use that same personal voice or go back to journalism?

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  • One of my favourite posts so far Mark:) Succinct, clear and actionable: the stuff that great posts are made of. Cheers! Kaarina

  • nice one Mark. All good and valid points and it is surprisingly that many do break these guidelines (especially for word count 🙂 I think your tips about the title and keeping it personable are bang on

  • I agree with starting, I finely did and I kick myself for putting it off so long-I felt I needed to learn more and really the advice above cuts to the gist. Anyone can apply the above and be off to the races (or starting.) I especially like the acronym R-I-T-E, to remind myself, keep it “R- relevant, I – interesting, T – timely and E – entertaining” Thanks for the great tools and pointers-guys..

  • Right! Perfect sense. I have to remember to do that too…
    Next time I write a post.., I’ll tick of “The Great Eight”.

    Good post!

  • Glad to hear you’ve jumped in Jason!

  • Agree. Nobody can teach you how to blog. You just have to do it, be patient, and learn on the go! Thanks Gerry.

  • I can only speak for myself. If you read my books, you will see my humor, passion, and personality shine through. One person told me “Return On Influence” was the best business book she had ever read and I think that is because it IS different and it IS original. There are very few authors who pull this off … very few that even try. So I would say that it works for me.

  • Very kind of you to say! Thank you!

  • Your kind words and support are appreciated Abdallah!

  • The Great Eight. Hmmmm … Think I’ll steal that one Rogier! : )

  • Headlines make me a bit crazy because bloggers often spend lots of time trying to craft a great headline and then drop the ball on the content. They just don’t deliver.

    I am also not a fan of catering to the instant gratification society that wants to spend 30 seconds reading and then move on.

    That is not to say I disagree with the importance of headlines because you need to pull the readers in, but sometimes…

    I suppose it is why I come up with some wacky ones because I know they catch the eye.

    And I can’t agree more about the value of conversational writing that includes your voice, personality and passion.

  • I struggle with headlines from the other side. I think my content delivers but sometimes I pull my hair out on a good headline. I just don’t have time to fret over it and feel that usually my headlines are quite average. Room for growth : )

  • Thanks for this wakeup call Mark. I’ve let myself become convinced I’m to busy with work to blog these past couple of months. It’s simply not true. When I read reminders about the basics from experts like you and Michael Gass, I’m encouraged to get back at it and I remember my work improves when I blog about it. It’s all connected. When I don’t take time to read great blogs I lose my muse. Note to self: Make time to read more – then you will write more.

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  • The world will be better for it. You are a master story-teller!

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  • I do a lot of the above; however, I generally do not start with the ending. Most of my posts are around sports analogies, so I setup the framework for the sports scenario before digging in on the analogous points. I do use sub-headings and colors to aid the skimmers in hitting the highlights.

    I definitely end with questions, and I reiterate a lot of those questions when responding to shares on Twitter/Facebook to try and deepen the discussion beyond a simple share (which is always still appreciated).

  • Lucid Gal

    I’d say this applies to all writing, unless it’s an owner’s manual.

  • Mark,

    Love this… Great tips.

    The only thing that I would add is that a longer post done right can get extremely higher share numbers. But it’s got to be good. A crappy long post gets read even less… No doubt.



  • Nice tips, Mark.

    I remember you had a post last summer about flipping that blog upside down and loved it.

    For some reason the title and the Saturday Night Fever image are embedded in my memory 😉 I didn’t even have a blog at the time.

    About headlines: I almost never write my headlines first. It’s usually the last thing I do, or I go back and edit it about 10 times as I bang the keyboard. Talk about working backwards.

    But great pointers, Mark. I’ll print this one out as I write tomorrow morning 🙂

  • I like the R.I.T.E. tip. Something new to me.

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  • Sounds like that is working for you Brian so that’s cool. I would say these are more like “guidelines” : )

  • Ha! Good point!

  • Oh yes, of course you’re right. In journalism school, we were taught to “give it what it’s worth.” But the problem is, too many people ramble or write bloated posts to puff up an ego. I would say that is the single biggest problem i see with blogs today — unnecessarily long. Thanks Ryan!

  • Yes, I remember that disco post! : ) I need to re-emphasize some of those points because of the constant churn of new blog readers but I did have fun with that one! Glad you did too. Keep up the good work on the headlines. It is HARD work (at least it is for me!)

  • That’s because it IS new : ) It really works. Focus on writing through that lens.

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  • Sure.., no problem.., I’m already stealing enough from you (i.e. knowledge). 😀

    Happy to give something back (other than buying the Tao).

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    Agree, glad you jumped in, the waters fine…isn’t it 😉

  • Excellent info! Thank you. You had my attention from start to finish. Best, Kristen

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  • Hurray! : ) Thanks for letting me know.

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  • Thank you! I needed this help today.

  • Good post, Mark. Since Fearless Competitor posts every day, I’m always looking for ideas. I like the write upside down suggestion.

  • Minerva Newman

    Wonderful & educational. May I use this for lecture?

  • Really helpful post, thanks Mark – loved your idea of writing upside down. I’m just trying to get started with a blog so perfect timing too.
    The only element I’m not so sure about is numbered headline lists. So many bloggers seem to be using these as a hook now that as a blog reader, I find myself glazing over whenever I see ’12 things you need to do right now’ or the like. But I guess it worked in this case 😉

  • You’re welcome!

  • Glad to help Jeff.

  • With attribution of course.

  • True. But they absolutely work. You’ll learn that yourself soon enough as you start your blog ! Good luck Hannah.

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  • itsjessicaann

    I think writing with an original voice is the most challenging part of blogging, especially for newbies. When I first started (less than a year ago), I had to forget everything learned in school, and just be me – which is scary and liberating at the same time to a new blogger. I’ve found my original voice – but it does take time to build/develop. and it’s always a work in progress. thanks for this great post, Mark!

  • Eric Fettman

    Love the chart! Easy to understand and high-impact. (And who needs data anyway?)

  • You are so right about attention span. I haven’t written many posts, but I have read quite a few. I am like the readers in your chart. I tend to lose interest after a while. I do like to read the end first or I move on to the next post.

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  • Good for you. It does take time and patience to find your groove! Thanks for commenting Jessica!

  • Hey, softies you have to improvise! : )

  • Thanks for adding to the dialogue Marlene!

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  • tianakai

    Great info, always great to keep in mind. I should frame that scientific chart as a reminder. 🙂

  • Ha!! Glad you found it useful!

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  • Thanks again, now if I can just figure out Disqus for commenting, You replied and I had no idea for a whole month! I was so disturb.. just kidding.. tks, j

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  • Melissa

    Very insightful, thanks Mark. I have been blogging for 6 months and always looking to sharpen my skills:)

  • Mark, I enjoyed this. It is a good reminder, especially the “keep it short” part. Thanks.

  • Lynne Clark

    Intereresting list here… I was taught that the best business letter follows the pattern:

    Tell them what you are going to tell them
    Tell them
    Tell them what you have just told them

    I reckon good blogs do that. And have short sentences & start with prepositions. And sound different to everyone else. 🙂 Not sure about the smileys in mine though, but I do love ’em …

    Can I have smileys, please?

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  • Thanks for sharing the most helpful eight points which helps a lot to carve the writing skills into perfect bloggers

  • Divorced Kat

    Great tips! I have definitely found that my more popular posts are ones where I’ve been very honest and let my voice shine through.
    The appeal of lists is also very true.

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  • Thanks Mark. This post is an ideal guide for beginners wanting to go to the next level up,in Blogging! Thanks again!

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