By Debra Muzikar
What inspires people to read a blog post?
The Art of Autism has posted over 650 blog posts. After years of reading these posts, I can instantly tell if it will be well-received. Only 20 percent of readers will read the entire content of a blog post. This means you must capture reader’s attention with your first few words. Lori Greiner of Shark Tank fame says she can instantly tell if a product is a hero or a zero. Here are a few tips to make your blog post a hero:
1. Make your headline, picture that goes with your blog, and your first paragraph engaging
- Take time to think about an interesting title. The words in the title will be part of the SEO for the site and will allow search engines to find the article. Headlines that attract attention often include numbers (and for some reason odd numbers are better than even numbers), a descriptive adjective, and a call to action. For example in the the title of this blog, I used the word 9, engaging, and the call for action is tips for writing. Another way to engage the reader is to ask a question. For example, Why do people talk to autistic adults and children like they are infants? is a popular post on the Art of Autism website.
- The picture you submit with the blog post must be relevant to the post. Often comic strips or interesting art attracts attention. There are many apps that can take your boring picture and make it interesting. If you don’t have an interesting picture, try using a word cloud app using the words in your blog post. There are freeware images available for download on the internet. I used wordart.com for the header image for this blog.
- Temple Grandin talks about the 30 second wow for artists who have portfolios. You have 30 seconds to wow your viewer. The same goes for blog posts. You have 30 seconds to capture a reader’s attention.
2. Edit your blog post.
- After you get your rough draft written, go through it and rearrange it if necessary. Think of how it can be more interesting to the reader.
- Use a spell checker.
- Check for grammar errors.
- Condense your blog by eliminating repetition. Avoid using the same word many times. Use an online thesaurus.
- Use clear, short sentences. Avoid combining 2 sentences with the word “and.”
- Editing an article most times takes longer than writing the article. I have an 80/20 rule for writing. I spend 20 percent of my time writing the initial article and the other 80 percent rearranging and editing.
3. Eliminate unnecessary and boring details.
It’s not necessary to include details such as exact dates for mundane events. For example, instead of saying “November 17, 2018, I attended a conference” it’s easier to read “last month I attended a conference.”
4. Tell a story.
A good story activates the reader’s brain and engages the reader in a way that your story will be remembered.
5. Write in a casual, first person voice and use contractions.
Example: Instead of writing “I have visited the museum three times,” write “I’ve visited the museum several times.” Notice I used the contraction “I’ve.”
6. Use quotes.
An interesting quote can make your blog pop. Many Art of Autism blog posts start with a quote.
7. Engage your audience.
- Use foreshadowing. Ask a question or state a purpose in the first paragraph. In the first paragraph of Holly Bridge’s blog post on Reframing Autism she asks this provocative question – What if this is a false benchmark against which we judge those on the autism spectrum?
- Ask your audience for their opinions. We have one blogger, Austin Jones, who at the end of many of his blogs asks the reader for comments – “What do you think?”
- Break up your text. Long passages of text are intimidating to many readers. Use subheaders and bullet lists. Bold important points. Use pictures or videos in between paragraphs.
- Teach your readers something they may not know. Give away information. Back up your facts with links from reputable sources.
8. Read your blog post aloud.
I catch many errors when I am reading blog posts to other people. For example, after I published this page I found about a dozen errors after I read it out loud.
9. Have others critique your writing.
Constructive critiques can greatly improve writing. I’ve taken several writing classes and been part of different writing groups. Listeners can catch bad habits about your writing. I can’t stress how important it is to be open to constructive critiques. There is good reason why many popular websites hire copy editors.
Writing effective and engaging blog posts takes practice. The more you write the better your writing will become.
Debra Muzikar is co-founder of the Art of Autism nonprofit.