Friday, March 24, 2006

How To Write Blog Posts

Warning: May contain smug, patronising nonsense.

I had a lovely, happy walk to work, listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on repeat on the iPod and planning a splendid blog post containing amateurish and unsolicited advice about How To Write Blog Posts.

This plan was instantly derailed when I got to work to discover that my Dad, who started blogging all of three days ago, has already got in with all the cool, funny people. (You go, Dad!)

This led me in turn to Vicus Scurra, whereupon I was seized by a) fits of apoplectic laughter, closely followed by b) one of those terrible fits of blog envy that have you sloping off to the Blogger Dashboard to hang sulkily around the "Delete This Blog" button.

It's by no means the first fit of blog envy I've had - previous catalysts have included Wyndham, Latigo Flint and Betty - and I'm learning to live with the knowledge that there are hundreds of people out there who are cleverer and funnier than I'll ever be. You clever, funny bastards. I hate you, and yet I love you beyond measure.

So, with that in mind, on with the original show, eh? On my regular cruises around the blogosphere I sometimes come across sad*, self-doubting people who are given to fits of anguish over the fact that their stats are up or down, or that fewer people commented today than yesterday.

Although it might not seem like it, I'm a professional writer in the "real" world. So perhaps I can lend a hand with some amateurish and unsolicited advice - in the form of a handy list, of course.

So without waiting for so much as a friendly "fuck off, you - we're just fine as we are, thanks", I present you with my Amateurish, Unsolicited Advice on How To Write Blog Posts!

1. Template. The popularity of your blog has less to do with your writing than you might think. It's mainly about your template. Fact: white on black is hard to read. You can be the best writer in the world, but if you've got one of those black templates, people won't read it unless they really love you.

Warning: if you're going to change your template, copy and paste your template code into a text editor like Notepad (NOT Word, which will trash it) and then paste it back in when you're done. Also, get some better advice than this about changing your template. I haven't done it for a while, and I hate to think I might ruin someone's blog with my slapdash advice. Will post a good link if I find one.

2. Paragraphs. People, no one will read a huge, unbroken chunk of text unless they really, really love you. Split it into paragraphs, for the love of god. And the shorter, the better. White space is really, really important.

3. Opening sentence. Someone coming to your blog for the first time will make a split-second decision to keep reading based almost entirely on the first sentence they read. Make it a good one.

4. Lists. Why are glossy magazines full of lists? Because they're easy to read, especially on a screen. Lists are good. Make lists. Not *all* the time, mind.

5. Personality. Your blog is all about you, however much you might pretend it isn't. Your content doesn't really matter, as long it reflects your personality (which may not be your "real" life personality, but that doesn't matter either).

6. Comments. This is where all the best stuff happens, so have fun with your commenters. Not *that* sort of fun. Although, on second thoughts, why not? Blogworld is as much a giant virtual singles bar as it is anything else it's purported to be.

7. Spelling and grammar. More important than you might think, but at the same time, less important than you might think. But spellchecking is always a good idea.

8. Content. Doesn't matter. Honestly. Stop worrying about what you "should" or "shouldn't" be writing about. Just write stuff. As long as you remember to break it into paragraphs and make lists occasionally, it's all fine.

No time for more. Apparently I have a real job to do. Gahh.

PS Please feel free to disagree heartily with anything I've said, criticise me for not following my own advice, slap me for being patronising, add your own tips, and so on.

UPDATE: I know nothing. Mr Robert Swipe of Rothergavenny has the definitive guide to achieving untold blogworld popularity. Go to it!

* As in "unhappy".

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Pashmina said...

Nope, spot on as usual. Especially about the paragraph stuff, that drives me nuts.


*stomps off to re-examine every single post on own blog*

Actually can I add font style to your list please? Even white-on-black text is not so bad when it's in a legible typeface.

Dave again said...

I think it's compulsory for lists to contain ten items, isn't it?

Tim Footman said...

Patroclus, you've got this sussed in a manner that approaches disturbing. We are all your blogverse bitches, and we allow you turn us over and be saucy with us in an uncomfortable manner.

By the way, my verification word is "jfrudwy", which is what Mr Punch calls his wife when he gets back from the pub.

nibus said...

Oh yes, and never ever use C*mic S*ns.

twljkk: Swedish sauna humour.

LC said...

Nonsense - by far and away the most important element of any blog is the little caption under the main title. Your entire personality summed up in 10 words or less.

patroclus said...

Pash: On re-examining my own blog, I think the verdict might be "Patroclus is a dreadful hypocrite and her unsolicited advice is best ignored."

Dave: The Ten Commandments have got a lot to answer for.

Tim: Hurrah! I was secretly hoping that this post would be my passport to saucy sexual domination over the entire blogosphere. Form an orderly queue, now.

Nibus: That too.

LC: And that. Oo, this is just like one o' they newfangled wiki wikis. How very Web 2.0!

*Awaits justified wrath of Chuffy!*

Geoff said...

Only look at your stats for the funny searches.

There's lies, damned lies, really bloody dirty lies...

And there's statistics.

And you told us your Dad didn't like swearing.

PEANUT said...

im not shore about this speling and gramer bisness its a serius affront to spontanayety and as such is bad and rong just ask james juice or don marqwis

Dave again said...

Oh ho, I've just noticed the words Scylla and Charybdis in your sidebar. I wonder what brought those to your mind?

patroclus said...

Scylla and Charybdis often spring to my mind, Dave. Usually when contemplating whether to smoke a cigarette or eat an almond croissant.

treespotter said...

list is important. yes. yes. the more the merrier.

