21 Dec 15 Rules Of Writing A Readable Blog Post
If you have been wondering if there is a secret elixir to make your blogging business a success, the answers may lie in the good ol’ newspaper.
The newspaper business used to be big business.
And by used we don’t imply newspapers are dead and buried. At least not yet.
In fact, it may come as a surprise to know that despite the digital ecosystem being richer than ever, people are still buying and reading print newspapers even today.
And not just any buying.
With the exception of the largest national newspapers (The Daily Mail and The Guardian in the UK; The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post in the U.S.) most other newspapers derive their largest percentage of reading time from print as opposed to their online versions.
Here is the latest data if you need hard numbers. Here is more.
And the reasons why people remain hooked to print newspapers?
Well, it is an open secret that when it comes to reading, nothing compares to the thrill of perusing through a hard copy. Not even your latest Kobo or Amazon Kindle. Newspaper reading is the personification of that, so much so that it is still considered a family activity in many households even today.
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Beyond that, newspapers have for eons remained reliable sources of information. They are credible and rarely do they get their facts mixed up. In the rare cases that they do, they will always clarify that in the next issue. What’s more, their news stories are always preceded by catchy headlines, and the writing itself is top-notch.
And then there is the part most readers take for granted: the format and layout of not just the newspaper itself, but each individual story. The content is presented in a font and format that is easy on the eye, with well-narrowed columns that make it easy to stick to the read without getting lost.
These are set rules of writing and layout every newspaper sticks to, and replicating them in your blog writing can improve your readability. It is true that formatting content for the web is more challenging compared to print, but there are still a couple of things you can do to improve your blog’s legibility and layout.
The 15 Rules of Blog Writing and Layout You Need to Know About
1 – Font Type
The one area blogging clearly differs from newspaper writing has to do with the font. Sans-serif fonts (typeface without serif) are more suited for the screen because they make for easier reading.
‘Serif’ is a word given to tiny lines attached to the end of a letter stroke, and these are generally fonts you should steer away from.
Verdana and Roboto are two good examples of fonts more apt for on-screen reading.
2 – Font Size
Font size is one essential area most bloggers don’t pay much attention to, but it has a big influence on how your readers perceive your content.
The rule of thumb is that bigger is better as tiny font size is even harder to read online because it strains the eye, and that’s not what we want for our readers.
Big in this case doesn’t have to be large as you probably have your titles looking. Something in between would be fine. You can do a comparison of a few of your favourite blogs and see what works best.
Speaking of titles…
3 – Use Headers and Sub-headers
Nobody likes reading through long, tedious text, especially these days when everyone seems to be strapped for time.
To ensure your readers read right until the end, you’ve got to break up your posts using headers and sub-headers. They make the text more palatable and easier for readers to go through certain sections they may want to focus on more.
For added effect, consider mixing them up into H2, H3 and H4 tags and so on, with the main heading representing the H1 (biggest heading).
4 – Formatting
Formatting refers to the layout or the manner in which you structure your blog posts. A well-designed blog format attracts the reader to your page and makes the content easy to read.
This also plays to the advantage of those who want to skim the content because not everyone reads every blog post to the end.
Formatting touches on, among others, the layout, margin and website responsiveness for mobile and PC viewing.
5 – Limit Column Width
Column width allows the reader to preview all the content on a blog post (or webpage) horizontally integrated.
Wide columns are not the most fun, especially ones that force you to scroll to the right and back again.
Aim for a ballpark of 80 characters per line, inclusive of spaces.
6 – Bullets & Lists
Grammar school taught all of us the importance of using bullets and lists and numbering in writing. When it comes to web content, that doesn’t change.
Bullets and lists are great for highlighting important points or compressing them for easier consumption. They allow your readers to find information within seconds.
7 – Bold to Highlight
Similarly, bolding important points in your blog posts helps bring focus to those respective sections you want to emphasise on.
Bold text also absolves you of the need to use bullet points which, if overused, can make your posts unattractive. Same case with the bold text – too much of it and the result ends up being counterproductive.
