If you are from a design background, you’ll know that there are lots of ways to add polish to a design. Subtle gradients, drop shadows, 1 pixel detail. However there are also a few ways you can add polish to your writing and your blog post that can make all the difference to the impact made on your audience. Many are subtle, but like a lot of things the devil is in the detail.
With the objective commonly being for your visitors to interact with your content, hopefully some of these little tips will help your blog to grow.
Language and Delivery
The language and tone that you set in your writing should be different for different audiences. If you are blogging primarily to attract a male audience, you can in some cases afford to add some swagger and machismo to your post. On the flip side, if you are writing to an audience that are female, your approach can be light and fluffy in some cases.
Deciding on what tone of writing to use, and the way it will portray your brand to both genders is in many cases an afterthought, but can have a massive impact on your responses. If you are talking to both audiences, keep things neutral but be aware that you may slip one way or the other accidentally in your writing.
The delivery of your message is also important. Using definitive, positive language can influence your visitors behaviour – e.g. Instead of saying “this might ….” or “maybe this can” – tell them straight, leaving no room for doubt in the readers mind. “This will increase your subscribers” or “I’ve proved this time and time again”. You get the picture. This is especially important for sales copy, or actions within your blog post that are asking your visitors to do something.
Less is more
Another little tip is to try and cut it down. In most cases, when you are writing for the web, less is more. People don’t have the time to wade through your jibber jabber waiting for you to get to the point.
Keeping things short, sweet and easily digestible makes for a harder hitting post that gets your voice heard.
Adequate spacing makes your post easier to read. Don’t ever be afraid to throw something into its own paragraph to encourage readers to get the whole way through your content. Spacing (including line spacing), can really help with the readability of your content, and the effectiveness of your writing.
Have a wee tinker with your theme’s CSS and see what adding line spacing or additional padding can do for you.
Typography ties in closely with spacing, as it can affect readability as well. I’m not a big fan of serif font’s on the web, especially for the main body of text. Sans serif are IMO alot easier to read, especially for those readers who have a visual impairement, and there has been research to support this. See some of these links:
Bernard, M., Mills, M. (2000). So, what size and type of font should I use on my website? Usability News 2.2 [Online].
Bernard, M., Mills, M., Frank, T., McKown, J. (2001). Which font do children prefer to read online? Usability News 3.1[Online].
Bernard, M., Liao, C., Mills, M. (2001). Determining the best online font for older adults. Usability News 3.1 [Online].
Bernard, M., Mills, M., Peterson, M., Storrer, K. (2001). A Comparison of Popular Online Fonts: Which is Best and When? Usability News 3.2[Online].
Other ways to use type to add polish would include good use of the italic, bold and strikethrough options to keep visitors focused on your message, and the tone that you are using when they read it.
Top tip? Read your post out loud to your self before publishing to see where these can be added.
This is something that I’ve only really learned to do recently, after reading great posts from others. A subtle detail that they add to their posts is what I call the lead in and lead out text. This is especially important for posts like this one which are broken up into individual unconnected points.
When you are about to move onto another point, take the time to discuss something in the last paragraph which connects the next one. Doing so, will encouraging the user to read on.
Essentially this connects large blocks of text together better, which makes it easier to read, and prevents users from having to read something again. Which leads me cleverly onto proofreading..
Proofing and Spell Checking
Read it once, read it twice – then read it again. Resist the temptation to just press the publish button. I’m particularly guilty of this blogging sin, especially on larger pieces that I want to just “get out there”. Neither am I the most eloquent of blokes, so its especially important that I don’t make any stupid mistakes, grammatical or otherwise.
Proof reading and spell checking your blog post is something that ALL bloggers should be doing to improve their writing.
Images are one of the easiest ways to add impact to your blog. Never ever write something great, without accompanying it with appropriate, relevant images. Remember that alot of what you do online is about capturing the attention of your audience within a split second. Every time a visitor hits your pages, you are being judged.
Images are one of the first things visitors will see which create impact and encourage interactions. Use them wisely.
Posts which I feel are worthy get the extra special treatment. That means
1) No dodgy or cheesy stock photos
2) Spending time, searching & purchasing images which relate to the concepts I’ve discussed in the accompanying paragraph and finally,
3) Cutting out and masking to create white space or extra impact making the images pop off the page.
With regard to concepts, I normally write down the themes in the post, then do a search on GettyImages to see what it returns. With Getty being expensive in some cases (for a blog post anyway) – you can just use the results as inspiration to find stock elsewhere.
In some cases, running a thesaurus over that word can also yield some interesting images. This results in a much more creative selection of images than just doing the regular “I’m talking about x – so search for y images”. In general I find conceptual images much more interesting.
It’s a subtle detail which oft gets abandoned in favour of getting content out there quickly. Unfortunately we live in times when speed gets rewarded ahead of attention to detail, and you can use that to your advantage to get a leg up on your competitors.
Checking in an RSS Reader
For many bloggers (still) – the trusty RSS reader is the weapon of choice when consuming your content. Don’t forget about this when you finish your post. Check that images are aligned ok, and videos appear in your feed.
Traditionally WordPress (and a couple other blogging platforms) use CSS to align images within your posts, which doesn’t work well in certain RSS readers. If you align something right or left – you will have to add a bit of extra code inline on the image tag to get around that particular problem. See below snippet:
<img align=”right” class=”blah” src=”blah.jpg” />
If you can’t be bothered to do that manually every time, thankfully – there’s a plugin for that.
Video can be another bone of contention, with WordPress sometimes stripping out <object> tags for security reasons. This tag is used on alot of sites including Youtube for embedding. The easy way around this is to include a link to “watch the video” so at least readers realise that the empty space they are seeing is because the post contains something in addition. I’ve found switching to HTML mode when publishing sometimes solves the issue.
Bottom line? Check the video is ok in an RSS reader when you’ve published, or at the very least that an alternative has been offered.
Don’t forget to close your post with a call to action, or a final overview of the points you’ve mentioned. You may want to summarise the important points, or ask visitors what they think or feel – maximise the impact your post has on visitors, and resulting in more comments, more user generated content – and utilimately more traffic as a result.
So what do you think? What ways do you add polish to your writing and posts?