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How to Crucify Your Blog

Category : Personal Development

Editor’s Note:I am an astute student of life. I’ve learned a great deal about blogging ever since I wrote my first article. English is not even my first language. But I am in deep love with English. I am ceaselessly amazed at how many blogs fail to succeed, or even survive the first six months. In this article ,  I am trying to convince aspiring bloggers that content is king when it comes to blogging. I am thankful to Mary Jaksch for allowing me to republish this guest post.

Have you ever met someone who instantly gave out a negative vibe? Have you visited a blog lately that gave you a feeling of being in a haunted house? What was your immediate reaction? I might guess that you clicked on the back button to flee the dreaded experience.

Have you considered the reasons for your knee-jerk reaction? I have.

The truth is a contradiction, but there are writers who crucify their own content.

There are many reasons why content can create a negative vibe. Some writers – such as Hemingway – can instantly connect with us, whereas others stop us reading beyond the first few lines.

In this article, I explore the characteristics of content that sends out an instant negative vibe and offer you helpful hints so that you can avoid this in your own writing.

1. Complexity is toxic

On a historic day, August 28th 1963, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that transformed our world. He claimed that we should be judged by the content of our character. Well, the character of his or her content should judge a writer — simple yet powerful.

When content is cluttered with powerful words, it creates a feeling of nausea. It’s good to have word power, but it is lethal if you confuse your readers. The goal of good writing is not to impress others, but to convey a simple message without showing off. Pompous language is a sure pathway to offend your readers. Why write, “At the moment” instead of simply, “now”?

Helpful Hints -

Simplicity improves readability. One of my favorite authors, James Michener, has the best advice for writers: write simply. A superlative scholar throughout his life, James Michener had no desire to display his word power. Good writing… consists of trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.– James Michener in his memoir The World Is My Home.

I have a mission statement for my writing: I write so that everyone can understand it and derive some benefits from it. I try to read my writing from the reader’s perspective to see if it meets my mission statement. I’m far from being the best as a writer but I’ve come a long way in just five short months of blogging.

2. Adjective overdose

Content is beautiful when it’s crisp and to the point. Often when I come across content that is overloaded with adjectives such as ‘fantastic’, ‘incredible’, ‘super’ – I start to feel bloated. Remember how you reacted to a burger-eating contest? Adjectives are important but overdosing on them is an insult to the reader who is taking the time to read your content.

Helpful Hints -

We can learn a great deal from the legendary writer Hemingway. His greatness was in his style to convey the message in short, familiar words. It’s like a light diet. No one likes several desserts after a heavy meal. Lighten up your writing with minimal words. Review your writing after making changes to see if you are still conveying the gist of your message clearly, so that your readers can understand it and derive benefit from it.

3. Passive voice

A good football team never wins only with a strong defense. Similarly, a good writer never wins the hearts of readers by passive writing. It creates a dull and ineffective message that fails to catch attention. For instance, “The lesson was learned by Harry.” would fare far worse than simply, “Harry learned the lesson.” When I come across a writer with a passive overtone, I sense a voice lacking the confidence and affirmation to convey a powerful message.

Helpful Hints -

A good writer always engages and entertains his readers at the same time.  A good writer also instills a voice of confidence with an active voice that motivates readers to interact. The lifeline of a good writing lies in the value it provides to its readers with an exchange of ideas to improve the human condition.

4. Lifeless content

When I read content that is rhetorical in nature, I get skeptical about its practicality. I’m sure that you have read content that conveys a great message but lacks human flesh and bones to its form. Without the use of any real life experiences, the text seems lifeless and boring. If a writer cannot blend their message with some examples from reality, he or she turns off readers by losing their appetite for interaction.

Helpful Hints -

Putting flesh-and-bones people into your articles gives those articles a life and a movement that set them apart from articles in which no one’s heart is beating.
- Gary Provost, Make Every Word Count

Your readers relate to your own life experiences far better than those writers who preach from the pulpit.  We are not preachers; we are most effective when we blend a sense of community in our writing with relevant experiences that our readers can benefit from.

5. Over-promised Headlines

Your headline is a promise to prospective readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit that you will deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time. – Brian Clark

When I come across a piece of interesting writing solely based on its headline or title, I am immediately curios. But when that writing gives a message at odds with its title or headline, I quickly lose interest. The title should be captivating and catchy but its fundamental function is to signal the gist of the content that follows.

Helpful Hints -

A Chevrolet engine tucked in the body of BMW can only entice someone to ride – once. Similarly, a writer promising to deliver BMW experience with a Chevrolet content can only breed a sense of annoyance and betrayal for his or her readers. Clarity and authenticity are the two pillars of good writing. An attempt to entice readers with catchy titles only to disappoint them with regurgitated content can be a lethal combination. Always beware of that trap.

6. Hackneyed expressions

Content that carries overused and overblown term lacks a light sense of freshness. When a writer indulges in too many trite sayings in his or her content, the central message gets lost like a needle in the haystack of the prose.

Helpful Hints -

Readers are seeking a fresh vantage point. Overuse of trite expressions can turn off the very readers you are trying to impress. Get rid of “in my humble opinion,” “fit as fiddle,” “a sight for sore eyes”. Review your writing several times to spot these bugs and squash them.

7. Need for invention

The greatest folly of a writer is the constant need to be inventive. We all have a fair understanding about life. Why spend endless hours and effort in the vain hope of shocking the world with new revelations when all we need to do is to portray the existing human condition more effectively? The pursuit of invention often leads to dubious content in the eyes of the very readers you are trying to engage.

