How to write an engaging blog
Find some specific resources to help you in the writing of your blog.
General best practice on writing a blog
(1) The importance of a title - Writing a catchy title can help people get interested in your post. In an academic context especially, it might be good to show your audience that your content can be just as entertaining as a good book or social media. Make sure you reveal the theme of your content in those first words. Be wary: being catchy does not mean turning to clickbait. It is favourable if your reader knows exactly what they will be reading about in this context.
(2) Spoilers can be good! - This counts for more than your title. Don't tease your audience and wait to tell them exactly what they'll be reading about: state your theory, argument or theme from the very beginning. You might want to use headlines and summaries to give readers a little snapshot of what your writing will consist of.
(3) 'You talkin to me?' - Decide on a tone for your blog. It is true that writing for an academic blog is not like writing a dissertation. However, this does not mean it is the same as writing a caption for an Instagram picture of your holidays. It is crucial that you reflect on who your audience is going to be and adapt your tone to match that. Make sure your blog posts are honest and relatable – if people are reading a blog about your theme and not an article, it is to get a sense of the author as well: don't forget to be you.
(4) Make your content scannable - How are you going to organise your thoughts? There are different ways to blog. Some might prefer to directly address the audience and mimic direct speech whilst others might want to narrate in a reflective manner. This is a decision you can make based on the type of blog you will decide to use. A key point to structuring and formatting your blog is to make it scannable: people will get a visual idea of your blog before they even get to reading it.
(5) 'Oh I just skimmed through...' - Keep your paragraphs and sentences short: most people only read 20% of a page. Having fun with language can be fantastic but simpler writing will help people relate to what you are telling them whether they know about the subject at hand or not. Use headings to break your page up so it is easier to scan. Find out more about how people read on the web.
(6) What is that about? - Asking your readers questions can be a great way of involving them. When writing, ask yourself 'why should they care?'. You don't only want to be recounting your thoughts, you want to be sharing it with other people. Making the reading experience more interactive will make people feel involved and interested.
(7) Make it visual! - Adding media to your blog can be another great way of making readers relate and feel part of your experience. Visual tools can help your reader see what you are describing, but they can also give them the opportunity to relax from the reading effort. This is especially the case if your writing is a quite dense academic text. Images add an interesting opportunity for formatting, structure and narration.
(8) Proof-read, get critical and edit! - This is perhaps most people's least favourite part. Sadly for you it is essential: proof reading and editing your text will help you cut out pieces that aren't useful. Getting a friend/colleague to read it for you will give you another perspective on your work and enable you to assess whether you have written for the right audience. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback. Getting feedback should be a very constructive and helpful process.
(9) Archiving appropriately -There is nothing more confusing for readers who are looking through your content than having a monthly site archive and no search bar. Make sure people can find what they are looking for without having to click a million times. Categorising and tagging posts is not time consuming and can be really helpful for your audience.
(10) Don't let readers forget about you! - Posting regularly and promoting your work is especially important if you want people to visit your blog regularly. Creating a schedule might help you keep on track – because posting regularly means you have write regularly. Thankfully, there are many ways for you to promote your work other than relying on loyal readers. Social media links and enabling search engines to index your blog can help so make sure that you explore your settings to maximise your crowd.
Want to learn how to create a blog post step by step? Try this Lynda course about writing a compelling blog post.
Guidance for specific types of blogging
Do you need more personalised guidelines? We have put together some writing tips based on professional, research, community and learning & teaching type blogs.
Blogging for professional development
- Scrap the title - This blog, as opposed to research or community, is meant to represent you above all: your name is the best option for a title.
- The importance of your blog structure - Structuring your blog is especially important as you want to look professional, accessible and easy to contact. If content is hard to find, people are more likely to simply leave your page. Make your readers' browsing experience as easy as possible by inserting a header with different pages: a bio, contact details, role, track record.... Make sure your content is extremely scannable and potential employers can find your contact details at any moment.
- Opting for a professional tone - As you are showcasing your professional potential here, it is important that you match your tone to what you are saying. While you want to demonstrate a positive attitude and motivation it is important to show a reflection of what is acceptable within the workplace.
- Writing a great bio – This section might be the only one employers consult: it is crucial that you spend time writing a bio that is compelling and matches the sector you work in. While it might be optimal, for example, for a radio presenter to make multiple puns, a recently graduated student might want to write more professionally. This is your decision to make depending on what you believe will showcase your potential best.
