How do you find good sources to support your blog posts?

How and where can you find good supporting sources for your blog posts? How can you make sure your sources support your content?

When you’re writing a blog post, sometimes you’re your own best source. Your knowledge, observations and opinions will be enough.

But other times, you need to go outside of yourself to find information from sources that know more than you do. When you need to find outside sources, it’s important that they be informative and credible. They need to support the point you’re trying to make.

Internet-sources

Finding good sources online is both easy and scary because of the wealth of information available. Check carefully to make sure a website is credible before you use it as a source on your blog.

Chances are, you’re going to search for sources online with your favorite search engine. The most popular is Google, and it’s my favorite. But good Internet research means more than just searching a phrase and clicking on the first website that comes up. Here are some tips to help you with online research:

  1. In addition to search engines, try searching directories of websites organized by topics, such as Yahoo! Directory or DMOZ.
  2. Make your keywords as specific as possible. Use several keywords, a phrase or a whole question. Then test synonyms for other results and to refine your search.
  3. Once you find a search site, learn the site’s search syntax, such as whether quotation marks around a phrase matter. Check if capital letters matter, and if can you do Boolean searches using and or not.
  4. Check your spelling. Not all search engines have good fuzzy logic. They’ll search for exactly what you type in. For example, I’ve noticed that Google’s fuzzy logic is really good, but Wikipedia’s is terrible. If you misspell a search term on Wikipedia, it likely won’t find it, whereas Google will give you other suggestions.
  5. When your search turns up a website, study the website’s address to make sure it looks credible.

We know there’s a lot of information available on the Internet – sometimes too much information. But what types of information are available? Most websites fall into one of the following six categories:

  1. Advocacy sites often end with .org. They influence public opinion or promote a cause.
  2. Commercial sites are probably the most familiar. They end with .com, and are usually for a company or business selling something.
  3. Entertainment sites also usually end in .com. They primarily entertain and are often interactive.
  4. Information sites are usually those that end in .edu, .gov or.mil. They present facts and statistics.
  5. News sites usually end in .com, and they offer current information. Many of them are the online versions of newspapers, magazines or TV stations, but they can also be online only outlets.
  6. Personal sites are where most blogs will fall. Some of these, like mine, have their own domain name, while others are hosted on a site such as Blogger or WordPress.

As you’re searching, look for information from expert or official sources because they’ll be more credible. There are several off-beat, but credible sources of information you may not have thought about. Many local and national groups have websites and might be worth a search.

Political and civic groups are community activists and concerned citizens. They watch the government because they’re concerned about what it does and how it affects them. They make excellent sources because of their knowledge and opinions.

Professional groups, such as trade unions, trade associations and membership groups, often fund their own studies, and they love press coverage and are willing to share their information.

Private sources or special-interest groups have a strong personal interest and feel a formal organization is necessary to accomplish their goals. Some are national in scope with local chapters, and some are local only. Some are long-term groups, and some may form just long enough to get their goal accomplished.

Research organizations are the groups that are always doing behavioral research about our beliefs, feelings, attitudes and morals. These are opinion pollsters and survey groups. The federal government also releases reports about survey research.

Searching the Internet for a source to support your topic is both easy and scary, because of the wealth of information available. Keep in mind that not all Internet sources are credible or accurate. Do as much due diligence as possible to make sure you’re finding the best sources you can.

Readers, where do you find the best sources? How do you sift through all the information and decide what to use? Let us know in the comments!

How to write a review that helps readers make decisions

If you like to write reviews on your blog, how can you structure them so your readers follow along with you? How can you make them see why you feel the way you do?

This is Part 3 in a series about different blog post structures. In Part I, I talked about different ways to structure informative blog posts. In Part 2, I discussed how to structure persuasive blog posts.

In this post, we’ll focus specifically on writing a review. Reviews are really popular on the Internet. They’re found on news sites and blogs.

Reviewing products and works – either your own or someone else’s – on your blog gives you the chance to express how you feel about it. Reviews are written on all kinds of products and works, such as technology, books, movies, music and theater performances. Reviews also cover restaurants, museums and exhibits.

Writing reviews on your blog can be a great way to not only promote products you like, but also to tell why you don’t like a product. Reviews can also expose your readers to products or works they may not know about otherwise.

