Monthly Archives: June 2014

What to blog about?

In a previous post we mentioned how you could write – whether formally as an academic argument, or something more light. Whichever line you take, write about something which others want to know about, or that they should know about.

TIP: Be useful

Talk about prototypes, experiments, early research ideas – this is a really good way to find out from the people who comment on your blog or Tweet at you about other projects in a similar area or someone else who has already broken the ground. Better now, than when you finally publish in hard cold print.

If you’re still sceptical about how blogging and tweeting can help your academic project or your research, I can only recommend you to read authors such as:

Dr Melissa Terras

Audio and video podcasts are available of Dr Melissa Terras presenting “Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it?”

Share content which is interesting, and people will enjoy reading – and maybe even get some kudos from sharing with their networks. Give your readership something:

  • a link to something (further reading, a photo/video);
  • something people can share, and want to share;
  • launch-pad to where people can find more info;
  • adds value for people, a chance for them to engage with the post and the campaign or project;
  • people should pay even more attention to you for next post.

This is part of the first series of posts about how to write for your blog. And please read the other posts in this blog about writing for impact.

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Find your voice

Don’t use “the passive voice”.

This is not your dissertation, you don’t need to use formal language. You could even try to make your writing more engaging for a wider audience? In YOUR blog you should let your personality leak out in your writing. Express your opinions, tell the world about your work, or your thoughts. Use humour!

TIP: maybe by trying to use “plain English“?

If this is NOT YOUR blog, maybe it is a department’s newsfeed or a project blog, then make sure you understand the parameters you should work to – but still personalise what you’re writing.


This is part of the first series of posts about how to write for your blog.

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White space

Don’t write long sentences in long, dense paragraphs.

Blogs are almost exclusively read on a screen, and usually “consumed” with a myriad of distractions going on around the reader. White space makes long posts easier for readers to scan. These all create space and break up chunks of text:

  • subheadings
  • short paragraphs
  • block-quotes (the bit in a newspaper broadsheet page which leaps out at you – along with the headline and the photo)
  • lists
  • bullet-points
  • and images

Tip: block-quotes are like the bit in a newspaper broadsheet page which leaps out at you – along with the headline and the photo)

This makes your content easy to digest, easier to quote in a tweet and therefore more easy to share. Readers will skip over the content to the headings – have you written the best headings for the content which follows?


This is part of the first series of posts about how to write for your blog.

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The moderator’s responsibilities

You must take responsibility for your blog and for others’ comments. There are some important steps to take to protect your blog from, for example, spam comments advertising unsavoury pharmaceuticals or worse.

This will be the start of a series of posts encouraging you to think about writing carefully in your blog, e.g.:

  • Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say in person
  • Be selective about posting about your on-going research, although blogs and social media is an excellent way to share “prototypes”
  • Be cautious about posting photos or the names of other people if you’re involved in a sensitive issue

You must also take responsibility not just for your own words but for the comments you allow on your blog, e.g.

And you should follow these Essential WordPress Security Tips – Is Your Blog Protected? 

We’re blogging for the pursuit of academic study, but is it enough to lock down your blog so that anonymous comments are not allowed? Maybe you want to signal your appetite for discussion on the blog – we’ll show you how…

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Titles should entice people to click through and read

The title of your post is possibly the only chance you have to cut through the noise in your audience’s information feed – it may be the ONLY part of your blog they will see in their Google search results or linked to from Stephen Fry’s Twitter feed. So make a good, strong first impression.

One idea is to “Try creating intrigue or using the element of surprise with titles by alluding to something readers can only see or learn by reading the post” (from Attracting Traffic: Tips for Writing Great Blog Post Titles by Krista).

Also, I try to write titles in sentence case – only capitalising the first letter, and names.

Caption

You should edit the title in your blog post to reflect the content and keywords.