- Details - It is crucial for you to include as much detail as possible in your pages and posts. Write the full titles of recent posts or studies, include the department or School and stay consistent with spelling and capitalising.
- Formatting for clear, concise information - There are many ways to make your content scannable whilst being precise: consider breaking long sentences into bulleted lists, for example. Use headings liberally. Make your blog look nice using other, non-text, media.
- Being employable also means being approachable - Linking external professional profiles can be a great way to expand your readers' experience. Contact past schools and employers to ask if you can link them into your blog – this will help employers to get an idea of your past workspaces.
- Remember your digital footprint - These days, employers will not be afraid to do some research on potential employees: holiday photos might not be your most flattering facet so make sure you are aware of your digital footprint. Updating and editing your different social media outputs is an idea to consider. Want more information about your digital footprint? Learn about it through the [University's guidance page] on how to present yourself online.
- Make sure you update your profile - It would be a shame for you to forget to mention your latest achievement just as it would be a pity for an employer to come across information that is expired. Make sure you update your profile every month or so.
Blogging for teaching, learning and assessment
- Consider platforms that might help you assess work - we have many different blogging platforms available to you. Some might be better than others depending, especially, on what assessment features you require. Consult our [Blogging Advice] for more information on what they offer.
- Consider using dynamic and interactive plug-ins for embedded quizzes, forms... - Our new blogging platforms offer many different ways for you to add a fresh dimension to your teaching/learning experience. You could create interactive quizzes or forms embedded within your blog. This is a way to chop up the reading experience and make viewers collaborate.
- Monitor comments and published content - In a learning and teaching environment especially, it is very important that rules are established concerning comments and content. Be aware to inform students of plagiarism and copyright laws as well as our [Take Down Policy] rules. A good way of doing this is to monitor content carefully.
- Set expectations - Using blogging as an assessment or reflective method for assessment can be best managed if you set time and word limits for your students. Help them understand what is required from them by outlining clear expectations. Why not write guidelines personalised to the particular task at hand?
- Consider your privacy options - It is worth thinking about whether you want the wide public to access your learning and teaching blog or whether you would prefer the content to stay within the scope of your class. [Read more] about our different blogs to know which privacy options are available to you.
- Link interesting material - Whilst a blogging platform is the perfect space for students to express themselves, it is also a platform for you to share additional content. Don't hesitate to illustrate by using multimedia or embedding interesting links.
- Consider personal journals/diaries - Blogging can come under different forms. It could be interesting for you to set a journal/diary assessment to increase your students' literacy as well as expanding your grading methods.
- Your blog does not replace the classroom - Do remember that learning and teaching blogs should be an extension of the classroom, not a replacement of it.
Make sure you consult our [exemplar Learning and Teaching Blogs] for an idea of how these work.
Blogging for research
- Decide how you want to hook readers - Making the description of your research clear while still being compelling is important: many readers will know very little about your research topic, so you should keep that in mind when writing for your blog. A good title will help draw readers in.
- Presenting your topics and projects clearly - This part goes hand in hand with a compelling title. It is important for your introduction or headline to be very clear: stray from complicated vocabulary and make your posts clear for anybody to understand.
- Accessibility - Define complicated terminology or arguments that might not be self-explanatory. You might additionally want to embed images or videos to make your case more compelling and posts easier to read and digest...
- Referencing - This is an essential part of all research blogs: fellow academics or potential employers will be expecting well-referenced sources to consult. Make sure you make the most of footnotes and bibliographies.
- Link additional material - Where did you get your inspiration? Are there any articles or videos people could consult to expand their knowledge on the subject you have raised? Adding a 'More Information' page is an optional possibility to expand your readers' experience.
- Consider building a profile section - If you are in charge of the whole blog, consider building yourself a profile section. This could be a space for your readers to explore your academic profile or consult external professional platforms such as LinkedIn.
Blogging about community or student experience
- Be personal! - It may be possible for you to stray from the strict Academic style you might have to use in other blogging instances. Let a little bit of your personality shine through while staying professional.
- Reflect on your own experiences – This is an account of your personal experience. Try to base it on things that have happened to you rather than outside sources or peers' ideas. People want to read more about this community through your own eyes.
- Remember you are writing for a group – While we want the writer's tone to be explored, do remember you are writing about your experience within a larger group. Don't forget to reference your community, whether College, School, departmental, unit or student based.
- Help people understand what your community is like from the outside - Explain specific terminology, abbreviations and sayings as others might not be aware of what these mean.