Use feature style in your blog writing to engage readers

How is blog writing like feature writing? What are some lessons from feature writers that bloggers can use?

I’ve been blogging for a few months now, and I’ve noticed many similarities between blog writing and journalistic feature writing.

When I was in journalism, feature writing was my favorite type of writing to do. It was also my favorite class to teach when I taught college journalism. As I’ve been blogging over these past few months, I’m delighted to find that many of the same techniques I used and taught in feature writing apply to blog writing.

Writing great content as a blogger is all about engaging your readers. It’s about getting them interested so they’ll read your posts.

Feature-blog-writing

Using some of the techniques of feature writing in your blog writing can really help you hook your audience.

It’s the same with feature writing. Feature stories often use a person or a few people to humanize and illustrate a larger issue, or to tell the story of a person, place or business. They appear all the time in local and national news outlets. We are drawn to these stories because we relate to the people in them.

As bloggers, we want readers to relate to our posts. Once you see the similarities between blog writing and feature writing, you can use some of the same techniques feature writers use to enliven your posts. A feature writing style can really help you hook your audience.

In feature writing, some of the rules are looser than in other types of writing, such as news writing or academic writing. You can use slang, contractions and dramatic phrases. It’s the same in blog writing. I’ve read posts where the author doesn’t use contractions, and it sounds stiff and formal. Formality works in an academic paper, but it’s a little off-putting in a blog post.

In both feature writing and blog writing, sometimes you can get away with using sentence fragments. Use caution here, though: You must use them effectively to show you know what you’re doing.

This is not an effective sentence fragment:

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The first part is a phrase. It needs the second part to form the complete thought. This writer doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing. He just looks like he doesn’t know how to form sentences.

However, a short question that leads into the next sentence, or a common phrase like, “Moving on!” can be effective ways to use fragments.

In both feature writing and blog writing, you can start sentences with and or but. In more formal types of writing, writing teachers will tell you to avoid this. But it’s okay in blog writing. I do it all the time. And it works.

Feature writing uses an approachable voice. Feature writers often use second person to talk directly to the reader. So do the best bloggers. Bloggers who use second person – you – to talk directly to the individual reader will be able to draw them in.

Feature writing uses vivid description of actual scenes and everyday details. This works for blogging, too, and it could be especially helpful for travel blogs or vacation posts. Vivid descriptions help readers see in their mind’s eye the place you’re describing on your blog. Everyday details help your reader relate to your blog post. If they can identify with what you’re writing, they’ll stay more engaged.

Feature writing uses dramatic techniques, such as presenting facts in dramatic ways and creating realistic scenes. Bloggers can do this, too. You can present facts using regular text and create scenes through storytelling. You can also use lists, infographics, or photos.

If you’re intrigued by these similarities and want to apply some feature writing techniques to your blog writing, here are some tips on how to do it:

  1. Write tightly. Cut out extra words and redundancies. Use the best anecdotes.
  2. Vary your sentence structure. Mix up long and short sentences. If you make all of your sentences the same length, readers will get bored and your writing will sound monotonous.
  3. Match the treatment of the story to the topic. Use a serious tone for serious stories and a lighter tone for fun or humorous stories.
  4. Don’t overdo the colorfulness so much that your prose becomes the center of attention. Don’t let the writing itself outdo the story you’re trying to tell.
  5. Find your own voice. Explore your own writing style and creativity.

There are so many blogs and other content to read online that anything you can do to make your content stand out will only help you grow your blog audience. Using these techniques from feature writing is a great way to make your posts livelier and easier for readers to relate to.

Readers, have you noticed any of these techniques being used in blogs? Do you use any of them yourself, or think you might after reading this post? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

Use feature style in your blog writing to engage readers — 12 Comments

  1. I have to say that I am guilty of the bad sentence example that you posted. I am also bad with punctuation which is why I have others proof read my writing. I do a lot of the good things that you mentioned so I guess I am not the worst writer in the world. I will just keep trying to follow your post and keep inproving my writing. thanks for the great tips and keep them coming

  2. I think I actually do this – against conventional wisdom of the way I was originally taught to blog. Weaving a story, person, event into the blog is, in my opinion, the only way to catch the readers attention and keep it!

  3. Hi Jennifer, I have never stopped and consciously thought about whether I was using those writing techniques. But now that you point them out, I do believe I use them most of the time. Most of my stories are on the lighter side so I stay in that comfort zone and my editor helps me cut out the extra words and redundancies.

  4. There is so much here that I didn’t know about feature writing! I’ve often thought that blogs may be taking some of the place of feature journalism. I’m glad, as a blogger, that I get to use an informal voice and be myself more than serious reporters usually get to.

    • I hope blogs aren’t taking the place of feature journalism! Oh, no! Actually, I don’t think they are; there are still plenty of feature stories out there written by journalists. But, I think blogging has opened up a lighter style of writing to many writers beyond journalists.

  5. I think voice is everything…no matter what we are reading. Example: The dryness of technical pamphlets, annual report…etc:) Great suggestions Jennifer pertaining to blogs and voice

    • Exactly, Jacqui. The voice needs to suit what we’re writing. The voice we use on a blog wouldn’t work for an annual report, and vice versa.

  6. Hi Jennifer; Thanks for sharing your experience as a journalist with us and showing us some techniques to improve our writing. I have been told often that my style is friendly and easy to follow with a minimum of jargon or unfamiliar terms. and even though my primary blog is in the amusement industry an area not familiar to most of my readers they say I do a great job of explaining things. I know my style would not be acceptable at a news publication or an academic institution but it seems to work just fine for blogging. people have to get to know us and like us before we can really share anything with them; so a less formal style of writing should work. glad to hear you are enjoying blogging, max

    • Max, your blogging style is friendly and easy to read. It suits a blog very well. You’re right that you would have to adapt your style to suit news writing or academic writing. This is not just you, but any writer! I’ve had to do the reverse – adapt my journalistic and academic writing style from my previous background to blog writing. It is different, even though the styles have a lot in common.

  7. It’s so true that using an approachable voice helps keep readers engaged. I agree with and appreciate the value of all your suggestions regarding how to write blogs that flow, tell a story, and stand out.