When you’re writing a review, you can’t assume that your readers have seen, read or heard the same work or product that you have. You also want to be fair in your critique of the product. You want to be able to tell your reader whether they should buy the product, or go see the movie or play, or go eat at the restaurant.

Review Structure

A five-part structure will help you write a review that is fair to the product and its creator, and also tells your reader if they should buy the product and why.

Five-Part Review Structure

A five-part structure will help you write good reviews that accomplish all of these goals.

Step 1: Appraise the product or work in your introductory paragraphs. Is it a good book or product? Is the movie entertaining or boring? Does the tech gadget function well, or is it hard to use? Explain why you’re giving this appraisal.

Step 2: In the next few paragraphs, give a synopsis or summary of the product or work. Also give the intent of the artist or creator. This is where you explain enough about the product for readers who don’t know about it. And you describe what the creator meant to accomplish.

Step 3: Next, give evidence supporting your appraisal of the work. If you’re reviewing a book, was it well written, did the text and chapters flow well, and did it hit its target audience? For a movie, what specific scenes, dialogue or plot points worked or didn’t? For a tech gadget, what specific functions work and don’t work? And is the body of the gadget designed well?

Step 4: Now that you’ve given evidence, restate whether or not the artist or creator accomplished his or her intent. The evidence backs up why you think the work or product did or didn’t meet your expectations.

Step 5: End your review by giving your readers a suggestion as to whether or not they would benefit from buying the product or seeing the work. Should they buy and read the book? Should they eat at that restaurant, or avoid it? Should they spend 2 or more hours watching that movie? Or lay down several hundred dollars on that particular gadget?

By following this structure, you will be able to give a thorough and thoughtful review. This is especially true if you don’t like what it is you’re reviewing. Someone still worked hard to create it, and you want to be fair to the creator.

This structure also lets you be fair to your readers, who deserve to know why you feel the way you do about a product or work, and whether they should spend their time or money on it.

I’ve mentioned in this series before that it’s your job as a blog writer to lead your reader through your thought process. Readers won’t follow a blog post if you don’t show them the connections between your ideas. By following the appropriate structure for the type of blog post you’re writing, whether it’s informative, persuasive or a review, you’ll be able to make sure your post is well organized and logical. Then you’ll be able to keep your readers interested in your posts, all the way to the end.

Readers, do you write reviews on your blog? Have you thought about how you structure them? What helps you keep your reader following your thought process? Let us know in the comments!

How to write a persuasive blog post that respects your audience

If you’re writing a persuasive blog post, what kind of structure can you follow? How can you bring your audience around to your point of view?

This is the second post in a three-part series about different ways you can structure your blog posts. In the first part, I talked about general structures for informative blog posts.

I also discussed the importance of structuring your posts so your reader follows your train of thought. It’s your job as a blog writer to lead your reader through your post. You need to show them the connections between your ideas and points. Don’t just assume they’ll “know what you mean.” Show them.

This part focuses specifically on writing a persuasive blog post, and offers a four-step structure you can follow.

But first, let’s define persuasion. Persuasion attempts to reinforce, modify or change your audience’s attitudes, beliefs or values. Attitudes, which are our likes and dislikes, are the easiest to change. Beliefs, which are what we understand to be true or false, are a little harder to change. And values, which are our enduring conceptions of right and wrong, are the most difficult to change.

If you’re writing a persuasive blog post, your goal is probably going to be to change your audience’s attitudes about an issue. At the very least, you want them to consider your point of view and think about why they might agree or disagree with it. This is different from an informative blog post, where you’re simply trying to give your readers tips or information.

How do you get your audience to change their attitudes, or at least consider your opinion? Here is the four-step structure you can follow.

Persuasive-Structure

Following a four-step structure for persuasive blog posts allows you to be fair to both sides of an issue. You can state your opinion while respecting readers who believe the other side.

 

Persuasive Structure

The four-step persuasive structure is good for you to use in your blog posts because it allows you to present arguments on both sides of the issue. This keeps you from being unfair to either side. Your opinions will certainly fall on one side or the other, or you wouldn’t be writing the post. But to be a fair and ethical blogger, you want to acknowledge that there is another side.