8 – Short Paragraphs
Another rule of grammar that also applies to blog posts, long paragraphs only lead to dull and boring articles, no matter how riveting the content may be.
They are hard to consume especially when it comes to online text, hence the need to break your content into manageable chunks.
2-6 sentences per paragraph is a good standard for blog posts.
9 – Punctuation
You do notice a common theme here, right?
The basics of grammar very much apply to blog posts as they do written text. The importance of this may have been diluted as reading gradually shifted online, and every Tom, Dick and Harry became a writer. But that’s not to mean punctuation is no longer crucial.
Commas, full stops, semi-colons, colons and dashes do a great job of breaking up sentences and making them easier to read without going over the same line over and over trying to decipher the intended meaning.
If you still can’t tell between your commas and semi-colons, the workaround is to keep your sentences short.
10 – Good Spacing
This is an often overlooked aspect of blog writing and layout that has a huge bearing on the readability of your blog.
It’s a good idea to leave enough white space in your blog posts to allow the readers to rest their eyes from time to time.
Proper spacing also makes your website more appealing overall.
11 – Use of Caps
Make it a point of incorporating capital letters at the beginning of every sentence and preceding each proper noun. Examples of proper nouns include Patrick, London, and Microsoft.
Capital letters, however, should be used in moderation. Bar the above two uses, writing entire sentences in caps is off-putting – yes, just like receiving an email or text message written in caps – and a complete no-no.
12 – Use of Images
Images add a dash of colour to your blog while also drawing in readers who would otherwise not have opened a particular post.
Obviously, the images need to be related to the topic at hand; an accompaniment that helps hammer home your message.
More than that, images in a blog post are also useful in structuring your content, breaking up the monotony of text, while also encouraging the readers to keep scrolling down.
The caveat is that less is more, so place them wisely. Unless you are in the gossip industry where many images would be appreciated, or the sports business; maybe travel.
13 – Background Colour
Dark text on a light background is the easiest to read, but that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to the black-text-on-white-background that has become the unofficial universal default.
You can try other combinations which work just as well – bright yellow text on black, for example. Other alternative backgrounds if you want to deviate from white include light grey, light mint green, pale pink or fair yellow.
These also help you stand out while incorporating colour into your blog.
14 – Storytelling Approach
Every blog post should have a beginning, middle and end. Few people like reading instruction manual- or essay-type articles, so if you can, start off your posts in a way that piques the interest of the reader.
You can never go wrong with the storytelling approach because everyone loves a story. You don’t have to be a fictional bestselling author to pull this off. You could start by, for instance, making the beginning more personable.
15 – Consistency
Consistency in blogging can be interpreted in different ways. In this case, we don’t mean the regular posting kind of consistency. Rather, consistency as applies to writing and layout can be two-pronged.
First, there is the need to stick to the same message and values without trying to be everyone at the same time. Reason is because you don’t know how your current crop of readers found you, or why they took to your writing in the first place.
Then there is the need to be consistent in the layout. Adventurous is good; adventurous is great. But find a layout that you and your audience are most comfortable with and stick to it – not for good, but at least for some time without making alterations all the time.
This is a bit like company rebranding. Chances are if you love the current look of Brand X or Z, you are not likely to warm up to a new look once the brand undergoes rebranding efforts.
It’s the same case with a blog. It is a psychological thing, as are most points we have outlined here.
There is a common saying that if something is working, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Unless, of course, you plan on learning more about wheels.
Newspapers have been successful for a reason, and that reason can be broken down into some of the points we have outlined here. These are all qualities you can borrow and replicate on your blog. Qualities you find in some of the most widely read blogs by the so-called influencers.
If it works for them, it can work for you too.
At Travel Content Collective, we have a team of professional travel writers who are experts at writing quality, readable and shareable blog articles. If you’re looking to create a blog for your company or personal website and need assistance, get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help. We can even write the blogs for you so you have more time to concentrate on other areas of your business.