A successful blog requires one thing and one thing only: puppies. Readers love puppies. Give them puppies, and they will come. Puppy pictures, puppy videos, guilty puppies wearing hats—anything with puppies will do. Play to your readers' love of cuteness, and they will forgive you any bad writing habits, never straying from your blog. (Anything about stray puppies is sure to be a hit as well.)
Okay, okay. So maybe bad writing habits can't be cured only with puppies, although I do recommend incorporating them into your blog posts as much as humanly possible. The way to overcome a majority of bad writing habits is not to focus on baby dogs but to focus on balance.
The answer to the question “What is the secret to blogging?” should always be “balance.” Your blog writing should strike a balance between humor and information, between substance and fluff, and between perfection and humanity. When it comes to blogging, most bad writing habits have to do with a serious lack of balance.
Writing for a blog can be tricky, but a well-written blog post is certainly possible as long as you know what to avoid. Let's take a look at some bad writing habits and what you can do to avoid them.
Bad Writing Habits to Avoid
1. Lacking Focus
Having a lack of focus or being to vague in your blog posts are bad writing habits that occur when a writer does not pick just one topic to cover in a post (or does not perform keyword research to narrow down a single topic). Bad writing habits related to a lack of focus are not specific to blogging but are particularly damaging for this medium of writing, considering the nature of blog posts. Because blog posts are short and have so much competition online, a solid topic is critical to a successful post. If your blog post is all over the place, no one is going to stick around to read it. Even a post riddled with cute puppy pictures will not do well if it's actually supposed to be about nuclear energy.
The key to avoiding bad blogging habits related to a lack of focus is to plan before you write. Create a rough outline based on keyword research, and follow it when writing your blog post. If there's another topic that seems to keep making its way into your post, the answer is obvious: plan a separate post on that topic! In this case, the steps taken to fix bad writing habits actually result in the formation of good writing habits: you can link posts with related topics, which enhances your followers' reading experience and is great for search engine optimization (SEO).
2. Being Too Narrow
The other side of a lack of focus is having too narrow a focus. Sure, you want to make sure your topic is obvious and well covered, but you also want your readers to know you don't live in a bubble. Let your readers know you are aware of alternative explanations or theories regarding your topic, and do your research. A well-rounded post depends on your having a relatively open mind about your topic.
3. Lacking a Voice
Precision is good, information is good, and accuracy is good. But what good will your blog post be if it is too boring to read? Lacking an authorial voice or sounding aloof and robotic are bad writing habits common to blog posts. More specifically, this problem seems to occur frequently in business blogs. Of course you want to make sure your readers have access to easy-to-understand information, but you also want to make sure they, you know, actually read your post. Don't eliminate your voice from your posts; embrace your own writing quirks, and find a way to integrate them into your blog appropriately.
4. Depending Too Much on Quirkiness
Should you let your quirks shine through your writing? Absolutely. Should you pull a Zooey Deschanel and depend completely on these quirks for success? Absolutely not. Try as we might, we can't all bop around with baby-doll bangs and somehow manage to make awkwardness painfully adorable. Don't make every line of your blog post a joke, and don't rely on gimmicks to make your blog entertaining. Instead, produce quality writing with clear topics while still allowing your voice to shine through. I know, I know, this balance thing is tricky! However, aiming for balance is a sure way to avoid most bad writing habits.
5. Trying to Write for Everyone
I know you want everyone to be your friend. We all want to be well liked. But trying to write for every single person is a seriously bad writing habit. Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you need to consider your audience. Who are you writing for? Why are they reading this blog post? What can your writing do to help them solve a problem? If you're writing for a business, what stage in the buyer's journey are you writing for?
No matter how cool you are or how many cookies you share at lunchtime, there's always going to be that one kid who doesn't like you. Don't worry about him; focus on the people who do want to read your work.
6. Writing for an Elite Group
While it's true that you're never going to get everyone to like your writing, you should still be sure not to isolate potential readers. Don't fill your posts with jargon or rely too heavily on your thesaurus. Avoid this bad blogging habit by trying to write as naturally as possible. Don't write as if you're composing a scientific document. Write as if you're speaking to a group of intelligent people who are interested in your topic but whose attention you need to keep.
7. Overwhelming with Words
Am I saying that writing a lot is a bad writing habit? It depends. There is no magic number for how long a blog post should be; however, it's important to ensure that the length of your post is appropriate to the amount of content you're conveying. Consider the following statistics when deciding on blog post length, and remember that, as always, balance is best. Producing some short- and some long-form content for your blog will help you attract a wider audience.
Be sure to flesh out your ideas, but try not to overwhelm your reader with Virginia Woolf-esque sentences or page-long paragraphs. Using images can also help break up the content and improve the readability and appeal of your blog posts.
8. Using Irrelevant Images
Adding irrelevant images to a blog post isn't exactly a bad “writing” habit, but it is something that can hinder the success of your blog. As mentioned, it's a great idea to integrate images into your blog posts. People like having something to look at, and sometimes the use of interesting images can grab readers' attention to make them read the actual post. But for goodness' sake, do not use pictures, infographics, or figures just for the sake of having images! An ill-designed graph or an irrelevant image will not improve your blog's SEO or attract more readers.
Writing a blog post should not be a hasty affair. Bad writing habits such as rushing or trying to write too much in too short a time can cause bloggers to make mistakes. Such mistakes may include errors in content, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, or a general lack of organization. Typographical errors or grammatical problems are certain to lose you readers, as many people will instantly lose respect for a blog post or article the second they notice such errors.
If you have a shorter deadline for your blog post than usual and you're determined to post your work by its deadline, be sure to have someone else review it before publishing. This may be an experienced co-worker, a trusted friend, or even an editing or proofreading service. Do whatever you need to ensure your post is error-free when it is published.
10. Missing Deadlines
No, you don't want to rush through the writing of a blog post, but you also don't want to let your readers down. If you publish a new post every Thursday afternoon, you need to make sure you never miss a Thursday. You shouldn't focus solely on acquiring new readership. You should also be concerned with keeping the readers you already have. The best writing habit you can develop is to write regularly, and this holds true when it comes to keeping a blog active.
As you can see, balance is critical when it comes to eliminating bad writing habits from your blog. Avoiding the above mistakes will improve your blog writing and the future success of your blog. If all else fails, just remember: puppies. Lots and lots of puppies.