February 28, 2011

5 Writing Tips for Better Blogs and More

These tips are meant to improve all kinds of writing, but I've included special notes for bloggers. I was inspired to make this list after 1) helping a friend edit an essay and 2) the response to my post about leaving good comments.

Be Concise
It's said a good writer knows when to stop. This is especially true of writing for the internet where attention spans are very short. The key is to focus on what is most important and be succinct. 

A helpful exercise: Closely read a non-fiction essay or article about ten pages long. Summarize that essay in one page. Now condense your summary into one paragraph. Next, pare it down into a single sentence. Determine if you can make the sentence even shorter, ideally ten words or less. Ask yourself: what if economy of language is everything?

Be Well-Read 
This doesn't mean you need a degree in literature, but you should try to expose yourself to as much quality writing as you can. Ideally, aim to read a broad variety of formats, topics and writers. If your time is extremely limited, focus on well-written pieces in your chosen format(s). Find writers you admire and those you loathe. 

By understanding and developing your personal relationship to language, you can express yourself better. If you write fiction or poetry, the use of allusions will greatly enrich your work. Being familiar with the conversations in the blogosphere is important to contributing to the overall discussion.

Be Prolific
You don't have to publish a lot, just write a lot. Keeping a journal or two is beyond helpful-- it's downright therapeutic. Try to keep a small notebook with you all the time. You never know when you will get inspired or witness something noteworthy. Also, journals are important because they use your brain in ways word-processing does not, as discussed in this amazing interview with Lynda Barry about her latest book Picture This (partly a journal itself).  

Make writing a regular exercise scheduled into your routine same as you would with physical exercise.  The discipline of writing regularly is just as important as creativity. If you blog, try setting up a blog calender, schedule or weekly quota.

Be Specific and Evocative
How many famous writers or respected bloggers can you think of who are praised for their vague, bland style? None because nondescript writing isn't memorable. It is about giving the right details in correct amount to convey your meaning. I think of it as setting the scene for the reader. A good set can be minimal or lavish, but it only works if it includes the right elements (and stays within your "budget".) 

tip: Expand your vocabulary. A great way is to regularly read an intelligent publication with a broad topic base (my favorite is the NYT Sunday magazine). Don't just focus on knowing more words, but on understanding the fine nuances of word choice. For example, "to anger" and "to annoy" are listed as synonyms but I would not say "Inequality in the classroom annoys civil rights activists." Never use words you don't know well.

Be Active
In voice that is. If you write in English avoid using the passive voice (this differs in some languages). Sometimes it is okay, but not often.

I hope you find these tips helpful because part two is already in my head.


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  1. Wow this is very helpful!! Thank you for sharing.


  2. Great stuff Melina. These are fantastic tips for any kind of writing, really. I haven't caught up on your blog in a while, and after browsing for a bit, I'm really impressed. I love the aesthetic you evoke - it's so truly your personality, and so fresh to see. Keep it up!

  3. thanks so much! I always appreciate feedback, whether constructive
    criticism or just compliments!


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