How to write well: 10 top writing tips for bloggers, authors

‘Content is king’ is perhaps the best rule that has ever been told to a writer. It has become a cliché but its value has only increased with the advent of the world wide web.

Many bloggers who have made good fortune tell that they concentrate on content as much as on other aspects of blogging.

We judge written content on websites and blogs in two ways: subject matter and writing skills. Both need to be of excellent quality so that the blog fulfills its purpose of informing, educating or advising people. Such content attracts attention, is referred to by people again and again, makes visitors come to the blog when they look for more such content. If you are focused on making money from blog, good content is key to that in many unseen ways.

Please bear in mind that quality content is not one-off affair, nor will it give quick dividends. You must churn out quality regularly; success will come as a by-product.

How to write well, and write beautifully?

Here are the 10 simple but very effective writing tips for all whose hobby or profession is writing, including bloggers, columnists, guest bloggers, creative writers, web content creators... Bloggers who know how to write well have a great advantage over others because once the blog posts are of good quality, the entire blog's quality gets a boost: in the eyes of people as well as search engines.

Choose the article topic with care.

You need to carefully select the topic for your article. This is especially important for bloggers and contributors on news/ current affairs portals. 

First, the topic must be current. For example, if you have a news blog, you cannot be writing on a subject that has gone out of public memory. Even in very personal blogs, you need to select a topic that resonates with the reader's current memory. If you are dying to tell something from the past, give it a current intro and introduce the past event in flashback.

Second, choose a field in which you have expertise, special knowledge or extra-ordinary experience. 

Third, if you have a general blog, write on a variety of subjects or the blog would turn monotonous. Of course, you may need to remain within a limited field if you have a specialized blog, e.g. a blog on food, clothing, old furniture, medicine or architecture. On there too, you'll need to bring variety. Too narrow a field (=niche) - such as 'migratory birds of the upper reaches of Naini lake' - would not only exhaust your own knowledge soon, it would interest a very small number of readers.

Writing well starts with giving an attractive heading to the article.

You need to carefully look at the title of the article or blog post. Whether the post demands a quirky or matter-of-fact title will depend on the subject. However, the title should always speak for the post. It should give the crux of the issue in hand or say a moot point that goads the reader into reading the post.

Make the title as direct as possible. Use action words where possible. In posts that are advisory in nature, go straight to what you intend the viewer to do: ‘Eat these 5 … daily for …’ A very smart title, if it does not relate immediately to the content below, loses its value in a moment. 

Be original: the most important of all writing tips, yet most ignored.

There is a saying in relation to literature that nothing is original as everything has already been written. That may be true for fiction, but you still can be original in blogging – very original. If you have taken some idea from somewhere, and have seriously put your thought over it, experimented with it and refined it, what would come out of your keyboard is your own thought. It has your ‘original’ contribution.

On the other hand, if you just copy-paste someone else’s idea – verbatim or with modification – the staleness shows up. It lacks logic, coherence, commitment. It tells the reader, you are a fake.

Very generalized conclusions and advice, such as those on political and social topics, do not add your original thought into the discussion. At best, these qualify as lazy thinking, lazy writing.

For example, we hardly add anything new,  special or specific to the discussion on Indian agriculture by advising that ‘We must find a lasting solution to the problems in agriculture sector… farmers must be given good prices for their produce… land reforms must be done…’ Such piece exposes the blogger’s mediocrity in many other ways: he does not have a deep understanding of the issues involved, he has not analysed the subject well, he has written for the sake of filling up his blog-space, he is not serious, and he is not original. What value does a visitor find in that post? Why will he visit that blog again?

You will say that it is not possible to write original thoughts/ content all the time. Yes, but you can still bring freshness to it. For example: If your blog is on news etc, write news stories from a fresh angle. If the blog contains articles on current affairs, write them fresh. If it is a book review blog, write the review after giving due thought to the content from different angles. If it is on cooking, bring new recipes on the table and write them in interesting ways.

Put your heart into the article in hand and your writing will come out beautiful!

When you write because you are passionate about the subject, you tend to write well. Even if your language is not outstanding, the thought will compensate for it. Even if the thought is incoherent, it will have the emotive quotient, which fills any writing with energy.