This formula lets you do that.

Step 1: State the problem or issue and the position you’re taking in the opening paragraphs. I’ll caution you here to never assume your reader knows as much about the issue as you do, or that they know the same facts about it that you do. Give enough of a summary that you catch your reader up on where you’re starting, and give them a link or two to other sources they can read.

Step 2: Present arguments, examples and evidence to support your position in the next few paragraphs. This is where you want to cite studies, other websites or quotes that back up your opinion.

Step 3: Present the major opposing arguments or evidence, and refute them. Acknowledge the other side, and that its arguments are valid, then show your reader why you think the arguments are wrong.

Step 4: Conclude in your last paragraph or two by restating and emphasizing your stance in different words. This is a good place to make your argument one last time and leave your reader with a final thought.

If you follow this structure, it will give you the chance to present a balance of multiple sides on any issue. But it still lets you emphasize your side and your arguments.

Some of your readers will no doubt believe the other side, or the opposite of the way you do. Showing that you acknowledge the other side of the argument brings those readers into your post and shows them respect. They will, in turn, respect you for writing a fair and thoughtful argument, even if they disagree.

If you want to lead your audience to think about your point of view, the four-step persuasive structure is good to follow. It helps you make sure your post is well organized and develops logically. It also helps you lead your audience to see why you believe the way you do, while still respecting that they may have a different opinion. Good blogging is all about respecting your readers.

Readers, how do you write persuasive blog posts? Do you follow a structure? Will this structure help you? Let us know in the comments!

How to structure your posts so your audience follows you

How can you structure your blog posts so you lead your reader through the post? Why is it important to have a good structure to your posts?

As a blog writer, it’s your job to lead your reader through your post. I’ve talked before about how you need to catch your reader’s attention with a good lead, and how you need to organize and develop your blog posts.

But how can you structure your posts so your reader follows your thoughts? Your reader might be interested in your idea, but if you don’t show them the connections between one point and the next, they’re not going to be able to follow you. And they might leave your post unread.

This post kicks off a three-part series about different ways you can structure your blog posts. In this first part, I’ll talk about some structures for informative blog posts.

Some of the general advice that makes blog writing different from other forms of writing is to use short paragraphs, lots of numbered or bulleted lists and frequent subheads to break up the text on the screen.

Those still apply, but let’s get into some more specific structures you can use.

Basic Structures

Some structures are pretty basic and apply to all forms of writing. Let’s look at five of them quickly:

  1. A chronological structure tells the story from beginning to end. It often uses flashbacks and flash-forwards. This would be good for a travel narrative or personal anecdote post.
  2. The least-to-most important structure is the opposite of a news story. News stories begin with the most important information, but you can reverse that. Instead, move your topic from the simple to the complex.
  3. The problem-and-solution structure is a common one. It presents a problem or asks a question, analyzes it and gives examples, then presents the solution. This might be good if you’re examining an issue.
  4. The catalog structure presents a list of people, places and events, and then explains them.
  5. The repetitive structure introduces a concept and reinforces it with quotations and anecdotes until the point is made. This would work for a persuasive blog post.

Journalistic Structures

Bloggers function like journalists in many ways and can draw many lessBlog-Post-Structure-1ons from journalists. Journalists use several story structures to organize their stories. These structures work well for blog posts.

You may have heard of the most common journalistic story structure: the inverted pyramid used for hard news stories. However, an opposite structure that’s good for short posts when you want to build to a climax is the upright pyramid. This structure lures the reader in with a lead, then builds to a climactic ending that leaves a lingering impression on the reader.

For longer blog posts, try using the peaks and valleys story structure. Like the upright Blog-Post-Structure-2pyramid, it lures the reader in with an interesting lead. But where the upright pyramid builds up to a stunning conclusion, the peaks and valleys structure develops in waves that slowly pull the reader along through the story, exposing the information slowly. Think of a flower slowly blooming, revealing its beauty petal by petal. It ends with a
conclusion that should tie up the story neatly.Blog-Post-Structures-3

Another structure is the martini glass. This is an alternative to the basic chronological structure described above. It also works for posts that need a chronology of events. It begins with a lead, then uses a small inverted pyramid to give some key facts. Then, it moves to a chronology of events and ends with a kicker that ties back to the lead.

