If you read enough blogs for long enough, you’ll recognise that two of the most common topics people post about are (a) how to make money from blogging and (b) how to be a better writer – largely so that you can achieve (a).
Now I’m by no means an expert on the subject – I’m a half-decent writer at best, I’ve never made so much as a penny from blogging and have no particular desire to do so. (Although if anyone wants to write a cheque, I’m open to offers …) But I have been blogging for long enough to know that (a) there are certain universal dos and don’ts and (b) if you read enough how-to guides you’ll soon discover that half of them contradict each other. (And the other half are merely a self-justification of how the authors themselves prefer to write.)
So, in my usual spirit of two parts serious and one part tongue-in-cheek, here are a few random rules by which I try to live my blogging life. It’s a strictly personal list, I won’t pretend you’ll make your fortune by following them and yes, before you ask, I’m rubbish at sticking to them …
1. There are no hard-and-fast rules. You don’t have to post every day of the year. You don’t have to limit yourself to 1,000 words if you have something interesting to say that warrants more. You don’t have to be a world-leading expert on search engine optimisation. You don’t have to sign up for a £500 correspondence course which guarantees to turn you into a successful writer. If you write in an interesting way about topics people find interesting, they will come. More importantly, they will come back.
2. If you want people to love what you write, then write about what you love and not what you think they will love. Knowing your audience is important, yes, but without passion and knowledge the words you write are just that: inanimate words.
3. If you can’t write with inspiration, at least write with punctuation and a semblance of decent grammar. There is no such word as its’, and their, there and they’re are not interchangeable. Grammar matters.
4. Stupid people use big words badly to disguise small thinking and make themselves look clever. Clever people use small words well to bring big thinking to life to make everyone feel clever. By all means demonstrate your knowledge or your unique viewpoint on things, but blogging is not a competition to show off how broad your vocabulary is. If you want to do that, take an English exam.
5. If you can’t write good humour, at least write in good humour. It helps to have a comical turn of phrase, but a lot of great writers never tell a joke. However, nobody wants to read a writer who whinges all the time. Except for Daily Mail readers.
6. No matter how bad your last post was, your next post still has the capacity to be brilliant. (I live in hope.)
7. Know when to break the rules – follow them, but not slavishly. Everything that is good in the world was created by someone who refused to accept that there is only one way to do things, or who knew when to step outside accepted norms. Abraham Lincoln, for instance. Or Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the world wide web. Or Adolf Hitler. Okay, maybe that last one’s not such a great example.
8. Not all ‘list’ posts have to contain a round number of points. Better to have seven perfectly crafted points than to force-fit another three just so you can say you have a ‘top ten’.
9. See 8.
10. See 9.
I could go on and on, but (a) you’d all fall asleep (assuming you haven’t done so already) and (b) you probably have some better suggestions of your own. Over to you.