For example, if you felt very strongly about the way the US forces killed Osama and wrote a post on it, your writing must have shown your emotion. You were not ‘balanced’ in your approach: you either abused the US or Pakistan or Osama and his terror kingdom or intelligence agencies. You showed your frustration with the world’s inability to counter terrorism. You felt not capturing Osama alive after such a long intelligence operation was a failure. Or, your sympathies were with Osama. You did write what your heart cried about. I bet, it was a readable post, whatever other shortcomings it had.

In being emotional, you are seldom as balanced as an essayist who debates carefully the two sides of the issue, and that often brings out a new viewpoint. By all means, be balanced and reasonable, and appeal for peace even at the greatest provocation, but your heart should say so.

Give your opinion and not give a drab, neutral, summary. I am not advising that you deliberately bring controversy [that would perhaps give you more visitors but devalue your blog if you do it just for controversy sake], but give an opinion that matters. If you write a fervent post in times of communal clashes, you may well end with an appeal for calm or showing that such infighting would weaken the nation, but even then say it with force, not like a concluding para in a child’s essay like this one: ‘In the light of the arguments given above we can conclude that it is the duty of every citizen to remain calm…’

Serious subjects might not be amenable to such emotive relation with your heart, but your commitment to the subject would still show up.

Advise only if you are an expert; don’t try to fake your expertise.

I took a full week in writing this post because I needed to research on what is working on blogs in 2020. I needed to talk to people who write well and who maintain quality blogs. I needed to re-re-re edit the post till I thought I could publish it.

Be credible, believable. Don't write on a serious subject unless you are an expert on it or have gained fair level of expertise by researching and investing your thought. 

Do not make judgments where you do not have deep knowledge about the subject.

Do not indulge in ‘how to’ posts on health, yoga, dance, etc unless you have the necessary knowledge, skills and training. Subjects such as cooking and photography look safe and people often copy-paste tips, but if they are not written with authority and with personal experience, the reader will soon find that they are recycled.

When you are not an expert and you try to show off, the labour will show up one day or the other. Though it is not as bad as being outright fake or giving wrong advice, it hurts the blogger's reputation - one of the most essential ingredients for successful blogging.

how to write well, and write beautifully!

Please also remember that on the web, lack of expertise gets exposed more than in printed periodicals as the posts are there for long. Bloggers need to be even more aware that the trash once written spoils the quality of the blog again and again.

In popular magazines, we often see columns on health, astrology, cooking, home remedies, etc that are written week after week by people engaged to fill space. Columns by 'agony aunts' and sex advisers are written similarly in many magazines and newspaper supplements. These columns often give unscientific, even harmful, tips to advice-seekers. They spoil the reputation of the magazine without the editor/ owner realizing that. 

Talk to humans, be a good human - and your writing will turn beautiful.

When you write on a public medium, you write it for others. Even if you write about something very personal, you write that so that others read it - and not to keep it like a private diary. So, write as if you are talking.

Writing as if talking means short sentences, simple language, active voice, addressing the second person ‘you’ rather than ‘he / she’.

If you are a blogger, think of the blog visitor as a real visitor to your home or office. Think of him / her as a knowledgeable, intelligent and friendly visitor who will love your blog if it has an inviting tone and will be put off by your snobbery, carelessness or unwelcome tone.

Too much of self-promotion in the blog shows you don’t care for others and toot your own trumpet [e.g. 'I have become so successful because', 'They got this fantastic result after my advice', 'I did my masters in this subject with A grade and so I say this.']. Too much of philosophizing and judgmental statements shows inflexible nature [e.g. ‘That’s what happens to the rich’, ‘Old women always get angry when you call them by their first name’, ‘God will always listen to your prayer when you say it the first thing in the morning.’]. Too much of cribbing makes you a ‘crying baby’.

Write like a journalist, and you will write really good.

Do not waste space on introducing the topic or telling why you wrote the post. Come to the subject straight, like a good newspaper reporter. Unless, of course, you're talking about technical or rarely known subjects.

