One secret of improving your writing actually has nothing to do with your actual writing.
It has to do with how you format your thoughts and play with your words visually.
Before the word “format” throws you into a tizzy because it sounds so dang boring, let me share with you these formatting tricks that will improve your blog posts without changing a word of what you say.
Banish the long paragraphs
I can see how it happens. The words are shooting out of your fingers like lightning. You’re in full-on writing mode and can hardly type fast enough as thoughts of GENIUS flow from your mind to the computer screen. You finish up, hit publish and ta-da! New blog post!
Whoa! Back up, Speeds! Before you hit publish, go back through and break up your ginormous blog post into paragraphs.
Already done that? Preview your post and see how long each paragraph looks on your blog. Break up the long ones into smaller paragraphs.
It’s not just about the looks. Keeping paragraphs relatively short gives readers’ minds a quick break, letting them soak up your words more easily. Long paragraphs are exhausting to follow, even if your tale is riveting. Which leads me to my next tip…
Use paragraph breaks to convey emotion
Paragraphs can be a powerful way to add emotion to your words without even changing your writing. Around Christmas, Big Roo nearly lost his beloved pink bear Burt at Toys R Us. Let me show you what I wrote first without the paragraph breaks and then with them.
ONE BIG OLE PARAGRAPH
We rushed out into the cold drizzle, strapped Big Roo in the carseat and shuffled into the car to warm up and get home. It was starting to get dark, we were getting hungry and – oh yeah – Big Roo is sitting in wet pants. We hop on the highway and sit painfully through stops, starts and red brake lights a plenty. About 15 minutes later, Big Roo proclaims “I want Burt.” My heart sank. My stomach dropped.
BREAKING UP PARAGRAPHS
We rushed out into the cold drizzle, strapped Big Roo in the carseat and shuffled into the car to warm up and get home. It was starting to get dark, we were getting hungry and – oh yeah – Big Roo is sitting in wet pants. We hop on the highway and sit painfully through stops, starts and red brake lights a plenty. About 15 minutes later, Big Roo proclaims “I want Burt.”
My heart sank.
My stomach dropped.
Did the emotion of that moment intensify when I split up those last sentences into separate paragraphs? Did it pull your eyes down to keep reading more?
Try it next time you’re writing (or reading over) a blog post. Where can you break paragraphs not only to rest your readers’ eyes but to emphasize the emotion of those words?
Create sub-headings for longer posts
A perfect example is what I’m doing now. This post is broken down into “chunks” by using sub-heads for separate ideas. Again, it gives readers a mental break. Sub-headings also help readers understand the main points of your post. Easy enough, right?
One more thing about sub-headings: If you’re trying to optimize your post for a search engine, make sure you select headers (what I used here) as opposed to just bolding the sub-heads. You should be able to do this in your blogging platform (for example, in WordPress, click “paragraph” and you’ll see the header options in the drop down).
Header tags communicate to the search engines what the post is about, which helps with search engine optimization (SEO). Your blog post title is usually header 1 (h1) and it goes down from there (h2, h3, etc.). Search engines consider the words in h1 as the most important, h2 as the second most and so on.
Play with words
This is my favorite-and-I-mean-FAVORITE tip but it takes ninja skills. Just kidding, YOU (the probably non-ninja) can do this and instantly add some flair to your posts!
Add dashes to string a thought together: I just did this above actually. It’s silly, it’s fun and it livens things up a bit. Here’s another example:
My little guy looked at me in a you-want-me-to-eat-that-but-I’m-not-gonna kinda way.
Run words together: I think I’ll dub this the “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” method. Well, except that word is nonsense and I’m talking about using real words. Running words together is another fun trick. Here’s a before and after example:
(angry) What did she just say to me?
(much angrier) WHATDIDSHEJUSTSAYTOME?
Sure it may be a little hard to read, but you can use dashes if you’re worried. Running words together (in moderation, just like chocolate) SMACKS you with emotion by adding some zing to your words.
Incomplete sentences: Forget what you learned in school about sentences having a subject and a verb. Trust me, I’m the self-proclaimed grammar police and if I can say this, anyone can.
- Start a sentence with “and” or “but” – We walked into the store after 20 minutes of looking for a parking spot. And you’d never guess who was working there.
- Make a one-word sentence – We watched the fireflies circle around the yard. Amazing.
- Use a period after each word in a short sentence (I’ll be honest. My grammar police roots won’t let me do this often but funny enough I don’t mind as much when others do it.)- I bought this new hair straightener yesterday. It. Actually. Works.
A couple of notes on what NOT to do
Be careful with using too many fonts, too many colors or too many bold words. Instead of guiding someone through your post, those formatting tricks slow readers down because it’s just too chaotic. I can elaborate in another post but for now, just don’t get all wacky. We don’t want people leaving our blog all frazzled now do we?
How about you? Any creative ways that you format your posts to guide readers through or liven up your words?