From Slogger to Blogger: Tips for a Better Blog

By Paul Chin

Originally published in Intranet Journal (23-Jun-2006)

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Everyone thinks they can be a writer; but there's a big difference between a writer and someone who writes. Good writers know how to capture an audience early, engage them throughout the piece, and keep them interested enough that they actually want to stick around until the end. Like music, there's a cadence and rhythm to the written word. This is what separates an aria from a cat choking on a chicken bone.

The blog explosion has created a virtual community of writers and wannabe writers. Some wow us with their weaving of words and insightful commentary; others have us wondering if, prior to the advent of the blog, the piece would have been written with a box of stubby Crayola crayons. Yet without knowledge of even the fundamentals of the written word, bloggers impose their views, interests, and thoughts on the Internet community.

Anyone can blog, but that doesn't mean everyone should blog—at least not until they learn how. So if you're going to do it, do it right.

What's in Your Blog?

In my last article, Corporate Blogs: Weapons of Crass Discussion?, I discussed some of the many things that make blogs so appealing—for both readers and writers. It's usually less formal than engineered content; allows users to become content providers (thus making them active participants as opposed to mere spectators); and most of all, blogs have personality.

Whether blogging for the Internet or for a corporate intranet, as bloggers you must make sure that you actually have something of interest to say about a particular topic—for purposes of information, entertainment, or both. Don't start one up simply for the sake of having one. We saw plenty of this when the Web was first introduced and people built all manner of sites that were devoid of any value beyond the author's own curiosity with the new medium.

Celebrities and other well-known personalities—actors and entertainers, politicians, corporate CEOs—are the only people who can get away with "themeless" blogs, because readers will tune in to find out what they have to say about pretty much anything. For example, millions of people will flock to a Brad Pitt or Charlize Theron "what I did this weekend" blog; but no one, besides family and friends, will really care what you or I did this weekend. So, unless you have a very unique writing style or an oddly interesting life, your blog must have a theme—general or specific.

Tips on Becoming a Better Blogger

It's very easy to start a blog, but it takes a bit of practice to write an interesting enough blog that readers will want to come back again and again. There are many things bloggers—both neophytes and veterans—can do to improve their blog and themselves as writers:

Dealing with Feedback

One of the first things I learned as a writer is that you will never make everyone happy. But that was never my intention, and nor should it be yours. I've had readers complain that a particular article focused too much on technology (even though written for an IT publication for an IT audience), while others complained that the very same story wasn't technologically oriented enough. Well, I guess in some cases, you can't make anyone happy.

If you allow readers to leave comments on your blog, be prepared to deal with a certain amount of negative feedback. Some readers will provide intelligently written constructive criticism and will be open to discussion; some will have little-to-nothing productive to say and will attack you simply for the sake of raising hell; and some will miss the point entirely.

It's an unfortunate aspect of human nature that readers will be more likely to express disapproval than satisfaction. Readers who enjoy a story might not always take the time to convey this fact, but if readers get a whiff of something they don't like in what you've written, a huge discussion thread will spring forth like a brush fire. While I believe that it's important to pay attention to your readers' feedback and comments, as a writer you can't allow them to dictate what and how you write.

The best advice I can give is not to take it too personally if you find yourself under attack. Never become overly defensive and respond to these attacks on emotion. If you do so, you could very well damage your reputation as a blogger and content provider. Don't get sucked into a bunch of yahoos' nonsense because that's precisely what they want. Next thing you know, all of your productive blogging time is wasted defending your work to people who just want to cause trouble. So if you ever find yourself under unwarranted attack remember this appropriate quote by Plato, "A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool speaks because he has to say something."

Closing Thoughts

Blogging is more art than science; but you don't have to don a beret and brood in the dark corner of some cafe. Blogging is not an elitist community. The whole point to blogging is to allow anyone to participate. But if you want to distinguish yourself as a great blogger you should give it some forethought before you begin. What's it going to be about? What writing style are you going to employ? Who are you catering to? It might be difficult at the beginning—especially for novice writers—to write on a regular basis, but once you get the hang of this whole blogging thing and become skilled at it, it will flow more easily. And then the only thing you'll have to contend with is that affliction that hits every writer at one point or another: writer's block. Welcome to the club; you've arrived!

Copyright © 2006 Paul Chin. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of this article in whole or part in any form without prior written permission of Paul Chin is prohibited.