Helpful Hints -

Writing is an art. A writer’s mantra should be to depict a vivid and accurate view of the human condition. The self-imposed pressure to always create an original story is misguided.  Shakespeare was not the first writer who wrote about the family feuds, jealousy and murder. He became one of the greatest writers in history by writing about human frailty with a remarkable clarity and insight so that readers instantly relate their problems to those characters. This is what made Shakespeare an immortal writer.

In this article, I have considered several characteristics of content that send out negative signals to your readers.  By following the hints I suggest, you can attract, and not repel, your readers.

Let’s have a conversation. What turns you off a writer’s content when you read it? What have you done to add creative touch to your content?

(Photo courtesy: Sabrina Spellman)

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Comments (25)

Enlightening article! I definitely have to work on putting more “flesh-and-bones” material in to my work. Thanks Shilpan.

I love reading your article, Jim. You are a great teacher.

I need to write in an active voice. I’m not sure why I fall back into the passive voice so much. Easier perhaps?

My writing has stalled over the past year. I find myself writing the same type of construction over and over again. I’ve got to experiment w/ something new.

Any advice for my writing?

Thanks,

S

I have struggled with passive voice myself. Your writing is very engaging. Besides, who am I to advise someone 1000 times more successful than I am? With your success, we need to hear more about the value of freedom and pleasure of living life at your terms. After all, isn’t that we all desire?

I’m always look for advice and ways to improve, especially from those who’ve seen the world longer than I have.

If you start hearing about the value of freedom and living a life on my terms, I’ll turn into one of those people everybody will love to hate!

But, at the very least, you can buy my upcoming book that tells why. I promise I won’t price it out of your reach!

I certainly have seen world on both sides of the spectrum — east and west. I landed on this great land over 20 years ago with barely any money. I have a great of experience to share.

Also, what good is it to cater just to please those who don’t want to keep ego aside? Everyone writes about 401(k) and budgeting, but there aren’t many with creative jinx to write about the ultimate freedom.

I would love to read your book, Sam!

I’ve noticed I’ve overdosed on adjectives before. One in particular. I’m challenging myself to just stop using that one for now. We’ll work on cutting them all down over time, though.

I’ve struggled with many of these aspects of writing myself. Everything takes focus and relentless effort.

The overall message is that “Content is King.” These are very good suggestions to follow whether you’re new to blogger, or have accumulated several years of blogging experience.

The best thing that any blogger to do to improve his/her blogging is to consistently do it, and learn from highly respected big name bloggers. As a new blogger, you will likely make many of these errors, but you will improve overtime through regular practice.

You’ve hit the nail on the head again my friend. I believe that you have to keep working at whatever that you love to do to improve daily. As a blogger, I’ve to ask myself, “Why someone will spend his or her precious time on site?” It’s amazing how much you can achieve once you start focusing on benefits of others.

These are some good things to look out for. I sometimes feel I turn off certain readers with my “text book examples” to analyzing finances. I need to remember to throw some humor and love back into the content every now and then!

You are a clever writer MMD. Humor is good but not necessary if you are providing content with a new perspective that your readers can benefit from.

Shilpan: Thanks for the tips!

I do not want my content to be what keeps me from reaching my goals. I believe that the content is the most important piece of the puzzel. In my opinion, everything comes after that.

I think it is nice to use big words, but it is about whether one can make the word easy to understand. If a writer writes a good sentence and the big words makes perfect sense to you then you learn new words, pretty cool right?

Anyways, the tense of the post depends on the event. If the event took place in the past then I would use, “Harry learned the lesson.” but if it was a present event then I would use, “The lesson was learned by Harry.” it all depends on the event.

That was a problem I was struggled with in the past.

William, I like your commitment to focus on the quality of content. When I write an article, I always ask myself, “Am I providing value for the time someone spends to visit my blog to read this article? I have to hear ‘Yes’ before pushing the publish button.

Awesome article. I’m guilty of a few of these. I use a passive voice frequently and bloat my message up with over the top adjectives. I feel like it’s spicing up my story. I’ll test out the short and sweet approach next. I always uses cliches from time to time. Need to squash those bugs, too. Thanks!

Buck, one thing I like about your articles is the unique message that I can derive and apply it to improve my life. Thank you for writing thought provoking content.

Great post. I am probably guilty of many of these myself. I think it is harder to see it in our own writing compared to seeing these things in others. I know I struggle with trying to engage people sometimes. I would really like to get some passionate discussions going in the comments but it is a challenge.

We can learn a lot about writing from the likes of Hemingway and Mark Twain. I love their writings for simplicity and effective way to convey their message.

Good tips. Many years ago, complex writing was seen as a good thing as it was seen as intelligent writing, plus the people were considered intelligent for understanding it. However we now realise that this is not necessary, and especially on the internet, people want to be able to easily understand what is being written, not work extra hard attempting to deciphor it. The writer must now work hard to make his content as paletable as possible.

You are correct Jon. I used to carry a small, micro size dictionary in my pocket to learn 20 words everyday when I was in college. I always thought that people who know complex words are the most intellectual people on earth. While that may be true, I’ve learned that it’s one thing to know those words, but you should use them wisely when you write an article. No one is interested to read your article to build word power; they can simply read Reader’s Digest for that. :)

Great tips, Sir Shilpan.. I admit that some of the items above have a way of creeping into my writing, especially adjective overdose.

As others have mentioned, content is everything. The focus should be on writing content that is different than every other article that is out there. People need to make an effort to bring something new. I always try to make this rule #1 with content that I write.

Agreed. Uniqueness of your content sets you apart from millions of other blogs that someone can visit instead of yours. No wonder that you are doing so well my friend.

Well posted, Shilpan. I’ve just now gone and trimmed out 10% percent of the words out of my last blog post.

Good to hear from you, my friend!

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