The kabob is a good structure for trend stories or posts that focus on the people involved. It begins with an anecdote, then explains the main point of the story in a Blog-Post-Structures-4nutshell paragraph. Then it adds several paragraphs of meaty facts and ends with
another anecdote, or the conclusion to the beginning anecdote that ties the story together.

A combination of these structures can work for your posts. You don’t have to stick to just one structure per post. Writers draw from a variety of methods and inspirations, and that’s okay. Just make sure the post is well organized and develops logically for your reader’s sake.

If you’re always thinking about how you can do your job of pulling the reader through your post, they’ll follow your thoughts all the way to the end.

Readers, what are your favorite structures for your blog posts? Do you use some more often than others? Let us know in the comments!

Three ways you can appeal to your audience and customers

Are you trying to promote your blog and sell products that share your expertise with your audience? How do you appeal to your readers and potential customers so they will connect with you and what you have to share?

If you want to be a professional blogger, and especially if you want to monetize your blog and sell your own products, you need to get into the head and heart of your audience.

Emotional-appeals

Bloggers who want to sell their professional expertise with products or on a monetized blog can take a lesson from advertisers. There are three ways you can appeal to your audience.

If you’re going to sell your products, you have to function like an advertiser. In your case, the product is you and your products. You may not be airing commercials on TV or buying billboards next to the highway, but you are advertising yourself and your products in other ways. Every time you promote your blog on social media, or by commenting on someone else’s blog, or by writing a guest post, you’re advertising yourself.

This is why bloggers who sell a product, whether it’s the blog itself, a book, an e-course, or another product, can learn a lesson or two from advertising. An advertisement for a product or service begins by identifying a reason for you to buy that product. This is called an appeal. Ad agencies then build ad campaigns around this appeal.

Just like advertisers, bloggers can also use appeals to connect with their audience. The three main types of appeals are emotional, rational and moral. Ad copywriters start by determining which appeal works best. Bloggers can do this, too.

Emotional Appeals

Emotional appeals are based on our emotions, those powerful feelings that affect our behavior. When we react emotionally, feelings take control over our thinking. Emotional appeals in advertising are used to elicit either a positive or negative emotion that will motivate us to make a purchase. This is done by emotional arousal – or making consumers feel a particular emotion. We seek products that arouse an emotion, and advertisers capitalize on this.

For example, if you’re a pet owner, you love your pet, right? They’re a member of your family, and you’ll do anything to keep them healthy for as long as possible. Think about what impact pet commercials have on you. People have strong emotional attachments to their pets, and advertisers play on this.

Advertisers use emotion reduction, which comes from products aimed at reducing unpleasant emotions, such as shame, guilt or helplessness. One example is weight-loss products or systems such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or Gold’s Gym.

As a blogger, you can use emotional appeals to cause positive or negative emotions in your audience. You can use persuasive blog posts, or you can show your audience how your product will make their lives better.

Rational Appeals

Rational appeals are based on thinking and logic. If you are being rational about something, you put your emotions into the background and act based on the best logical outcome.

In advertising, rational ad appeals are usually based on price and quality. We want a good price on our products. But we also want a quality product that’s going to last and be worth the money we pay. Retail stores that advertise their lower prices or better quality products are using a rational appeal.

Bloggers can use rational appeals to explain the logical benefits of a product, or appeal to a reader’s intellect. How would your product make them smarter, or help them improve a skill?

Moral Appeals

Moral appeals are aimed at our sense of what’s right and wrong. This appeal is frequently used for social support causes. For example, you’ve seen those ads pleading to sponsor a starving child in an underdeveloped country, right? They say that for just a few dollars a week, you can help a child have an education, clean water and enough food. That’s an example of a moral appeal.

On your blog, you can use this type of appeal to show your audience why caring about a cause or issue is the right thing to do. Or you can show how your product will help them be a better person.

You can use one or more of these appeals in your quest to sell your blog and your products. All of these appeals might not all be right for your blog. But using one or two might help you connect better with your audience.

Figure out which appeal works best for your audience, and connect with them on that level. What has worked for advertisers for decades can work for bloggers, too.

