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There are no shortage of ways to write better blog posts. The selection of words, the length of sentences, the rhythm of the copy–endless opportunities to fine-tune. But let’s say you’re not writing the next great novel, that all you need to do is finish a blog post and make it as good as possible. Follow these four necessary edits, and you’ll be covered.
As with anything, there are exceptions to the rules, and some rules are able to be broken. When I was an art teacher, I told my students that until they understood basic art, design, and color rules with a level of fluency, they couldn’t break them.
“If you don’t understand why the rule is in place, you won’t understand the significance of breaking it,” I told them.
This holds true to when you want to write better blog posts. There are all kinds of writing rules broken, trashed, and ignored by great writers, but they knew exactly why they were doing it. They knew what kind of result the broken rule would instill in the reader. These three edits? They’re like rules. Get to know them, follow them, and when they become fluent and natural, you’ll understand when it is a good time to break them and when it isn’t.
There is a really bad tendency to really overuse words like really, or other words that end in -ly. We want to let our reader know, for example, that something happened at a great rate of speed. So we write things such as:
“She ran really fast to the car.” Or, “She ran to the car very quickly.”
That comes naturally to us, and sounds similar to how we might talk. That kind of writing is what we do without thought, though, unless we’ve trained ourselves to write differently.
“She was next to the car in three seconds.”
They both say the same thing, but they say it differently. Which version is more active, more imaginative?
When we rely on the use of -ly adverbs, we tell instead of show. Readers want us to show instead of tell. They’re there for the movie, not the play-by-play. Instead of telling how fast she ran, show that she ran fast through different language and let the reader think, as he reads it, “wow, she ran really fast.”
We often grow attached to a particular sentence or paragraph in our writing and think that it the best, most clever thing we’ve ever written. From here on, we’re in trouble. We start to bend and twist the rest of the writing around this particular chunk of excellence and find that the end result is terrible because what can compare to such brilliant royalty?
Nothing. Nothing you write will fit with something you think is so great that it can’t be touched. If you want to write a better blog post, you need to do some cutting.
When I read what you write, I understand that you are writing it. You’re the author. And so, when I come across a sentence that says “I think” or “I believe” I’m concerned that you’re forgetting I already know this. Of course you think or believe what you’re about to say; you’re the one writing it.
Phrases like “I think” and “I believe” are worthless. They tell the reader nothing new. They are similar to the overuse of “so” and “well”, doing little more than slowing down the copy.
“Well, I think that the sky is blue.”
Again, this might be how people talk (particularly if you’re Ronald Reagan, known for starting with “well”), but that’s not how you should write. It may be easier to use them in a draft, when you’re writing for the sake of getting ideas together, but when you edit, get rid of them.
Repeat content is an idea you have already explained, and then explain or re-introduce later. Repeat content, even if rephrased in a different way, usually has no place in a blog post. It might work in other forms of writing, but blog posts don’t get the freedom of meandering about for 10,000 words.
I often find this problem cropping up in my own writing when I have a topic where I don’t have quite enough to say, or I’m in a rush and haven’t thought things through. It takes time to focus your writing in a logical order. The moment that order is out of place is the moment you start repeating ideas to make up for it.
First drafts are rarely great. They are mainly what comes out of the old plumbing pipe after banging on it a few times. Editing fine-tunes your copy and prevents a host of reader illnesses, such as boredom, repetition, predictability, obfuscation, and confusion. Your copy is meant to show something clearly, and when you don’t take the time to make these edits, your message is lost in the background noise.
Messy, sloppy copy isn’t something many will want to share with other readers, nor does it lead towards building a great platform. The greatest idea could be lost in the sludge of adverbs and other written foibles.
The power of editing is why your blog has the draft option in the first place. A blogger with a write-now-publish-now mentality will have not only a heavy load of typos, but probably some regrets the next day.
So edit. Draft, edit, draft, edit. Peer review. That’s how you write a better blog post.
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