For example, if I hadn’t edited the title of the parent post, then that title would have been many lines long, and it would have translated automatically into the following URL:

/I-am-going-to-tell-you-the-secret-to-wrting-nice-blog-posts-using-WordPress-or-Blogger-or-other-blogging-platforms

Tip: shorten your title

If your post title is fairly long, (over six or seven words) remove the words which don’t specifically relate to the post’s topic. In the example above, I removed the waffle at the beginning and decided that I did not need all the different blog platforms listed – I also corrected the deliberate typo: wrting

Tip: PREVIEW

Preview is one of your best tools:

Edit blog screen with PREVIEW buttons

Click either of the PREVIEW buttons to see what your post will look like

Press the PREVIEW button and re-read what you’ve written and proof-read and correct typos in the title. Having written your post, is this title really about what you have written?

A preview of a post

Clicking the PREVIEW button will open a new tab/window with your post

Sharing

If you’ve crafted a good title then when it comes to telling the world about it using Twitter or whatever you prefer, then this title should do the leg-work of creating a good tweet! There’ll be more about promoting your blog in this series.

SEO

That’s Search Engine Optimisation!

The title is fodder for the search engines (Google and the like), so (in slightly different advice to Attracting Traffic: Tips for Writing Great Blog Post Titles by Krista) you should use your category or keyword (see a future post!) somewhere in your title.

URL

The URL or web address of your blog post is another source of information used by search engines to understand what you are writing about.

You can edit the URL in your blog post to reflect the title and keywords. As mentioned above, if I hadn’t edited the title of the parent post, then that title would have translated automatically into the following URL:

/I-am-going-to-tell-you-the-secret-to-wrting-nice-blog-posts-using-WordPress-or-Blogger-or-other-blogging-platforms

Tip: shorten your URL

After shortening that title, I then shortened the URL to put the emphasis on the main idea i.e. writing good blog posts.

How-to edit the URL of your blog post

Blog url

Under the title, find the bit of the URL (permalink) which you can edit (the end)

Caption

Put your mouse over the URL, and click to start editing

Edit the URL

Make the URL as meaningful as your title, and click OK

Preview again

Before pressing PUBLISH I have previewed everything a final time and realised that “Make a strong first impression” is a little ambiguous – do I mean your blog or do I mean your post? So I have changed this post to the title of my first heading: “Titles should entice people to click through and read”!

And then I press PUBLISH.

But that’s not the end – I read the published post one final time and follow some of the ideas we’ll talk about in this series of posts about how to write for your blog.

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Plan your blog posts

You should write lots of drafts posts based on any ideas you want to, but, before you actually publish a post spend a lot of time to plan what you are writing, and craft that blog post.

Tip: PREVIEW

By craft I mean look at your title, the Web address, the look of your post on the screen, as well as what you are going to write. Preview is one of your best tools:

Edit blog screen with PREVIEW buttons

Click either of the PREVIEW buttons to see what your post will look like

Press the PREVIEW button and re-read what you’ve written and proof-read and correct typos – but especially re-read for “meaning”. Having written your post, is this really what you planned to write?

A preview view of a blog post

Clicking the PREVIEW button will open a new tab/window with your post

At this stage I like to think like an old-style journalist:

Tip: “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Then tell ’em what you just told ’em”.

Try to add a couple of sentences to explain at the top and the tail, to help the reader know if this blog is worth spending their precious time on. What about Title of post / Length of a post? / Academic writing? …well, those will be the subject of future posts.


This is part of the first series of posts about how to write for your blog.

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How to write better to encourage more people to read your blog

This is the first in a short series of posts about how to write for your blog.

Here we’ll explore some ways to help encourage more people to read your blog. This seems straightforward and common sense – but it won’t hurt to outline here some strategies which you can employ every time you blog. And a few to use more sparingly.

The topics we’ll cover over the next few posts about how to plan what you’re going to write include:

  • Titles
  • SEO (see Titles and other posts in the series)
  • White space
  • Images
  • Your “voice”
  • What to write about
  • Link to previous posts on your blog, and to others
  • Keywords
  • Proofread what you’ve written, and “Preview”
  • Be consistent and be persistent

Later series will also look at how to promote your blog.

Please come back and read this series about how to write for your blog. It is part of presentations about how to build your online presence around your blog for the courses:

…which we teach at the University of Oxford IT Services.

It’s a version of a post in the blog of the Education Enhancement Team.

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