Readers, what do you think of using appeals to connect with your audience? Have you done this yourself? Let us know in the comments.

Why do bloggers need to pay attention to ethics?

What are ethics, and why do bloggers need to worry about them? Is there one clear, straightforward definition, or is it personal? What does the word “ethics” mean to you?

In my last post, I talked about how to operate as a professional blogger. Accurate facts and verifying sources are important for bloggers.

Another area professional bloggers need to think about is ethics.

Ethics is not just some boring topic that academics discuss. To be an ethical blogger you need to have a clear, responsible goal. Give your readers choices, and make sure they know your agenda.

Your own personal ethics may stem from the way you answer a basic question: Does the end justify the means? In other words, should you ever do something that isn’t good in itself to achieve a goal that you think is good?

Ethical-bloggers

To be an ethical blogger, you need to be present yourself honestly, be accurate, and give your readers choices to make up their own minds.

We bloggers can all play our part in making blogging a viable, professional career. So let’s take a few minutes to reflect on ethical principles that help us decide on proper or moral ways to act.

Unethical Behavior

As a blogger, there are many ethical dilemmas you might face. These may be how you get information, how you get mailing list subscribers, or how you disclose your income affiliates.

There are three major types of unethical behavior: dishonesty, plagiarism and misrepresentation.

  1. Dishonesty is any form of falsification, making up information, or distorting information so your audience draws the wrong conclusion.
  2. Plagiarism means using the words and ideas of others without giving proper credit or attribution.
  3. Misrepresentation happens when you appear to be something you’re not, either to a source or to an audience.

Unethical writers use false claims and manipulate evidence instead of using logic. Unethical writers also knowingly give false or misleading information to an audience. They don’t give their readers all the facts or the option to form their own opinions.

How You Can Be Ethical

As a blogger who writes for a public audience, you can do several things to stay ethical.

Overall, you should use critical thinking, analysis and evaluation to formulate arguments and draw conclusions.

You should use evidence ethically. This means sharing all evidence with your audience, even if it might damage your case. Then you can show why the disagreeing opinions are wrong.

You can connect with your readers on an emotional level while still being ethical. It’s fine to express your opinion on your blog. It’s even okay to try and persuade your audience to agree with you. But you should present multiple points of view, then state why you feel one way. And give your audience a chance to disagree with you.

Ethical and professional bloggers are sensitive to and tolerant of differences. You should accommodate other points of view and show respect for others by avoiding language that might be interpreted as biased or offensive.

Ethical bloggers are also honest. You need to give credit and properly cite ideas that aren’t your own. This will help you avoid plagiarism. We live in an age where plagiarism is too easy to commit on the Internet. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free to steal. Stealing someone else’s work, no matter how easy it is to copy and paste, is unethical.

You should also acknowledge your sources. Credit direct quotations to the person who said them. Credit opinions and claims of others, even if you paraphrase them rather than quoting directly. You should also credit statistical sources and visual materials that you get from another source. Make sure the credits are obvious to your audience, either embedded in the text of your post, or under or next to a graphic or visual.

To sum all of this up, I have three final ethical guidelines to leave you with:

  1. Full disclosure: Clearly label sponsored posts and affiliate links so your audience can make their own decisions on whether to click.
  2. Be fair. Your sources, any sponsors, and your readers will know if you’re being unfair. Even children know when you’re being unfair.
  3. Remember good taste. Even if an action or story is ethical, it may still be in bad taste.

Bloggers who want to be seen as professionals, and who want to raise the standards of the blogging industry, need to pay close attention to ethics. If you’re being as accurate as possible, presenting yourself honestly, and giving your readers a choice to make up their own minds, you’ll be an ethical blogger.

Readers, how important are ethics to you? How do you make sure you’re staying ethical on your blog? Leave us a comment!

Accuracy and honesty are the mark of professional bloggers

Is your goal to be a professional blogger and start making money from your site? Or do you already have your site monetized, and you want to make sure you’re conducting yourself as a professional blogger? What are some professional standards you need to follow?

Too many people still dismiss blogging as just a fun pastime. Many don’t see blogging as not only a viable way to make a living, but also a way to put your expertise in front of an audience. Maybe you know someone who doesn’t respect what you’re trying to do with your blog.

