I’ve been reflecting about how blogging has changed how I write. I have learned to be very focused, largely because after 500 words, 80% of readers give up. They won’t read any more online. Hence, if you want someone to read, you have to deliver it concisely. This limits the complexity of the topics I can tackle on my blog.
This is in direct opposition to what we learn in the academic world. In preparation for a conference a few weeks ago, I read piles of academic papers that were over 30 pages each. These papers were well written and focused, but they addressed highly complex issues. Longer isn’t better or worse, if it is well written. The problem with academic papers is that they are often laden with jargon and highly complex language that hurts my brain when I read it. The same ideas could be communicated much more clearly and simply.
Technology is changing the way we process ideas, perhaps simplifying complex issues too much. But it may actually be improving our basic writing skills. By requiring clarity and conciseness, blogging has forced me to carefully think about what I want to communicate and whether or not I am effective.
So here are Colleen’s rules for writing blog posts:
- Each post should be about a single idea.
- Target 350 words, but no more than 500 words.
- If your post is over 500 words, consider whether it is about one or two ideas. If two ideas, split it into two posts.
- Use links to provide context, rather than writing the back story in your post.
- Consider whether each sentence or word is essential to your message.
- While you might want to keep some of your humour, consider whether it adds or distracts from your point.
- Use spell check and proof-read your blog before you publish.
I’m not the best blogger out there. I keep learning how to improve what I write. Writing every day, no matter how little means that I slowly refine my skills. Meantime, I’m having fun doing it.