Like Falling Off a Blog
Writing for a blog is just like writing an article, a book, or a dissertation except that it isn’t. The act of putting words on a screen (we used to say putting words on paper) is the same, but there the similarities end.
Blogging is a unique approach to communication for which graduate school skills can be detrimental. My attempts to blog have taught me a few things that I share with academics in the hope that some will try their own hands at this. It is nothing we trained for but something we can learn.
A blog piece needs a clear, concise idea, one focused point. Ideally, it should be five hundred words. Up to a thousand words will work, but less is usually more. Short sentences are best. Forget footnotes but make links to relevant data. Facts are facts no matter what the written medium. Blogs are not editorials but well-informed, accessible articles.
Gear your writing to a smart reader who is not a specialist in the field. Think of a relative or friend who knows little about the topic but can grasp a well-reasoned argument. Don’t dumb it down. Write it up in a crisp, inviting way. Lead your readers to want to know more about the topic. Make them want to respond. Blogs are two-way communication devices. The replies often illuminate the article in ways the author cannot imagine.
Colorful language helps. Keep it clean and neat. Be personal but not overly so. A blog is not a license to bare your soul. It is a chance to speak your mind. So start with what you know, do some research, formulate an argument. It is helpful to provide links to other places where a reader can find more details about your topic.
Catchy titles rule. However, many editors will assign titles so there is no guarantee that yours will survive the editorial process. Speaking of, be sure to have someone read your piece before you submit it to find any typos or other editorial problems.
If you make mistakes in a blog you can correct them after initial publication. This is a plus of blogs. Your editor will want to indicate that revisions have been made to a previously published piece so that readers are fully informed.
Do not be afraid to say something substantive in a blog without a full, detailed argument. That is what academic articles and books are for. Your voice in the blog is just as authoritative, it is simply communicating in a different way.
Blogging need not be time consuming but it does take care and attention. I find it useful to give myself a deadline: it has to be done by noon on Tuesday or it is not going to happen. This helps to prevent procrastination and the accumulating guilt most writers feel when we cannot meet every deadline.
Try blogging. It is a great way to test ideas since feedback is almost instantaneous. It is a wonderful way to socialize resources by making our wisdom available to a broad public. Blogging opens channels of communication. Join the fun.