Part of my Knowledge Base.


Premise

  • This page seeks to outline general strategies and tips for blogging well, though most rules also apply to other forms of writing.

Key Takeaway(s)

  • Conceptual clarity is by far the biggest value-add in a blog post;
  • Don’t write how you talk, write how you would sound on a well-edited, multi-take podcast;
  • The first paragraph is extremely important for concisely articulating the scope of the post;
  • Don’t begin by telling the reader why you wrote your piece - tell them why they should read it, and then do your best to prove yourself right;
  • Don’t write ‘it was X and Y’ when X and Y are pure synonyms;
  • Don’t use intensifiers like very, extremely, or incredibly;
  • Keep a list of writing by other people that you wish you had written;
  • Don't let a desire to be (or at least sound) literary get in the way of your point.

Highlights

  • Don’t use vocabulary that some of your audience might not know without acknowledging it
  • Examples are awesome.
    • Micro-examples - a short example you give along with a point, to give the reader more context with the point, add intuition, and ensure it lands correctly
    • Motivating examples - when communicating an idea, readers may be initially skeptical. Motivating examples make it clear that things are important, make it relatable and personal, and help motivate the reader to care and take action (and to continue reading!)
    • Actionable examples - these are a way to take an abstract point and make it concrete, by giving a flood of concrete examples. As many examples as possible, ideally personal ones. The point is to provide the reader with inspiration and ideas, and to make it clear that things can translate into meaningful action change.
  • The biggest failure mode is that you do nothing, not that you do something badly.
  • If you’re wondering whether you should write a piece at all, you probably should.
  • Many articles begin with a human framing, even those about highly technical topics.
  • Be sparing with pronouns in technical writing. It's better to repeat a noun than have it be unclear what "it" refers to.
  • Your post should ideally still work without hyperlinks.
  • You can often make a piece much clearer simply by reordering the words in its sentences.
  • Don’t hedge unless you mean it. If you genuinely aren’t sure of something, say so. Otherwise just make your point; it’s OK if someone disagrees.
  • Use a thesaurus, especially when you have another criteria you need your word to meet.
  • Every subject needs levity, and some subjects are incapable of supporting it.
  • Don’t make your toy examples too contrived; get as close to a real-life use case as you can.
  • Make it clear which parts of your examples should be copied and learned from, and which are arbitrary or even bad choices.
  • Don’t use vocabulary that some of your audience might not know without acknowledging it. If the concept matters, explain it; if it doesn’t then summarize it in half a sentence and say that the details aren’t important today. If the concept really doesn’t matter then consider dropping the fancy word altogether.
  • Keep a list of writing by other people that you wish you had written
  • When someone asks you a question, that’s a good excuse for a blog post

Practical

  • In my writing and, more generally, on my blog I have embraced the idea that very little to no editing can be even more useful if I have a much higher output.
  • I am aiming to build this page up as I encounter more useful information, to use as a check throughout the blogging process.

Resources