Chuffy! said...

Viz your Dad's blog, I find that dropping Jimmy Saville anecdotes may be an even more effective tactic than simple legibility in keeping the audience coming.

I have two Jim'll stories of my own: one of which will wait until I start a page of my own (or possibly upon the death of the jaundice-haired freak) and the other of which includes him saying "I'm handy with my fists, you know" when given a bit of lip at my primary school's sports day. (Don't ask. I don't even want to ask myself).

Apologies for the length of that paragraph, and, yes, I am aware of the dizzying 2006-ness of posting a comment on your blog about something that your father wrote on his. What's on his iPOd, by the way?

Roberta Swipe said...

Nah kids - THIS is how you do it!!

Love on ya,


Dave again said...

Oh, so that's your Dad.

Sorry, I didn't realise when I first visited him a few days ago.

(Well, he didn't say, did he?)

patroclus said...

chuffy!: J. Saville, Esq. may well turn out to be the new Hoff. And could it be that, just as everyone has one novel in them, everyone also has one Jimmy Saville anecdote? Apart from you, of course - you've got two! And I await the publication of your page with the same eagerness as I await the demise of the jaundice-haired one.

Bob: You rule!

Dave: If that's my Dad, then apparently Vicus Scurra is my grandmother. It's all *very* 2006, frankly.

the Beep said...

Great Post*

*except that you forgot the footnotes rule

Interpreter Pavlov said...

So this is what the blogosphere's come to - knock up a couple of posts and people start filing paternity suits.

Smat said...

I have no Jimmy Saville anecdotes (although I'm sure I could make some up if necessary) - does that mean I'm not a proper blogger?
wf: loosflck - although I don't watch trash TV, is this not something to do with a Media-Bird and a pig's penis?

Tim Footman said...


If you don't have a Jimmy Savile anecdote, just use an anecdote about another famous person, and insert the name of Jimmy Savile therein.

For example:

"I once had a raunchy threesome with tiny Aussie pop icon Jimmy Savile and his sister Dannii, and they begged for more."

or, more convincingly:

"I once shared a bag of crisps with Jimmy Savile, who played Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May."

taigathefox said...

I just watched four episodes of GW with Jimmy S. and then we came to read this. I would delete my blog now if I could spel.

Tabby Rabbit said...

(Even better just get someone else to set it up for you)

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs once sat next to me in the BBC canteen. Karen O was wearing numerous pairs of ripped tights and yet looked amazing and *dripped* attitude (how come the rest of us can't get away with a ladder?)

>>Usually when contemplating whether to smoke a cigarette or eat an almond croissant<< Or?

PS If I didn't do something because someone was much better at it then I'd be blogless, jobless and living in a cave somewhere eating avocado on toast and watching re-runs of Seinfeld/Frasier.

patroclus said...

Smat: You went to school with Boards of Canada. You have nothing to worry about.

Tabby: surely you mean:

>>The Yeah Yeah Yeahs once sat next to me in the BBC canteen. Jimmy Savile was wearing numerous pairs of ripped tights and yet looked amazing and *dripped* attitude<<

Mmm, avocado on toast.

Dave again said...

I was toying with mowing the lawn today, but couldn't get the mower to start. Jim fixed it for me.

frangelita said...

Hmm, incisive. People keep telling me white on black is hard to read...

My Jimmy Saville anecdote (this actually involved Helen from Big Brother - oh yes, that famous) -
I was walking through Reading Station one day and Jimmy Saville walked past. He was surprisingly small, petite and pretty and got onto the train to Cardiff.

occasional poster of comments said...

Oo, Helen from Big Brother. Not really my type, but I once had a very enjoyable dream about her.

At least I hope it was her.

DavetheF said...

Oddly enough, I have a Jimmy Saville anecdote, via a comely journalist I knew briefly. X, as I shall call her, had been a local paper reporter covering some kind of big walk for charity thing. She certainly had a way of filling a big walk T-shirt, and perhaps no one will be surprised to hear that the Great White Dope had a bit of a, er (checks libel laws), wander around the mammary region ...

patroclus said...

Oo, I think the whole Jimmy Savile thing merits its own post.

Could it be that if everyone in the blogosphere recounted their Jimmy Savile anecdote, it would be possible to piece together the jaundice-haired freak's entire life?

Or would it end up like the Fragments of the True Cross, whereby the jaundice-haired one would turn out to be 3,000 years old if all anecdotes were assumed to be true?

Interpreter Pavlov said...

I thought Frangelita had gone native in Barcelona . . . but her Jimmy Saville epiphany in Reading was an interesting chimaera, or else the person she saw was a late entrant (or return - was it the up line or the down?) for/from the Bath J.Saville Lookalike andTribute Bandfest Comp: in real life J.Saville is even taller than I am.

patroclus said...

And a Jimmy Savile tribute band would be called...?

Roberta Swipe said...

Now Then Now Then Now Then Jericho, of course....

(You rule too, P. - Thanks for the inspiration)

Love on ya,


p.s. you CAN get away with ladders, Tabby. Only this is one instance when more is more...

patroclus said...

Fantastic stuff, Bob. I could only come up with Savile Row. As in "row". To rhyme with "how". You know.

I know, if you have to explain them...

Interpreter Pavlov said...

Speedo Torpedo, I should think

Ceridwen Devi said...

Most excellent advice. Taken your advice on paragraphs.

patroclus said...

Why thank you Ceridwen Devi, and welcome! And even as you were typing I was leaving a comment on your blog - how spooky.