In a post a good long while ago, Do you need to be a good writer to be a good blogger, Deb points out that yes, it helps a great deal to know how to write if you’re a blogger.
I agree. Knowing how to write is important. However, I know plenty of excellent writers who don’t get blogging and web writing gigs – writers who are likely better than me. I can write sure, but I’m not one of those genius born to write or die type writers, yet I still get plenty of work.
So, how do I and lots of other writers get blogging and web, when many amazing writers are passed over? The people I know who get these jobs (self included) tend to follow some general web writing rules. If a client checks out your work and you’re NOT following these rules you may be passed over for someone who does play by the rules.
Write for the web: Writing for the web is totally different then writing for magazines, college paper, print ad copy, and other writing mediums. The best way to learn how to write for the web is to write for the web – i.e. start a blog. Another good way to learn is to read popular blogs and check out their style. Blog readers aren’t looking for the next great American novel, they’re looking for information, entertainment, newsy clips, and so fourth.
Write casual and personable text: Big fancy words, pages of text (within one post), and a dictating rather than conversational tone sets you apart as someone who doesn’t know how to write for the web. You can connect with readers better when you speak to them, or with them, rather than at them. Plus creating text peppered with jargon, smarty pants research paper college speak, or poetic nonsense is just plain annoying. There’s a place for stuff like this, but a blog isn’t that place. Use words that people understand ALL the time.
Write with a purpose: When you’re writing for the web it can feel a little more slack but you should still write with purpose. I always ask myself the ‘So What’ question and most of the time it makes me a better blogger.
Write with a style that’s all you: Not all bloggers and web writers have a completely unique style, but most have some sort of voice that comes through in their work. Say you have a cooking blog – so what? There are dozens and dozens of cooking blogs out there. What the heck sets you apart from the rest? A good example of a blog with a clear voice is Garden Rant – a typical garden blog, of which there are many, but this blog has a distinct voice. Another blog with a very clear voice is Tremendous News, which is really unfocused topic wise, but you just keep reading because it’s so damn hilarious and the blogger’s voice shines through each post.
Write in a blog or web readable style: The best writing in the world won’t get you a gig if you can’t produce web copy that’s readable. And by readable I mean easy to scan, useful, and somewhat attention grabbing. Bullets are good. Snappy titles rock. Bold print in moderation is good. Hitting enter is super excellent. Clients like to see that you can pull these simple tasks off.
Write with an honest opinion: When blogging for clients it’s typical to cover products and press releases but it’s important to be honest and opinionated. Anyone can write about global warming or a sofa that’s on sale or offer parenting tips. What’s key is your opinion on the topic. What’s your slant? What’s your real take? A good example are blogs where you’ll see 50 product reviews and they all rock. There’s no way that 50 products all rock. If you’re just spitting out what PR folks are selling, without developing your own opinions, it looks fake, seems lame, and people won’t trust that you’re telling the truth.
It’s great if you know how to write, it’s cool if you have a writing degree, but keep in mind that web writing is different. Cultivate your skills as it pertains to this medium if you want to snag gigs.
Coming up soon… why your lack of confidence might be messing with your ability to get gigs, more tips from clients, what bloggers are making money wise, and more.
You tell me – have you adjusted your writing style so that it works for the web?