To change the perception that blogging is not a professional career choice, we must present ourselves as professionals online.

There are many wonderful, professional blogs out there. You know them by their quality, attention to detail and great content. When you read one of these blogs, you know the author is functioning at the highest level of writing and blogging.

If you want to be seen as a professional blogger, you can take a few lessons from journalists. Bloggers function like journalists in many ways. One way I’ve mentioned before is that bloggers are trying to reach a large audience, just like journalists. So it can help if you see yourself as a mass media distributor.

Because you’re distributing mass media, you’re part of the information culture. This culture comes from the fact that journalists gather and distribute information to the public. As a blogging professional, accuracy and integrity must be part of your daily life. You must be honest in verifying facts and telling who your sources are.

Four points of accuracy

If you want to be seen as a professional blogger, you must present yourself professionally. One way you can do this is to be accurate in your blog posts.

Accuracy: Your Main Goal

Accuracy is the main goal of a blog writer. The attempt to be accurate must rule above all else. Accuracy forms the core of the writing process. It’s a state of mind as much as it is a technique.

You should never be satisfied with just accepting information. Make sure it’s correct and clear up any discrepancies.

Here are four specific points of accuracy:

  1. Spell names correctly. Misspelling a name will offend someone faster than almost anything else. Always ask the person directly for the spelling of their name. Don’t trust that it’s spelled correctly on a website.
  2. Quote sources accurately. If you’re quoting from an interview, listen closely to what people say. Develop techniques for getting accurate quotes. If you’re quoting from another online article, copy the quote correctly.
  3. Check facts. Develop a healthy skepticism of facts you haven’t checked. Always follow up, and don’t take anything at face value.
  4. Check numbers. Do the math to make sure numbers add up correctly. If they don’t match, find out why.

Verifying Facts and Attributing Sources

Verifying sources and facts, and attributing information to sources, are also professional standards bloggers should follow.

Verification means making sure facts are correct. Journalists work hard to verify facts. This has made journalism more believable than most other forms of writing. Verification is important for building credibility. Journalists and news organizations try to build credibility because they want readers and viewers to believe what they say. If you’re just as disciplined as a journalist in verifying information, you’ll build credibility, and readers will trust you.

You also need to distinguish fact from opinion. Facts are verifiable pieces of information from reliable sources. They can be looked up and checked. Opinions are statements of belief that are not necessarily verifiable. Both can have their place on a blog, but you should think about whether your post is factual or opinionated. And you should also know whether information from sources is fact or opinion.

Attribution is how you credit the source of your information. Journalists show transparency by revealing where they get their information. As a blogger, you should also be transparent and credit your sources.

Attribution and transparency establish your credibility. Readers are more likely to believe you’re trying to be accurate if they know who your sources are. You’re also allowing readers to judge for themselves the credibility of the source.

If you want your blog to have the quality and standards of some of the best blogs on the Internet, following professional standards is important. Making sure your facts are accurate and showing readers where you got your information and sources can elevate your blog from amateur to professional status. And gain you the respect you deserve as a blogger.

Readers, do you feel like you’re seen as a professional blogger? What do you do to operate professionally? Let us know in the comments.

Writing and revising are key to professional-level blog posts

Do you struggle to write the first draft of your blog posts? Do you have the urge to skip the editing and revision process? What are some ways you can get started, and what are some tips to help with revising your blog posts?

In my last post, I talked about the importance of gathering and organizing your information before you write your first draft. Now, let’s talk about some targeted techniques that can help that draft come together, and some practical tips to look for when revising your posts.

In order to write a better blog post, it might help you get started to picture a reader. You can picture a typical, average person, or someone you know. Then imagine yourself sitting down with them and telling them the story.

Writing-and-revising

To help you write and revise your drafts into professional blog posts, follow the six tips described in this post.

There are two approaches to writing a blog post – or really, writing anything. The first approach is to write the post or story all the way through, not caring about correcting mistakes. Then you go back and correct errors when you revise.

The second approach is to revise and correct mistakes as you go, pausing to reread what you’ve just written for errors, word choice and clarity. Even with this approach, you still want to go back and proofread your post when it’s finished.

