Monday, 23 January 2012

How to write a good blog post

I often get asked how to write a blog post, so I thought I would put together a set of guidelines which I hope will be usefulfor anyone who is new to blogging and has maybe never written a formal article to submit to a party.

It’s helpful to start off a blog party post by saying “This post is part of the UK Herbarium month blog party hosted by ,…… and link the name of the host’s blog.”

Firstly, give a general introduction. Why are you writing this article? What did you feel when you discovered the topic (Dread, delight, horror etc. etc.). What did the topic make you do? (I went and sat in a darkened cupboard/I immediately put on my wellies/I pulled out all my books on/I went and talked to the dog/chickens bemoaning my lot etc.) Finally tell the reader what your post is going to cover in general terms (e.g. In this post I’m going to talk about the effects of the Hammurabi Code on splitting walnuts equally between two heavy weights and show how it is not possible to ascribe the code rigidly in today’s modern climate.)

The next section should describe what you did or what you found, preferably in the order in which you did/found it. It’s good if you can back up what you found with some general research as well e.g. When I found my rose bush, all the leaf buds were fluorescent pink which concurs with the information given in Wild Food for Everyone by Saskia Longbottom but which Grieve and Hildegard of Bingen completely disregarded. I can only assume that since Longbottom and I inhabit the same general location i.e. Middle Yard, it makes sense that our shrubs bear similar leaf buds, even though the shape of my bush (see photo) bears absolutely no resemblance to hers (link to photo of illustration).

The next section should include what you have learned from what you did. E.g. Next time I go searching in a bramble bush I will wear reinforced boots and not bare feet. Although the thorns and subsequent pain and infection were a valuable lesson from the plant to me, I am not sure the 3 week stay in hospital with concurrent expenses really supported my overall wellbeing. However, I can now recognise a blue-faced bramble from 60 yards and have used the emulsion produced by mixing crushed thorns with blood to paint a small sculpture which now sits on my altar.

Your conclusion should be a summary of the entire article reminding your reader what you were going to tell them, what you told them and what you’ve discovered through writing the article including any changes that producing the article have induced in you. E.g when I first started researching this subject I was convinced that all rose leaf buds were green. Now I realise that the colour depends so much on the local soil and the variety of bramble which has deepened my connection with this eighth plant of the sacred Druid Ogham.

Dos and Don’ts
Do try to write your post in a word processor before copying and pasting it onto your blog.

Do read through your article at least twice to catch any spelling mistakes or missed words or words you didn’t know you had written. When someone is reading something you have written you want them to be able to read it easily without stopping and trying to work out what it was you were trying to write as opposed to what you have actually written. When I was drafting this post, I noticed the spell checker had changed the “e” in wellies to an “i”, which may be completely inoffensive in some cultures, but makes me blush and I would have hated someone to believe I would use such a word in an inappropriate setting. If you find you can’t catch your own mistakes and don’t have anyone who will read it for you, leave it alone for a day and then read it out loud – you will soon hear what you cannot see.

Do use short paragraphs and leave a space between each paragraph. You don’t need to indent the first word of each paragraph.

Do illustrate your posts with photos and other illustrations if you can.

Do reference all your information either by linking to a web page or giving a list of references at the bottom of the article.

Don’t copy large chunks of information from elsewhere. Copyright law means you can only quote small amounts of text. Copying paragraphs that someone else has written be it online or in books amounts to plagiarism. You need to learn the arts of summary and reported speech and changing sentences around so they don’t resemble the original work.

Don’t use photographs belonging to anyone else without their permission. The copyright law on photos is different from that of text. Even if a photograph has been paid for by a publisher or appears in any capacity on the internet, the copyright remains with the person who took the photo. Most photographers will happily give permission for you to use their photos provided they are asked before you use them and you tell everyone who the photo belongs to. If you don’t follow these guidelines you are effectively stealing/committing piracy.

I hope you find these guidelines helpful and I look forward to reading a wonderful set of blog posts for the party on 20th February.


Moon Gazing Hare said...

Thank you Sarah this is really helpful. I was in fits of giggles at your examples, I hope these examples are from a writers wonderful imagination and not from years of observing your apprentices!

Sarah Head said...

I have to confess that examples tend to write themselves - as a mere scribe I have no control over them whatsoever! (I have the same problem with characters in my fictional works!)

Comfrey Cottages said...

Very nice Sarah. I am sure these tips will help enrich my blog posts and make them more thorough and enjoyable for my readers. Thank you for sharing them!

Anonymous said...

Very helpful! Thanks so much Sarah : )
Ruth in Western Australia xxx