At Atomic Object, we all participate in writing for the company blog. It can be hard to come up with new ideas that feel worthy of being published. However, once the rhythm of writing is established, I find the ideas and writing come easily. In addition, it’s so easy to publish on the web that it can be hard to avoid sloppiness and mistakes.
Over the years, having done some writing for the web, I’ve discovered a few steps that seem to help. This process has improved my ability to write my blog posts and general web content. While I don’t claim to be an expert on writing, I have a few insights to share about what I’ve learned along the way.
1. Jot down your ideas
Once you’re in the habit of writing, you’ll find ideas come at unusual times. Keep a running list. Or better yet—jot down ideas as they come with a brief synopsis and then save it for completion later. I’ve found that time can bring new insights on these ideas. Coming back to it even a few hours later can give you more perspective on the topic.
2. Do your homework
When it comes time to write, pick one of the ideas you’ve collected and check for other articles on the topic. While you may think your idea is revolutionary, most likely it’s been tried or talked about previously online. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a new perspective. If your idea or application is new, research the background and meaning of your topic to provide more context for your readers. They’ll appreciate the depth your post provides.
3. Write down everything
Let it flow. Don’t worry about editing it right now. Let the grammar and typos persist while you get out what you’re really trying to say. Too often I find myself getting caught up in the exact wording of a sentence only to realize later I didn’t say what I really meant. It will take rewriting it more than once to get to the true meaning of your ideas.
4. Make sure you have a point
Challenge yourself to state your main point in one or two sentences and include it as a thesis at the beginning of your post. Use the remainder of your post to explain and prove that point and use credible sources to validate it.
Now that you’ve gotten everything out, start by looking for patterns in your writing. Think about how someone who is looking for information might approach the article. They might not know or understand everything you know. As you learned in elementary school, use an introduction, body and conclusion.
6. Make it easy to read
Writing for the screen means keeping your content short and easy to read. Backlit screens are hard to look at for long periods of time. Make your point clear. Omit needless words. Use headers, bulleted lists, short paragraphs, and images to make your post easier to digest. Read more about How Users Read on the Web by Jacob Nielsen.
7. Give it a good title
A good title not only describes the content of the article but also makes it sharable on social media channels. Use words in the title that explain the content within the article. Put informative words toward the beginning of the title to make the headline easy to scan, especially if it gets listed on a news aggregator. More on writing for the web: Writing Style for Print vs. Web.
8. Get another perspective
Now that you’ve written a draft, share it with someone else. Choosing someone whom you have worked with or who understands the subject will usually reveal some insights you may have overlooked. Don’t take criticism personally—your article will be better in the end. Alternatively, someone who knows little about your subject can still be useful by providing proof-reading and grammar critique.
9. Sweat the details
Step back and double-check everything. A poorly edited post which includes mistakes looks sloppy and discredits the content. Put time into it and make it right. You never know who’s looking.
Beware of publishing problems that often occur online. Before publishing, double check your post in preview mode if your blog software allows. You might be surprised what you find the first time you preview. Common mistakes include formatting issues, HTML glitches like non-ASCII characters (especially if you copy and paste), incorrect links, layout or wrapping issues with images and other elements on the page.
11. Promote it
A good post is worth promoting. If you’re proud of what you’ve written, get it out there for others to see on several digital channels. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are good to reach your friends and followers, but also submit it to relevant blogs and news aggregators in your industry. Additionally, the content of your post will attract some organic search engine traffic. Pay attention to a few key phrases in your post to make it more magnetic. Here are some good tips for promoting your blog without being spammy.
Lastly, you might discount the value of your own knowledge, however, it is most likely useful for someone else. Following these tips will make your blog posts more interesting and effective.