I’ve recently been coaching garden designer, Caroline Garland, on writing her blog: ‘New Vintage Gardens’. I suggested 9 key points as a checklist for her to follow when writing a post. The principles apply to writing all posts – whatever the subject. How many of the 9 points are you following?
Caroline wrote 328 words on how to create a vista in a small town garden. This is a good length for a blog-post. But it was in two large paragraphs, with long sentences, so the information was rather lost. Many people who come to my workshops are authors, writers or journalists. We are used to grappling with a lot of words, but it’s important to keep sentences and words short when blogging. This doesn’t mean dumbing down. Shortness in writing is stylish. Think of Ernest Hemingway. And The Economist Style Guide, considered one of the best guides to good written English, says ‘never use a long word when a short one will do.’
Bloggers used to say that blog-posts ought to be about 300-500 words long. Now we’ve discovered that longer posts are shared more often. Google also likes longer posts. But don’t just waffle on. If your post needs to be 1600 words, that’s great. But make sure they’re 1600 necessary words. Stay focused – like the path in the picture above. It leads straight to the bench. Stay in a straight line and make sure you’re going somewhere. Then it doesn’t matter how long your post is.
Each paragraph should have about 3-4 short sentences and should make one point. Caroline could use bullet points, numbers or cross-heads, or a combination. Here I have used cross-heads (the wording highlighted in colour) and numbers. Highlight your cross-heads and click on ‘heading 2’ on your dashboard. Or ask your web designer about making cross-heads into ‘heading 2’.
Cross-heads are picked up by search engines – so it’s a chance to emphasise your key words (eg ‘garden designer in Wandsworth’) without ‘keyword stuffing’. Keyword stuffing is when you try to make Google rank you higher because your keyword is mentioned over and over again. For example: ‘If you want to hire a hall, hire our hall for hire. People hiring halls hire our halls because our halls for hire are…’ Keyword stuffing is not good English, and Google doesn’t like it. But using cross-heads to add keywords to your site is helpful. Note how I have used ‘blogging’ and ‘write blogs’ in these cross-heads in this post. Caroline could use the words ‘garden design’ and ‘town gardens’ in her cross-heads.
Caroline’s elegant writing has semi-colons, and long sentences with lots of commas. This is good for English exams, but blogging should be simpler. Short sentences mean fewer commas. Try to get rid of semi-colons, too. A blog post sentence should be short with a full stop at the end of it.
Or you will sound a bit mad! See what I mean! Unless you want to sound mad!!! (Caroline didn’t have any exclamation marks, which is even better.)
Always say what something is or why it’s important, rather than what it’s not. For example, Caroline started by saying ‘to get the feeling of distance and space in a garden, a vista is difficult to achieve.’ Better to say ‘A vista is essential if you want to achieve a feeling of distance and space in a garden.’
Caroline doesn’t have any problems with images. She takes lovely photographs of the gardens she designs or visits. The photograph in this post is taken by her. It’s more difficult for me, for example, to find suitable images to illustrate blogging with.
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