In newspapers, they write reports starting with the most urgent and most interesting facts in the first para. They follow it with some details, but these details too are important. Further down, they give other, less important, details. This ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing suits blogs as well, because the attention span of web surfers is found to be smaller as compared to print readers. [Forgive me for writing this post the other way, like a feature. On 'how to' posts like this, you need to introduce the subject a bit. I am conscious that many readers of this article will skip the introduction before the sub-heading, How to write well above.]

Use the middle of the post for explaining your hypothesis and giving examples.

Use the end to conclude. If you intend to conclude the post with an opinion, give a firm opinion, not a conservative, please-all, neutral one. 

Ending a post with a question works well if it is not done too often, as the question makes the reader think beyond the blog. However, just adding 'What do you think?' at the end of the post does not make a good question ending.

Compose the article or blog post well.

If you are writing for a big media house, its sub-editors will probably play with your article to match its own style, whether for better or for worse. However, if you are guest-posting or submitting an article to a not-so-big website, you will need to compose the article as nicely as you can. 

If you are a blogger, you must know how to compose the post well as much as how to write well

Even if you write on very personal subjects such as how your baby is growing, you must care for your prose. Ensure that your language is standard. Ensure that your words express exactly what you intend to express. Your post can sure have jargons and slangs if you intend to have them, but that will be with some purpose and not because you cannot write good prose without them.

Use one paragraph for just one argument / thought. If you stuff more than one argument in a para, it is likely that all arguments other than the first or the last would be lost to the blog reader. If the thought can come in just one sentence, let that para have only one sentence, but do not add sentences just to enlarge the para.

Write in numbered points and bullet points. This adds clarity and keeps the post in order. Such a posting style suits ‘How to’ type of topics especially well. For example, a post on ‘5 ways to look gorgeous on your wedding day’ will have 5 clearly defined sub-titles and one or more paragraphs under each sub-title. In such cases, even if the post is lengthy, readers won’t mind that. In addition, numbered or ‘bullet point’ lists within descriptive prose get reader's special attention to individual entries.

Use sub-headings in between [especially if the post is turning longish]. 

Use formatting to improve looks and readability. Highlight important words and phrases [but not too often] so that they catch the attention of visitors who are in a hurry.

Write for SEO.

This tip is important especially for bloggers and other 'content writers' for the web. 

A good SEO expert or blogging expert will tell you, "Write for the reader, not for the machine." That is great advice, and I fully support that. However, once you have written the article, think about SEO or search engine optimization. SEO skills are needed for content writing for the web because SEO makes your posts visible to searchers on the web. Without some SEO (or sharing on social media), your article will be lost among millions (yes, millions!) of articles being published on the web every day.

For making your article SEO-friendly, you need not apply tricks or spoil the article with unnatural 'keywords'. You just have to apply common-sense along with a little knowledge of SEO. Since this article itself is becoming long and I have already published many posts on good SEO, let me refer to these posts: How to make the best use of SEO on blogs/ website. Some of these posts give tips on basic SEO while some others have slightly advanced discussion on the topic.

If you use Wordpress, there are a number of SEO plugins available, free or paid. They identify areas that need improvement.

The mother of all writing tips: edit, edit, edit.

Never write an article or a blog post in a hurry and never publish an article mindlessly on the web. Hurried, sloppy and uncorrected writing makes the content poor. It shows that you are either an uneducated bloke or too careless – in both the cases, you need not be taken seriously.

Edit the article at least once for grammar and punctuation, spellings, sentence structure, flow, length and formatting. Then see whether the post is also SEO-friendly (especially look at heading, sub-headings, expressions, links, description). Finally, read it from the beginning to the end in one go to see how the prose flows: whether your thoughts are logical, whether thoughts and actions shift from para to para in a sequence, whether you achieve the intended purpose. If you find the thoughts getting confusing, see whether re-arranging paragraphs would make things clearer. Cut the article short if it has become too long. See if you can serialize it in two or more posts if nothing can be cut.

As you might have noticed, writing well includes taking care of language, thought and techniques. Take care of all these aspects of good writing whenever you write an article for the web or for a print publication. Refer to this post again and again till good writing [for your blog or elsewhere] becomes your habit. 


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