That’s right – your education is probably ruining your chances of EVER making it as a blogger. You need to stop, take a look at yourself and make changes NOW – before it’s too late.
I definitely feel that my education hampered my early blogging efforts. I’ve been actively writing online since 2007 and even today I’m still shaking off some of the habits that were drummed into me.
I will share with you some of the things I have learned over the years. See if you recognise any of these…
When writing essays, the attitude is different to that of blogging. In education you strive to show off as much knowledge as you can within the allowable word limits. Your teacher is paid to read your work, and is obliged to grind their way through to the end – no matter how boring and uninspiring it may be.
With blogging you need to think about grabbing and keeping your readers interest. No one is out to do you any favours. There are billions of other places on the web they could be, so you have to give them something that they really want to read. This often doesn’t involve you being a smarty pants and showing off everything you know.
Respect your readers time and write something that is both useful and entertaining.
Use a passive voice
I remember being encouraged to use a passive voice when writing essays. So to repeat the first sentence of this paragraph, in a passive voice it would instead say…
“I remember a passive voice was encouraged when writing essays.”
Take a look at this sentence…
“The dog sat on the chair”.
This is using the active voice because the subject, the dog, comes before the verb “sat”. Using the passive voice, it would read like this…
“The chair was sat on by the dog”.
This is far less punchy, and also uses more words for your reader to plough through. Used consistently throughout an article, the difference adds up and your readers may well be asleep before reaching the end.
Always use an active voice when blogging.
In education you must stick rigidly to the set out rules of the English language. There is a strong emphasis on this.
A good blogger will sometimes break these rules in order to be expressive. It is far more important to focus on your communication than it is the finer points of the English language. Isn’t language supposed to evolve?
Find out what works, rather than what appeases English scholars. For instance it is good to sometimes use this very powerful technique to keep your readers with you…
It is the teaser. Many top bloggers end a paragraph with a teaser to hook their reader. This can help keep them reading your article.
The rules of English can be broken. You’re the boss.
Use long words and long sentences
In education it is tempting to use long words and long sentences to appear more intelligent. I remember using a thesaurus to change some of my words into longer more unusual ones. This is unthinkable for a blogger. You need to do the opposite.
Bloggers use simpler words and shorter sentences for two main reasons. They want people to understand what they are saying. Bloggers don’t want the reader to have to work too hard to understand them. If they have to work too hard deciphering “corporate style” speak, they will quickly grow bored and hit the back key.
Use short words, sentences and paragraphs when blogging.
You must cover everything
In my early blogging efforts I stressed myself out making sure I had covered everything. In education you miss out on scoring marks if you don’t discuss certain things.
I spent ages researching for information and pasted all the bit together, in the desperate attempt to have everything “covered”. The problem was that it didn’t flow and wasn’t all about what I know. How’s anyone supposed to get to know me and how is this going to be unique?
As a blogger the point is not necessarily to cover all angles. It is to write about your unique experience and knowledge of the area. Your readers can buy a text book if they want everything covered. What they want is to know what you think.
If you miss things out it creates an opportunity for a discussion in your comments or on social media. Many bloggers ask at the end if there is anything more that can be added. This can create a wonderful discussion, which helps breathe life into your blog post.
Focus on your knowledge and experience, rather than trying to cover everything.
Use 10 words when 2 will do
In education you can be tempted to waffle and go around the houses in order to get your word count up. In blogging you don’t need to do this.
Your readers will quickly grow tired of wading through your waffle. Remember they are not paid to read your stuff. It is your privilege if anyone reads your content on the web, because there is an infinite amount of other things they could be reading. Respect this.
When drafting, go through and cut out any unnecessary words.
Don’t use your opinions
This was drummed into me when studying my law degree. I had to back everything I said to either a scholar, a judge, or another of similar standing. My opinions counted for nothing. We were encouraged to sit on the fence and discuss both sides of an argument. This was good for showing your understanding and scoring marks, but is not usually a good for a blogger.
As a blogger, if you want to be an authority, then you must have an opinion. People want to know what you stand for. For instance with me I stand for “ethical affiliate marketing”. People know that I avoid the latest fad SEO tricks and stick to practices that will give me a solid foundation and will stand the test of time. My reasoning is that I prefer playing the long game when it comes to business. Plus it feels better doing things the right way.
Don’t be afraid to express your opinions, thoughts and feelings.
Use an academic voice
I sometimes look back at some of my early writing and shudder at the language I used. I don’t speak like that, so why would I write like that? Because I’m pretending to be cleverer or more knowledgeable than I really am? Probably. People want to get to know the real you, so why not write as you speak, and be honest about the limitations of what you know?
A good trick I have learned is to read out loud what I have written. If it doesn’t sound right then I change it until it does. I believe this has massively increased the popularity of my blog posts.
Know your audience
You know when you are at university that you are writing for some stuffy professor, so you write in a style they will approve of. As a blogger you must think about your target audience and adapt your writing to them. If your target audience is teenagers looking for cool aps, then your writing style may differ to if your target audience is mature wine connoisseurs.
When you are writing, imagine your target audience is sitting in front of you as you speak to them.
Being a successful blogger is very different to being a successful essay writer. Spend some time reading the work of top bloggers and look at what techniques they use when writing. Don’t rigidly stick to the writing style you learned at school or university. Most people don’t want to read this educational style online.
I would encourage you to study copywriting. Although it is for sales, there are lots of techniques that you can use for blogging. I recommend you taking a look at Andy Maslan’s Write To Sell. It contains loads of great writing tips that can be used in blogging.
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