A couple of weeks ago, James Chartrand posted a blog entry and felt afterward most commenters missed her point. I don’t remember the post or I’d link to it here, but I remember watching the ensuing conversation on Twitter with interest. I’ve been there plenty of times before. It’s tough putting one’s heart and soul into a piece hoping for a good, juicy discussion and everyone picks the wrong point to on which to focus their attention.
I’m also finding myself in a situation lately where specific bloggers feel I’m targeting them in my blog posts when this isn’t the case at all. Frankly it confuses me. If people aren’t getting my focus or feel I’m pointing the finger when I’m not, then I clearly need to rethink how I write. I’m not going to claim to be a great writer, but it’s obvious I’m doing something wrong. So today I started thinking back to my journalism classes and writing courses to figure out the best ways to get my point across without any misunderstanding.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Avoid Tangents
Lately I’ve been mostly blogging rather than more formal writing and it shows. I’m forgetting all the rules and going off on tangents. Sometimes it’s fun, especially if I write a humorous piece. More often than not, tangents are confusing. I think that’s why I’m a big fan of outlines and lists. They allow me to see clearly and focus on a single point at a time. With my outline, I can see if a tangent is about to happen and get rid of it or turn it into a completely different blog post. The key to having other people get my point is to write clearly, focus on my main point, and not tell too many stories behind the story.
2. Keep it simple (stupid)
The first thing I learned in web writing school is how most web writing is for people with short attention spans. If they stare at a screen too long their eyes go blurry and they move on to the next blog or website. I try and keep this in mind with all my web writing. The last thing I want is to lose you because I can’t get to the point. Please note, I’m not talking about dumbing anything down, just writing clean, clear, simple copy. Writing without fluff, without filler, and without tangents.
3. Sub heads rock
Expanding on the point above regarding scanable copy, lists, bullet points and bolded headings help to break up blocks of text to hold a reader’s interest. With bolded headings, readers are directed to the point and focus of the article. It also allows for easier scanning in order to allow the readers to decide if they want to invest their time in the whole piece.
4. Steer the discussion in the right direction
If the discussion is getting off on the wrong foot, go ahead and steer it in the right direction. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if there’s a good buzz going on a completely different point. However, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m wondering your thoughts on….” or, the “point of my piece was to clear up the misconceptions about…” and see where it takes you.
I love blogging because it allows for me to be more expressive with my writing. The problem is, without a lot of rules or structure in place, it’s easy to veer off course. If I remember to stick to my writing rules, there should be no mistaking my topic or intentions.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do to make sure others “get” your point?