Tag Archives: blogging

Blogger’s style guide: Short or long?

There is room for both, depending on the content and what you want to say.

Short posts – around three paragraphs – are great for when you have a simple observation or point to make, or you’re short of time (see the three things to tell a reader in How is blogging different?)

Long posts – for more indepth analysis – are best broken into manageable chunks that the reader can scan easily (see my previous post on structure).

A series is good for breaking up a complex subject, and can later be pulled together in a round-up post, eg, the Blogger’s Style Guide!

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Blogger’s style guide: How to structure long posts

Structure: manageable chunks!

People don’t tend to read online. They scan the screen for what they find interesting, which means long posts of running copy are often skipped over. A short-form, three-paragraph post noting, explaining and presenting one particular issue is often the ideal for the reader (as noted in the first post of this series How is blogging different?)

But sometimes you need to write a little more, especially when explaining a complicated subject. Luckily, there are many different ways to break up a long post and create some ‘white space’.

7 ways you can package your thoughts:

  • Snappy sub-heads – such as the one above!
  • Lists – a top three, five or 10, for example.
  • Q&A – create questions (which you then answer).
  • Images – pictures and graphics provide a nice visual break.
  • Quotes – block quotes are longer quotes that can be styled differently.
  • Bulletpoints – ideal for short lists like this one.
  • Use shorter paragraphs (and shorter sentences) in general.

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Blogger’s style guide: Ideas for your posts

What readers like…

  • Original research and surveys
  • Benchmarks, quantative analysis
  • Relevant news not found anywhere else
  • Insight – leading-edge thinking, novel perspectives
  • Precis, time-saving summaries and reviews
  • Useful tools and checklists
  • Personal stories, first-hand accounts, experiences, lessons learned
  • Live reports from events
  • Short educational pieces
  • Relevant ‘Aha!’ graphics
  • Fun stuff – quizzes, self-evaluations, interactive content
  • Great photos and illustrations
  • Useful finds – resources, blogs, posts, graphics

(Source: The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil)

If you work for an organisation, there is your rich source of information on a subject, but think about tying this in with what is going on out there in the world outside. Read the news or subscribe to RSS feeds for blogs and websites that also cover your subject area – find out what they are talking about and think about joining in the conversation by posting about topical news and discussion.

Also think about timing. What big events are happening throughout the year that would be relevant to write about/around for readers – both generally and specifically. For example, if you were a family lawyer, get your help and advice posts on divorce issues written in December, ready for the ‘January Jilt’, and your prenuptial advice published ahead of February 14. If you’re an accountant, you’ll be thinking about Budget dates and Pre-Budget Reports.

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Blogger’s style guide: How is blogging different?

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

How is blogging different from other types of writing?

Blogging is a different type of communication. The style tends to be: informal and conversational; easy to read rather than big blocks of copy; human not corporate; real rather than perfect; a space for you to talk about what interests you.

Your opinion is valuable – in fact, the best posts are often ones that tell a reader three things:

  • what has happened, what is the issue of interest
  • an explanation of what it means, some context
  • an opinion on what you think about it (if blogging for a company, this will probably be the company line)

As you can also see, you can also speak directly to your reader. (Hi, by the way.)

The other big difference is that your reader can easily say ‘hi’ back. They can respond to what you are saying – and you can have a conversation about the subject of your post.

Think of it as a dinner party that you are hosting. What are you going to say? Hopefully something that will interest them. So, what will interest them? I’m glad you asked. Next up in this series is: ‘What readers like (or ideas for your posts)’.

RIP Sub-editing 1987-2008 – pt 1

Everyone has an indulgent, epic blog post in them and this is mine: a look back and a farewell to my 21 years of sub-editing.

I started this blog when the print industry was starting to really fall apart 18 months ago. I wanted to put down some of the funny things that happen on the subs desk, some of the issues that we had to deal with.

Instead it quickly turned into a personal transit lounge for crossing over to digital work. How did this happen? This is that story…

matthew broderick

Image: © @tnarik/Flickr

Thankyou Matthew Broderick!

My love of computers can be traced back to a teenage crush on Matthew Broderick who nerded his way though both Thermo-Nuclear War in War Games and bunking off school in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

This led me into the school computer room in the 80s, internet cafés in the 90s, a job with Freeserve in 2000, Friendster in 2002, blogging in 2008, and web editing in 2009.

In between all of this, the one constant was my work as a sub-editor. Demand was high and more often than not I was booked for weeks or months ahead of time. They were golden days for The Freelance Sub.

Even through the recession of the early 90s, there was work – albeit in the unhealthy, correction-heavy world of TV listings.

You’ll always need correct spelling (maybe)
But things got seriously shaky during the recession of 2008/9 as the increasing impact of the internet on advertising revenues finally seemed to wake newspapers up to their crumbling revenue model. Entire sub-editing departments were sacked, outsourced or cut back (Telegraph, City AM to name but two) as print budgets dried up.

Meanwhile, the diligent fact-checking sub-editor was also facing a new Web-first world where correct spelling, fact-checking, pun headlines and copy-fitting were becoming increasingly redundant, post-moderated or deprioritised.

Still, I hung on to my safe, traditional sub-editing role for as long as I could. And in the downtime of the monthly magazine subs desk, I started a blog.

You would blog too if it happened to you
Little did I know that blogging was going to change everything.

For one thing, I started social networking with people beyond my Myspace/Facebook pool of friends and family. For another, I met my lovely partner Pete Ashton who was teaching me to blog at his weekly blog surgeries held in a Birmingham coffee shop.

My relationship with Web 2.0 was also taking off. The progression went something like this: a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account, a Flickr account and a Tumblr. Then came the ‘IRL’ meet ups with my new virtual friends and signing up for Web unconferences.

It was a whole ’nother world, one that you only had access to if you were engaged with it. Socially and with half an eye on the future, it made sense and felt right. Online felt expansive while print now felt reductive.

Twitter became my personal recommendation engine. It pushed interesting and new ideas at me through links and blog posts. It was thanks to Twitter that I decided to send myself to South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, held in March each year. Nothing else had changed their life / career / outlook as much as going to SXSW.

Digital skills: I can haz them?
As my print work dried up, I started to get small jobs from my engagement with an online network that was just a few weeks old. One memorable job came from discovering a Twitter contact was in my local Coop. We tweeted. We met in the wine aisle. He offered me work writing on a new website. As you do.

Digital skills combined with old-school editorial experience were in demand. I landed a contract with a digital agency and soon found myself working on blogs, wikis, ezines and SEO features. It was liking starting all over again.

Suddenly sub-editing was something I had to outsource to other subs because I was too busy doing something called ‘web editing’ or ‘social media copywriting’ or whatever the task of the day was. Only there weren’t any digital subs out there so suddenly I found myself having to teach the little that I knew to print subs.

For a while now I’ve been giddy with how much my work life has shifted in just two years. The last 12 months in particular have involved a complete reinvention of my career. Am I even a journalist anymore? Mostly I would say no, although I still use the skills of the trade. Sub-editing still happens, but the skills have had to be revised and expanded, and the amount of time to sub has been slashed. At least the online medium is, by its instant-publish nature, more forgiving of a typo.

Next… part two: sub-editing and the rise of technology