Blogging is a powerful form of content marketing. It’s good for business. Like anything, though, not all blog posts are created equal — some are a pleasure to read, and some are, well, not.
The qualities of a good blog post
For a blog post to be worthwhile — generate a return on your investment — it must:
- be relevant to your audience
- contain useful information that answers your readers’ questions
- be scannable so that your readers can find information quickly
It also helps if your blog is enjoyable to read. And, so in this post, I explain three ways that you can spice things up a bit.
Make it pretty
If you want people to read your blog posts, take the time to make them look good. As a blogger for hire, it frustrates me when customers publish my work with little thought to how it’s presented. Even if the post contains useful and relevant information, why would people read a pile of flavourless sentences? Well, I guess that most don’t.
In traditional publishing (physical books and magazines), lots of effort goes into the design to entice people to read.
You too should make an effort. So, here are a few things you can do to make your posts more appealing to the eye:
- Choose a hero image. Like a cover of a magazine, it should be eye-catching and relevant to the content of your post. You can source free images from Google, just make sure that you use those labelled for reuse in ‘tools.’ Google’s selection of copyright-free images can be limited, though, so for a few dollars, consider purchasing stock images from sites like Pond5 and Adobe Stock. It can also be a good idea to include images throughout your post.
- Format your text. In my previous post, I mentioned how headings break up the words to create refreshing white space. Well, using different font styles sizes to differentiate between headings and subheadings adds variation. I also like to use different formats for my opening paragraphs and quotations.
Know the rules
These days, many writers don’t appear to care about the rules of grammar and punctuation, but they should. At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, rules are there for a reason; they enable help with clarity of meaning. Also, knowledge of punctuation provides tools to work with. Here are some types of punctuation that I like to use:
Em dashes (—)
I love these simple lines; they provide a conversational, dynamic flavour to writing. And you can use them in several ways:
To replace parentheses.
- Jane (Tony’s mother) spends most of her free time shopping
- Jane — Tony’s mother — spends most of her free time shopping.
To replace commas.
- I visit the shopping mall, which I hate, with Tony’s mum every Thursday.
- I visit the shopping mall — which I hate — with Tony’s mum every Thursday.
To replace a colon
- After weighing up the facts, I came to a conclusion: Tony’s mother must go.
- After weighing up the facts, I came to a conclusion — Tony’s mother must go.
If you don’t know how to create an em dash using Microsoft Word, follow this link.
Semicolons ( ; )
I use this mysterious punctuation mark, which few writers use correctly, every now and then. I don’t use them to appear clever. Rather, I feel that they add interesting variation.
You use a semicolon to connect two related independent clauses. Cast your mind back to your school days, and you may recall that an independent clause contains a subject and a verb. For example, John (subject) hates (verb) fishing. To add additional information to this sentence, you can use a semicolon followed by an independent clause. For example, John hates fishing; he is a vegan. Remember the clause following the semicolon must be related to the one before it, so this would be incorrect: John hates fishing; he works as a mechanic. What’s being a mechanic got to do with not liking fishing? For more information about semicolons, visit this site.
You can use a semicolon instead of a full stop. For example:
- John hates fishing. He is a vegan.
- John hates fishing; he is a vegan.
Break the rules
What’s the point of having rules if you can’t bend or break them once in a while? When blogging, you should write as people speak. If you were to stick religiously to the rules of grammar and punctuation, your writing would be stiff and unnatural — like in some kind of academic journal. You don’t want that.
Here are some rules I break all the time:
- Beginning a sentence with a conjunction. Examples of conjunctions include and, but and so. According to the textbooks, you’re not supposed to start a sentence with one, but I do to create a more conversational and less formal tone.
- Short paragraphs. Traditionally, a paragraph contains three to five sentences. However, to make it easier for readers to scan the text, I usually keep my paragraphs short and often use several, even though they all relate to the same idea.
- Fragments. I don’t often use fragmented sentences (don’t contain a subject and a verb), but I occasionally do. For example, I sometimes start a blog post with a single-word for effect. It’s an effective way to lead in readers.
- Contractions. In conversation, who doesn’t say words like don’t, won’t and can’t? No one. Only robots (how’s that for a couple of fragments?). So, feel free to use as many contractions as you wish.
Do you want people t read your blog posts? Of course you do. Well, if you take the time to spice things up a bit, there’s a better likelihood that they will.