Monday, August 20, 2007

Make mine chunky

Notice: Please welcome Maggie Lawrence who has agreed to be my first guest blogger. She will be writing a few introductory tips in how to write a blog. In addition to her other duties as a broadcast journalist, she is the host of the Backyard Wisdom blog.

by Maggie Lawrence

I am a broadcast journalist by trade. That means writing should be concise and tight. Every word should be purposeful. Confront me with a 35-word sentence, I begin looking for what I can cut.

That’s probably one reason I find writing for the Web easier than some of my colleagues. I don’t have writing habits formed by years of writing scholarly articles. I don’t have a single thesis or dissertation to my name.

After more than 20 years of crafting news stories, I think in chunks.

But here’s another truth. I read in chunks. I have since I was a little girl.

I don’t believe I am the only person in the world who reads in chunks. Chunks make it easier for people to glean the information they need.

Crawford Killian, a professional writer and blogger, is just one of many who emphasize using a chunk philosophy.

Usability experts often encourage chunking text to make it more readable.

How to chunk text?

  • Cut words
  • Tight sentences
  • Short paragraphs
  • Bullets
  • Subheadings
In his book Journalism 2.0, Mark Briggs notes that "readers appreciate writers who do not waste their time."

Not only are the professionals saying this. Readers are confirming it.

Deborah Powell of the Washington Post shares comments from her readers in an April 2007 column. Powell says reader comments consistently asked Web writers "to get to the point."

As Shakespeare noted,"Brevity is the soul of wit."

But if your writing lacks substance, the readers who find your blog won’t be back.

Amber Simmons noted recently on "A List Apart" that online writers are still learning the difference between copy and content. Simmons offers this observation.

"Content is thoughtful, personable, and faithfully written. It hooks the reader and draws him in, encouraging him to click this link or that, to venture further into a website. It delivers what it promises and delights the attentive reader."

In a way, it’s another type of chunk when we talk about web writing. Content without the chunks or meat of the story is just copy filling a page.

Useful links, illustrations and photos can add meat to your content.

But I think the most crucial element of satisfying content is passion. Passion is just one of the four Ps of blog writing that Rick Short talks about in his blogging seminars. The other three Ps:

Get to the Point
Include your Personality
Perseverance—keep on blogging.

Strive for passion and the other Ps. You will give the readers chunks that make a story satisfying.

Combine that with tight purposeful writing, and I think your readers will come back for more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I'd not heard the four Ps for blogging but they are right on. I've lived by passion and authority for blogging during the past year. Those are the primary attributes of a good blogger in the book "Naked Conversations".