It’s 9 p.m. and I’m just sitting down to write today’s post. I’ve been pondering the post’s subject and content for much of the day, wondering what my students would benefit from and if they’ll even read the assigned content.
I want to be hanging out with my family, mindlessly watching TV or curled up in bed with a book. I really want to be playing Candy Crush.
Instead, I’m spending my evening the same way I spent most of my day—sitting in front of the computer, creating.
I’m doing what educators do. I’m making a point.
Blogging is a labor of love. You have to love the blog, the theme, the topic, the process, the writing.
Sometimes blogging comes easily. Other times it’s brutal. I think, in those times, of this quote by sports journalist Red Smith:
There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Some days writing just feels that way.
Whether you’re having an easy or a difficult writing day, the process can benefit from applying a formula to your posts. It’s the same type of formula used in all traditional media writing. We call it the inverted pyramid in journalism. It essentially means starting with the most important information and working your way to least important. The formula will help you draft blog posts with greater ease.
The Four-Part Formula for Blog Writing
The inverted pyramid starts with the lead. The lead is the single most important thing you want to communicate in your post—the key message.
If you’re struggling to identify the lead, ask yourself: If someone asked me what I was writing about, what would I say? Whatever you would say probably is your lead.
Let me add a bit of caution here. If it takes you multiple sentences to explain what you’re writing about, it probably is time to pause and give it some thought. An inability to clearly, concisely identify and summarize your post’s topic probably means you don’t understand the issue or the post’s purpose well enough.
Once you’ve identified the lead, you have to think about the best way to communicate that message to the reader. It could be by presenting just the bare facts or by writing an anecdote like the one above. There are many ways to write a lead. Let your creativity take over, while thinking about what would make you read further. Personal stories or anecdotal examples tend to work well. People relate to other people.
The nutgraph puts the lead into to context and confirms its relevance to the reader. It addresses why your reader should care about the topic and justifies the expenditure of their time to read the post.
In a news story, you typically put your first and best quote following the nutgraph. If you interviewed a source for your post, follow that format. If not, I hope you did some research to make your post credible and valuable. Summarize and link the most important source or add the most interesting fact here.
By the way, I typically place a relevant image next to the nutgraph. Attractive, relevant photos are key to getting blog posts noticed.
The body concept in media writing is the same as when you learned to write essays. The body is the rest of the content you need or want to share with your reader. Remember that we continue with information in order of importance, from greatest to least.
The key to delivering the body of a blog post is to make it easily scannable.
Three simple ways to make the body of a post easily digestible:
- subheads and
See how that works?
The question of length always comes up when chatting with bloggers. I do not believe in set lengths for writing. Instead, my standard response on post length is “write until you’re done.” When you’re done benefiting your reader with the information you have to offer, stop writing. But, remember, it’s easier to write long than it is to be concise. Brevity is key. Pretend every word costs $1. Save your money.
4. Call to action
The conclusion of a blog post is where blogging differs from other forms of media writing.
News stories, for example, just end. There’s no tidy little conclusion summarizing the content in the same way there is on an academic essay. When the story is told, it ends. Blogs are different.
Blogs typically end with a few sentences summarizing the post’s content and then what is called a call to action. A call to action generally tells the readers what you’d like them to do next. Typically what a blogger wants the reader to do is continue the discussion. Therefore, blog posts typically end with a question meant to entice the reader into further discussion in the comments section.
Writing isn’t always easy. Some days it’s damn difficult. Following this standard four-part formula can make writing every post a much more routine process.
Do you follow this four-step formula or something like it when writing your blog posts? Is there another method that works better for you? If so, please share it.