I personally use the second approach. I think it’s because I was a copy editor as well as a writer, so I can’t stand leaving mistakes. I also did most of my writing for newspapers, where I didn’t have the luxury of laboring over draft after draft. At best, I had a day or two to write a story, in between other duties.

Neither approach is any more correct than the other. It depends on whatever suits you and how you work best. As long as you turn out a polished post that’s as error-free as possible in the end, it doesn’t matter how you get there.
I usually tell writers to start with the lead first, because it’s the first part your audience will read. But if the lead is just not coming to mind and you’re getting frustrated before you even start, here’s another approach I’ve used.

If you’ve gathered all of your information and interviews, and you still have no idea where to start, what your lead is going to be, or how best to organize the story, just start at the beginning of your notes and start putting stuff in, however you come to it. Leave gaps and spaces in your draft, and as you go, you will start to see the pattern emerge. Then you can organize.

The key to this approach is that you don’t have to write the lead first. It’s best if you can, but it doesn’t always happen. I’ve had many occasions where I either had no idea what I wanted my lead to be, or I had two or three possibilities and I wasn’t sure which one would be best. In those cases, it’s okay to start writing the body of the story first. Often, the lead will show itself, then you can go back and add it to the top of the story.

Once you have your draft written, it’s time to revise your blog post and find all the errors you possibly can. Here are six practical tips you can check for:

  1. Read your post out loud. This helps you pay attention to the clarity of your sentences and any missing words.
  2. Check your transitions. Are they strong? Is there adequate flow from one topic to the next? Will the reader be confused?
  3. Check your grammar. Do nouns and verbs agree? Are any modifiers misplaced? Have you used words such as your and you’re; their, there and they’re; and its and it’s correctly?
  4. Check your punctuation. Have you used commas properly? Have you used apostrophes only for contractions or possession, and not to form plurals? Have you used periods and question marks properly?
  5. Check your wording. Are your verbs active? Are nouns strong and descriptive? Are adjectives strong? Are there any clichés that need to be eliminated?
  6. Check the flow of the post. Does it have good rhythm? Are any parts dull, weak or wordy?

The tips in this post will help you with the editing and revision process. The more you hone these techniques, the more your writing will improve.

The more you carefully think about and craft your blog posts, the more professional they will be. If you’re trying to make a name for yourself and make money blogging, you want your posts to be as sophisticated as you can make them.

Readers, what helps you with the writing process? What do you check for when revising your blog posts? Let us know in the comments.

How to develop an idea into a blog post your audience will love

Developing-blog-post-ideas

Going from idea to finished blog post takes some thinking and organizing. By following this process, you’ll have a better blog post to publish.

How do you go from an idea to a finished blog post? What are some steps in a blog post’s development?

Finding great ideas is just the first step toward writing a good blog post. In the past couple of posts, we’ve discussed how to find good ideas and how to focus them. Now, let’s talk about how you go from an idea to a blog post draft.

To begin the process of developing a good blog post, you want to think about your idea and its focus. Ask yourself: What points do you want to make? What message do you want the reader to walk away with?

Gather The Information

Once you’ve answered these questions and have your focus in mind, your next step is to gather your information. For a factual blog post, you’ll want to gather facts and research. For an opinion piece or essay, have your notes and thoughts ready.

If you need to gather facts about your idea, look at studies or websites within your niche. Search until you find some good sources. Depending on your topic and the level of research needed, the library or newspaper or magazine databases or archives may be helpful.

This is the time to talk to people as well. If there are any experts who might help give your post an added perspective, conduct an interview with them to add to your information.

See if there are any places you should go and visit. If it suits your topic, first-hand observation will help you describe any relevant places in your post. This also gives you a chance to take pictures to add visuals to your post.

Organize It

Once you have your information gathered, the next step is organize it. This helps you decide where you are going to start writing the story.

Sometimes, for simple topics, organizing in your head will be enough. And some people prefer to work this way. It may also help to quickly classify the information under a few subheads and categories to decide what goes with what. However, if your topic is complex, or you’re confused on how to start and structure it, this is where an outline can help.

