10 tips for blog writing: a short guide for EPs
Before you start writing
1: Know your audience
Knowing who you’re writing for before you start writing is key. This will help you tailor both your message and style. I think people assume that the more people that read their blog, the better… but if they’re not the right people then your efforts might be wasted.
If you want a large number of EPs to read your blog, then writing for edpsy would be a great idea. However, if your aim is to encourage conversation with Portage workers, edpsy probably doesn’t quite pull in your target audience like the National Portage Association does.
2: Get familiar with who you’re writing for
Different sites have different styles. It’s likely that if you’re writing for an online magazine or a blog hosting site, they’re going to have different writing guidelines…we do!
Before you start writing, familiarise yourself with the guidelines that different organisation provide. Read blogs that have already been published on that site so that you can understand the general style, length and tone.
3: Is my blog relevant, now?
People write for different reasons. Some will write for the love of writing, some to share an opinion, and some to respond to something that is currently happening. It’s a good idea to think about what else is happening and whether you can make your blog fit with other big conversations.
Recently an article in The Telegraph sparked a big conversation among EPs and a good example of a timely blog post is Will Shield’s ‘A day in the life of a EP‘. Will wrote this blog when the conversation in response to The Telegraph article was at it’s peak. As a result it’s been viewed over 3000 times since the middle of October.
4: Have a clear structure before you start writing
Make a plan! Get used to planning your writing before you start.
Blogs don’t lend themselves very easily to free-flowing streams of consciousness. They’re often short, punchy and easy to read.
Having a clear plan about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it will help keep your writing focused…which in turn helps the reader ‘get’ what you’re trying to say.
Writing your blog
5: Write for everyone, not specialists
At a session I co-deliver at the University of Manchester, I talk to TEPs about dissemination beyond journals and ask them to think about the ‘upside down triangle’ of blog writing.
The take home message is that if you’re thinking of writing a blog, first and foremost you’re writing for non-specialists. Experts and professionals also want clear, easily understandable language. This means that you should write in a clear, jargon free way, using plain English.
Writing in plain English is especially important if your aim is to make an impact beyond a niche or specialised field (like Educational Psychology).
6: Most people read on their mobiles
Our own stats tell us that over 60% of our readers view the site on their mobile. This has important implications for how you write your blog post.
We advise that blog posts are 600-800 words, because any more than that and you risk people scrolling, scrolling…scrolling…and thinking “Oh this is too long, I don’t have time to read this now”.
7: Focus on 2 or 3 key messages
If you’re clear on the two or three key messages to want to put across, your writing is likely to be more succinct.
Hopefully the process of planning your blog (see above) helped you identify your key messages. It can be tempting to try to ‘solve the problem’ in a blog post, particularly as they’re often read more widely than a typical academic article. Addressing too many points in your blog post can be confusing for readers… would your blog post be better as two or a short series?
8: Web writing is different to academic writing
With academic writing we often build up to our conclusion. We present well reasoned and evidenced arguments to guide the reader to our well informed and persuasive conclusions.
Think of writing a blog as writing upside down. For blogs, it’s best to start with your conclusions. Blog readers are often time poor and we know they read on the go, on their mobile. You need to hook the reader quickly.
A good example of this is Chris Bagley’s blog where he describes his work with a group of young people writing to Ofsted.
9: Use headings and subheadings
When a person first lands on a webpage, they don’t read, they scan. When reading online content, it’s pretty easy to get distracted too. Clear headings and subheadings help people to quickly decide that your blog is going to be useful for them.
Another way to think about how important headings and subheadings are is to think about how you use the web. What’s your homepage? For the vast majority of people the answer (whether you realised it or not) will be ‘Google’. Most people don’t get beyond the first page of Google results because they’ve found what they’re looking for. An accurate, informative, helpful heading means that your blog is more likely to appear higher up in search results.
edpsy has many good examples of excellent blog titles. Some examples include:
- Books for an Alternative Provision Library
- A short introduction to Narrative Therapy
- Supporting schools to support refugees
10: Be human, talk to your audience
Ultimately when people read a blog, they want to get a sense of who you are. What’s your opinion? What are your views on the topic? They want to know that they’re in conversation with a real person.
We think that using active voice is preferable and much more engaging for readers:
- Passive voice: It is not surprising that EPs have taken to twitter…
- Active voice: I’m not surprised that EPs have taken to twitter…
Blogs are informal, conversational pieces that should connect with your reader. Fear not though… if you want to write more formally, thats fine too! On edpsy we call those pieces ‘Longer Reads‘ (it does what is says in the tin).
So…fancy writing for us?
Hopefully the blog-writing process has been demystified a bit and you’re now thinking ‘I really want to write something!’. If so, remember to check our writing guidelines and then get in touch with us with your idea.