As you organize your facts and information, there are three main parts of the post to consider:

  1. First, think about your lead. What is the most attention-getting aspect of the story? Write it on your outline first.
  2. Then think about the facts, notes or quotes that go together under subheads or Roman numerals. You may have three, four, or more main points, depending on the depth and length of your post.
  3. Think about your conclusion. What will end the post well and satisfy the reader?

Write Your Draft

Now that you’ve organized your information into some sort of outline or categories, you’re ready to write a draft of your blog post. I encourage you to think of it as a draft, because it should undergo some revisions and changes to polish it up before you hit the publish button.

At this point, review your outline again, making any additions or changes. The more detailed your outline is, the better your first draft will be.

Writers don’t just snap their fingers and have a good idea turn into a quality piece of writing. Writing is a process. Taking an idea and forming it into a finished blog post requires thinking, information gathering and organizing. Once you do this, your draft will come together much easier, and you’ll have a better blog post in the end.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about writing and revision tips.

Readers, how do you go from idea to finished post? What methods suit you best? Let us know in the comments.

Why focusing your ideas helps your audience, and how to do it

Once you have a good idea for your blog post, how do you focus it? Why is it important for your ideas to be focused?

In my last post, I talked about where to find good blog post ideas. Ideas are everywhere you look, but once you have a good idea, you need to focus it. The idea needs to be manageable for you to write about, and manageable for your audience to read about.

Focusing is the process of taking a large idea, or a large quantity of material, and narrowing it down until it’s manageable. Although you might have your blog narrowed down a niche, there are still aspects to your niche, and these are what you focus on.

Focusing blog post ideas

Once you have a good idea for a blog post, you need to focus it so it’s manageable for you to write and for your audience to read.

For example, my niche is online communication advice, but online communication is a huge niche, and it’s growing all the time. Blogs, podcasts and videos are constantly being created. So I’ve chosen to focus on content advice – topics such as writing, editing, audience connection and blog post improvement. Within each of those categories, there are numerous subtopics, and those are what I focus on for my posts.

How do you focus your idea?

To focus an idea for a blog post, follow this four-step process.

  1. Start with a large topic, then think about all of its aspects and angles. Examine it in different ways.
  2. Find subtopics under that large topic. If it’s still too broad, find subtopics of those subtopics. It’s possible to generate several focused ideas from this process.
  3. Research will help you narrow your topic. Research can help you determine if the idea is viable, or if your focus is too broad or too narrow.
  4. As you search for your focus, look for clues to what the main idea of your post might be. A definite point may not emerge until after you find some information or do some interviews, but you still want to consider what the final post will be about.

Why is it important to focus your idea?

Why can’t you just ramble on about whatever you feel like, as long as it relates to your niche?

You can ramble all you like if you don’t want to be seen as a professional blogger. But professionals focus their ideas so that when readers find each post, they’re happy they stuck around to read it.

First, unfocused ideas waste your time. If your idea is too broad, you’ll spend too much time researching, and possibly waste hours wading through websites, databases or books. All of that information will also take way too long to organize and write.

Unfocused ideas also waste your time during the editing process, which I’ve urged you before not to skip. If your post is too long, you’ll spend a lot of time removing unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs.

Unfocused ideas waste the reader’s time. This is the worst error of all. Many bloggers struggle to get readers, so once you get them, you don’t want to waste their time. If your reader can’t figure out what your post is about in the first few hundred words, they’ll abandon it for something else. There are plenty of other well-focused blog posts out there for them to read.

An example of focusing

Let’s take a sample idea and narrow its focus. Health is a broad topic. Under health, some subtopics are obesity, nutrition and exercise. But those three subtopics are still very broad. You could write thousands of words about each of them.

Let’s take obesity and narrow it further. Some subtopics of obesity are: obesity in children, the rise of obesity in adults, the fattest states in the U.S., or the fattest countries worldwide. If those still seem broad, you can narrow them further. For example, obesity in children could be broken down into the rise of the problem, bullying of obese children, or long-term health risks.

This should help you see how you can take a broad idea that’s related to your blog niche and focus it into a good post. Focusing your ideas helps you not waste your time in the writing and editing process, and it helps your reader figure out what your post is about.

Readers, what is your process for focusing your blog post ideas? Let us know in the comments.